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The following alphabetical list of terms and definitions common to the adoption community is here to help you understand some of the words, acronyms, and systems that are frequently part of adoption conversations. Have we missed something? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
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Abandonment - A form of neglect where a child is left without the means to sustain himself. The parent may physically leave the child, one parent may leave the child while the other continues to provide care, or the parent may stop providing for the child while still living with him or her. When abandonment occurs and the parents are unable to be located or are unresponsive, the courts may terminate the parents' rights and work to place the child in an adoptive family. In some countries, abandonment is the only way to relinquish a child who will then be placed in an orphanage or foster home and made available for adoption.
- who is registered under the Indian Act (Canada),
- who has a biological parent who is registered under the Indian Act (Canada),
- who is a Nisga'a child,
- who is a treaty first nation child,
- who is under 12 years of age and has a biological parent who
- (i) is of aboriginal ancestry, and
- (ii) considers himself or herself to be aboriginal, or
- who is 12 years of age or older, of aboriginal ancestry and considers himself or herself to be aboriginal.
Adoption agency - In BC, an organization licensed by the province to assist prospective adoptive parents through the necessary legal, administrative, and social work that is involved in adopting a child that is not in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Adoption benefits - See: Parental leave
Adoption circle – Retired term. See: Adoption constellation
Adoption constellation - Refers to everyone touched by the adoption process: birth parents, adoptee, adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and extended family.
Adoption dossier – See: Family profile
Adoption mosaic - See: Adoption constellation
Adoption order - An adoption order is a document granted by the courts that gives complete parental rights to the child’s adoptive parent(s). An adoptee is then entitled to the same rights as biological children in their adoptive family.
Adoption Reunion Registry - Run by MCFD, this service provides search, intermediary, and counselling services to those whose lives have been affected by an adoption in BC. See also: Post Adoption Openness Registry
Adoption search - See: Reunion
Adoption Education Program – A mandatory pre-adoption training course. It can be offered prior to or in conjunction with the homestudy process. The AEP is offered by MCFD, licensed adoption agencies, or online at AFABC.
Adoption Networking Exchange - A conference hosted by MCFD that facilitates the matching of children and adoptive families through video or picture profiles. (Formerly Adoption Resource Exchange). See also: Matching event
Adoption profile – See: Family profile
Adoption Resource Exchange – Retired term. See: Adoption Networking Exchange
Adoption triad – Retired term. See: Adoption constellation
Adoption triangle – Retired term. See: Adoption constellation
Adoptive parent profile – See: Family profile
AEP - See: Adoption Education Program
AEP-Online - See: Adoption Education Program
Agency - See: Adoption agency
Alcohol exposure - See: Drug and alcohol exposure
ANE – See: Adoption Networking Exchange
Anniversary Day – See: Adoption Day
ARE – Retired acronym. See: Adoption Networking Exchange
ARR - See: Adoption Reunion Registry
ART - See: Adoption Readiness for Teens program
ASD - See: Autism Spectrum Disorder
Attachment – Infants learn that they are loved and cared for by having their needs met over and over again. They learn to trust, attach and bond to their parent or caregiver automatically, through biological imperative.
Attachment disorder - A treatable condition in which individuals have difficulty trusting anyone or creating loving, lasting intimate relationships due to serious disruptions in forming that bond during early childhood.
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Behaviour/Emotional/Social Issues – These terms are broad terms that describe how an individual cannot or will not respond appropriately to a situation. Socially, emotionally, or behavioural responses vary in severity according to the individual.
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Child in care - See: In care
Closed adoption records – Depending on state or provincial law, a jurisdiction where adoptees and birth parents are not able to access original birth certificates or adoption records. See also: Open adoption records
Confidential adoption - See: Closed adoption
Crown ward – Retired term. See: In care
Cultural Matching – Many adoption agencies aim to place children for adoption with families who are of the same cultural background. This provides a cultural connection and consistency for the child. See also: Racial matching
Custom adoption - Custom adoption is the full time care, nurturing and protection of a child by a customary caregiver identified by the child’s Aboriginal community. Caregiver(s) may include relatives, band members, or an adult whom the child has a bond with. This definition is designed to be inclusive and respectful of cultural values and ties to affection.
Custom care - Is temporary or alternate care for Aboriginal children whose parents are not able to care for them and ensures the child maintains their cultural, linguistic, and spiritual identity. See also: Custom adoption
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Direct placement adoption – When the birth parents choose to place their child with someone they know that is not a relative. Families must work with a licensed adoption agency to process paperwork and make certain all the requirements are met.
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Embryo adoption – A form of assisted reproduction technology. Remaining embryos from In vitro fertilization are donated to another couple, where the recipient mother has the embryo placed in her uterus and follows through with pregnancy and childbirth. The baby is legally the child of the recipient, though there may be varying levels of openness with the donor family. Also called "embryo donation".
Embryo donation - See: Embryo adoption
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FASD – Acronym. See: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder
Family day – See: Adoption Day
FBCYICN – See: Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks
Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks - FBCYICN is a youth-driven, provincial, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people in and from care in BC between the ages of 14 and 24.
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - FASD is a medical diagnosis for a birth defect syndrome caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. Alcohol is a “teratogen” that is toxic to the baby’s developing brain. Damage can occur in various regions of the brain, depending on which areas are developing at the time the alcohol is consumed.
Finalization – Adoption finalization is the last part of the adoption process. A judge signs the adoption order and adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child with all the rights and responsibilities of biological parents.
Foreign adoption – Retired term. See: International adoption
First mother – Retired term. See: Birth mother
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Gotcha Day - See: Adoption Day
Grief and Loss - When a child enters the adoptive home, they come with a tremendous amount of grief and loss. Losses can include birth parents, extended family, home, pets, neighbourhoods, schools, friends, treasured belongings, and in some cases culture. Adults often have the words to describe losses in their lives and can communicate to others. Children don’t have those words so they express loss using behaviours. Part of being an adoptive family is to understand and help the child work through loss issues throughout their lives.
Guardian – Guardians are responsible for the care and upbringing of, and decision making about, a child.
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Hague Convention -
Homestudy – A homestudy is a mandatory process by which an adoption social worker assesses a family or individual who is considering adoption. The process involves a series of interviews and helps prepare the family to meet the needs of an adopted child or sibling set.
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Inducement – Inducement is a psychological concept that describes the use of verbal and non-verbal communication to induce one’s own emotional state in another. Older children adopted from care will often exhibit inducement behaviours early on in their adoption that can be stressful for adoptive parents.
Intercountry adoption – Retired term. See: International adoption
Inter-ethnic adoption - See: Transracial adoption
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Legal guardian – See: Guardian
Life book - A life book is a record of an adoptee's life (pre and post adoption) that uses words, photos, the child's artwork, computer graphics, and memorabilia in the form of a scrapbook. Life Books help put all the information pieces together in a way that helps the child make sense of, and ultimately feel good about his/her history.
Loss - See: Grief and loss
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Match – See: Matching
Matching – Varies on the type of adoption taking place. For BC’s Waiting Children and international adoption, matching refers to finding compatibility of a family profile with that of a child profile. For local infant, matching refers to the selection process birthparents go through when selecting a family for their child.
MCFD – Acronym. See: Ministry of Children and Family Development
Ministry of Children and Family Development – A British Columbia government ministry responsible for provincial delivery of services that support positive and healthy outcomes for children, youth, and families. Their purview include child protection, family development, adoption, foster care, early childhood development and child care, child and youth mental health, youth justice and social services, special needs children and youth, and adult community living services.
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Natural father – Retired term. See: Birth father
Natural mother – Retired term. See: Birth mother
Natural parent – Retired term. See: Birth parents
Neglect – An act or failure to act that results in the endangerment or death of a child. The creation of serious physical or emotional harm to a child. See also: Abuse
No contact adoption – See: Closed adoption
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Open adoption agreement - See: Openness agreement
Open adoption records – When a child reaches the age of majority, they can receive access to their original birth certificate and adoption records. Birth parents may also receive copies of original birth certificate and their child’s adopted name. Records are currently open in British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, Ontario, and Newfoundland and Labrador. All other provinces and territories have closed records. See also: Closed adoption records
Openness - See: Open adoption
Openness agreement - A written agreement that defines the context of the openness between the birth family and the adoptive family. In BC, openness agreements are "good faith" or moral agreements. In some jurisdictions, they can be legally binding.
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PAA – Acronym. See: Post Adoption Assistance
Parent Adoption Support Services – An AFABC developed program that utilizes a parent-coaching model that identifies the parent-child relationship as the central, most significant dimension in the family’s life.
Parental benefits – See: Parental leave
Parental leave - Adoptive parents who are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) can claim parental leave regardless of their minor child's age at date of placement, and receive a maximum of 35 weeks of leave through.
Parenting experience – See: Child care experience
PASS – Acronym. See: Parent Adoption Support Services
Permanence - See: Permanency
Permanency – This is a concept meant to counteract the all too common state of constant uncertainty face by foster children, from the moment they enter the system until the day they age out. Anything that provides a sense of continuity, an anchor, can be of tremendous value. Adoption is the single most potent form of permanency.
Prior contact check - A prior contact check searches for any history of contact between an applicant and MCFD. Examples of prior contact include past child protection reports or services provided to an applicant by MCFD.
Private adoption – See: Direct placement
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Racial Matching – Many adoption agencies aim to place children for adoption with families who are of the same race as the child. This is to provide a racial connection and consistency for the child. See also: Cultural matching
RAD – Acronym. See: Attachment disorder
Reactive attachment disorder – See: Attachment disorder
Real parent – All parents - including birth, foster, and adoptive parents are ‘real parents’ to a child.
Rehoming - A non-legal term describing the practice of placing an adoptive child in another family’s home without the support of adoption professionals and without the required counseling, background checks and clearances offered through government or licensed adoption agency channels. Often a child is “rehomed” because the adoptive parents are desperate due to family issues or the child’s behaviours or needs. An adoptive family that seeks this informal rehoming could potentially be charged with child abuse or neglect by their local child and family services.
Respite care – Short-term, temporary care of a child by someone other than the parents in order to provide a break for parents to rest and emotionally recharge from the day-to-day challenges of parenting.
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Social worker – Someone whose job involves the assessment, diagnosis, treatment and evaluation of individual, interpersonal and societal issues through the use of social work knowledge, skills, interventions and strategies, to assist individuals, couples, families, groups, organizations and communities to achieve optimum psychological and social functioning
Speak-Out Youth Group – An AFABC created program that gives youth in or from care, or who were adopted, a space to meet once a month to share experiences, concerns, and perspectives on adoption and permanence for teens - and to have fun.
Special needs - Refers to children with visible or invisible disabilities. These may include ADHD; autism; FASD; vision, hearing, or speech impairment; Down Syndrome; Cerebral Palsy; cognitive disabilities; and many other conditions.
Special placement needs - Unique factors that must be considered in making a placement. They relate to the child’s experiences, the importance of ‘matching’, and the special skill set required of the parents, among others. These needs include factors such as: siblings to be placed together; special skills to parent children with attachment challenges or trauma histories; special skills to parent teens; cultural matches; or ability of the parent to embrace openness with birth family or foster families.
SYG – Acronym. See: Speak-Out Youth Group
SYZ – Acronym. See: Speak-Out Youth Zone
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Tax credit – See: Adoption tax credit
Teen - A person between 13 and 19 years of age. See also: Youth
Transcultural adoption - The adoption of a child from a different culture of the adoptive parents. See also: Transracial adoption
Transracial adoption – The adoption of a child of a difference race from that of the adoptive parents. See also: Transcultural adoption
Transitioning – The period of time when a child’s care is slowly transferred from foster parent to adoptive parent. Also refers to the period when a youth in care transitioned from foster care to independent living.
Triad - See: Adoption constellation
Tummy mommy – Retired term. See: Birth mom
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Unknowns – Similar to parenting a biological child, there are unknowns in parenting an adopted child. Usually agencies have extensive medical and social history for the children they are seeking a home for, including genetic risk factors and information about drug or alcohol exposure. Sometimes, however, this information is not available. In order to provide appropriate care, prevention and intervention, it is important for adoptive applicants to have an understanding not only of the known risks their child may face, but also the hidden risks that missing information might represent.
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Waiting children - See: BC's Waiting Children
Wendy's Wonderful Kids - A signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the WWK program focuses on finding potential families within a child's immediate network before moving on to consider families outside of the child's circle. There are currently two WWK recruiters based out of the AFABC provincial office.
WWK – Acronym. See: Wendy's Wonderful Kids
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Youth in care - See: In care
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