Adoptive Placement:  The point at which a child begins to live with the prospective adoptive parents; the period before the adoption is finalized.

Certification:  The approval process that takes place to ensure, insofar as possible, that adoptive or foster parents are suitable, dependable, and responsible.

Finalization:  The final legal step in the adoption process; this involves a court hearing during which the judge orders that the adoptive parents become the child’s legal parents.

Home Study:  A process through which prospective adoptive parents are educated about adoption and evaluated to determine their suitability to adopt.

IEP:  Abbreviation for Individualized Education Plan, which is a plan for educational support services and outcomes developed for students enrolled in special education programs.

Legal Risk Placement:  Placement of a child in a prospective adoptive family when a child is not yet legally free for adoption. Before another family may legally adopt a child, the parental rights of his or her birth parents must be terminated.  In a “legal risk” adoptive placement, either this termination of parental rights has not yet occurred, or it is being contested. In some cased, termination of parental rights is delayed until a specific adoptive family has been identified.

Legally Free:  A child whose birth parents’ rights have been legally terminated so that the child is “free” to be adopted by another family.

Respite Care:  Temporary or short-term home care of a child provided for pay or on a voluntary basis by adults other than thte parents (birth, foster, or adoptive parents).

Special Needs Children:  Children whose emotional or physical disorders, age, race, membership in a sibling group, a history of abuse, or other factors contribute to a lengthy stay in foster care. Guidelines for classifying a child as special needs vary by State. Common special needs conditions and diagnoses include:

  • Serious medical conditions
  • Emotional and behavioral disorders
  • History of abuse or neglect
  • Medical or genetic risk due to familial mental illness or parental substance abuse

Waiting Children:  Children in the public child welfare system who cannot return to their birth homes and need permanent, loving families to help them grow up safe and secure.