Adapted from Hopscotch Adoption

Accredited Agency: An accredited agency is an adoption service provider who has been accredited by either the Council on Accreditation (COA) to provide adoption services in the United States for cases subject to the regulations set forth by the Hague Adoption Convention. An accredited agency does not include a temporarily accredited agency. There are more than 200 accredited adoption service providers in the U.S.

Accrediting Entity: The Council on Accreditation (COA) are the two organizations that have been designated by the U.S. Secretary of State to accredit adoption service providers in the United States for cases subject to the Hague Adoption Convention.

Adoption: “Adoption is a legal process which creates the relationship of parent and child between individuals who are not each other’s biological parent and child. Upon issuance of a judicial decree of adoption, the legal relationship of the adopted child and its biological parents and other members of its original family is completely severed. Adopted children become, for all legal purposes, the children of the adoptive parents.” Joan H. Hollinger, ‘Introduction to Adoption Law and Practice,’ Adoption Law and Practice ed. Joan H. Hollinger (New York: Matthew Bender, 1989), 1-1.

Adoption Agency:  A public or private entity authorized to assume legal guardianship and to facilitate the adoptive placement of children. Licensing of adoption agencies is through state mandate. Hence, qualification requirements and other guidelines vary according to jurisdictional standards.

Adoption Decree: The document issued by the court when an adoption is finalized. The adoption decree states that that the adoptee is the legal child of the adoptive parents.

Adoption Record: In an adoption case, an adoption record is considered to be any information, supporting documents, or items related to a specific Convention adoption of a child including, but not limited to, photographs, videos, correspondence, personal effects, medical and social information, and any other information about the child. These records are received or maintained by an agency, person, or public domestic authority. We all recognize the importance of keeping accurate and up-to-date records.

Adoption Service(s): There are six major services provided by adoption service providers: (1) Identifying a child for adoption and arranging an adoption; (2) Securing the necessary consent to termination of parental rights and to adoption; (3) Performing a background study on a child or a home study on a prospective adoptive parent(s), and reporting on such a study; (4) Making non-judicial determinations of the best interests of a child and the appropriateness of an adoptive placement for the child; (5) Monitoring a case after a child has been placed with prospective adoptive parent(s) until final adoption; or (6) When necessary because of a disruption before final adoption, assuming custody and providing (including facilitating the provision of) child care or any other social service pending an alternative placement.

Approved Home Study: An approved home study is a comprehensive

review of the home environment of the child’s prospective adoptive parents that has been: (1) Completed by an accredited adoption service provider; (2) Approved by an accredited adoption service provider. One of the most critical elements of the intercountry adoption process is the approved home study.

Attachment & Bonding: A child’s formation of stable emotional connections with primary care givers and significant people in his/her life. If a child does not establish these connections he/she may later have difficulties with social relationships.

Contract Social Workers or Supervised Providers: Social workers employed on a part-time basis by adoption agencies to provide specific services (e.g. home studies and post-placement services), but who are not members of the agency’s staff.

Convention Country: A Convention Country is one of 75 nations that has ratified, entered into force, and are party to (members of) the Hague Adoption Convention along with the United States.

Dossier: A collection of documents prepared for adoption authorities abroad. This information, which may vary from county to county, describes your background and represents you to adoption authorities abroad. These documents will require some kind of authentication (e.g. apostilles or certifications/notaries depending on specific country requirements) and will be translated.

Facilitators and Foreign Providers: In contrast to domestic adoptions, where these terms are used synonymously, these terms take on different meanings in the field of inter-country adoptions. Facilitators are individuals or groups working in the United States who assist in arranging inter-country adoptions. Facilitators are not licensed by state authorities, but they often make their services available to licensed agencies. Foreign Providers are individuals or groups working in overseas nations who assist in arranging inter-country adoptions. They are frequently attorneys. In recent years the roles of facilitator and Foreign Providers are sometimes combined by individuals or groups working this country and in overseas nations.

Hague Convention on Inter-country Adoption: A multinational agreement developed at the beginning of this decade designed to promote the development of institutional structures for the supervision of adoption and to open lines of communication between sending and receiving countries. The United States has now ratified this convention and has implemented it on April 1, 2008. Only Hague Accredited adoption agencies can send or receive children with other Hague Signatory countries. If the sending country is not a Hague Signatory country, a non-Hague Accredited agency may still operate in that country.

Home Study: Families who wish to adopt a child must first be approved by a social worker approved to conduct adoption home studies in your state of residence. This may or may not be the agency facilitating your international adoption (your Adoption Service Provider). The social worker will gather documents from you, interview you, come into your home once or twice, and counsel you concerning adoption. A home study shows that you can provide the stability and home environment that a child needs. Documents you may be required to provide include information about yourself, references, health statements from your physician, child abuse clearances, criminal records clearance, and a statement of finances. The home study process may vary somewhat by state. Your social worker will assist you with the specific requirements for your state of residence.

Independent Adoption: Adoption cases where the prospective adoptive parents are approved as eligible and suited to adopt by their Central Authority or accredited body and subsequently travel independently to a foreign country to find a child to adopt, is considered an independent adoption. Independent adoptions take place without the assistance of a Central Authority or accredited body in their State of origin.

Notary: Authentication of a signature on a legal document. When the signature on a document has been witnessed by a licensed notary of the state it is said to be notarized. The notary will attach a document/stamped notation and seal to the document which verifies that they are a licensed notary and witnessed the signature. For some countries, this is just the first step in authenticating documents that will still need further authentication by county, state, US, and/or foreign authorities.

Orphan: A child may be considered an orphan for any of several reasons, including the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, or separation or loss from, both parents; if a surviving parent or unwed mother is unable to properly care for the child, among other reasons as specified by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The term “orphan” is also used in non-Hague adoption cases.

Post-Adoption Reporting: After a child has been adopted, some countries of origin have post-adoption reporting requirements. Adoption service providers must comply with the state laws of the jurisdiction where you live regarding the number of post-adoption home visits that are required as well. The adoption service provider includes a requirement for such reports in the adoption services contract.

Post-Placement: Post-placement is the period of time before an adoption, but after a grant of legal custody, or guardianship of the child to the prospective adoptive parents, or to a custodian for the purpose of escorting the child to the identified prospective adoptive parents.

Private Adoption: A private adoption occurs when arrangements for adoption have been made directly between a biological parent in one Contracting State and prospective adopters in another Contracting State.

Referral: Your adoption agency will send you information about a specific child so you can decide if the child is right for your family. This is a referral. A referral usually consists of the name and birth date of the child, a photo, and some medical information. The quantity/quality of information varies from just a few vital statistics to a full battery of laboratory test results. Sometimes a video of the child is provided in addition to the photo and medical information. The prospective parents have a specific amount of time after a referral is made to decide whether to accept or decline the referral.

Relinquishment: The giving-up of custodial and legal rights to a child by a birthparent. This is a legally binding, permanent procedure involving the signing of legal documents and court action.

Special Needs Adoptions: In inter-country adoptions, the phrase special need is limited almost entirely to physical disabilities, correctable and non-correctable. Termination of Parental Rights (TPR): This phrase denotes the final and irrevocable termination of parental rights and responsibilities. The judicial procedure can be either voluntary or involuntary.

Tax Credit (Adoption): A tax credit for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child. The adoption credit is an amount subtracted from the adoptive parents’ tax liability. IRS Information page


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