We know that there are lots of unfamiliar terms used when talking about adoption. We've tried to include definitions of ones that are applicable to our adoption process.

Adoptee - Any person who has been adopted.

Adoption Agency - An organization that is licensed in the state or states where it transacts its business, which is to assist in placing children needing parents with adoptive parents that are looking for children. Agencies exist in a wide variety of organizational forms, including non-profit, for-profit, and governmental agencies.

Adoptive Parent - Person who legally assumes parental rights/responsibilities for adopted child.

Apostille - A simplified certification of public (including notarized) documents used in countries that participate in a Hague Convention. The completed apostille form certifies the authenticity of the document's signature, the capacity in which the person signing the document has acted, and identifies the seal/stamp which the document bears.

Attachment - The ability of a child to form significant and stable emotional connections with other people, beginning in early infancy with one or more primary caretakers. Failure to establish such connections before the age of five may result in difficulties with social relationships as severe as reactive attachment disorder.

Authentications - A generic name for getting the proper seals and or certifications from specific authorities for international adoption purposes (dossier). This could include includes certifications, notaries, and/or apostilles depending on country requirements.

Birthfather - Biological father of a child that is adopted or planning to be adopted.

Birthmother - Biological mother of a child that is adopted or planning to be adopted.

Bonding - The process of developing lasting emotional ties with one's immediate caregivers; seen as the first and primary developmental task of a human being and central to the person's ability to relate to others throughout life.

Court Hearing / Court Date - Foreign courts generally require prospective adoptive parents to submit evidence of the child’s orphan status/availability for adoption or guardianship, the child’s identity, the acceptability of the prospective adoptive parents, and the clearance to adopt from the government of the prospective adoptive parents. A court hearing is a hearing within your child’s country in which your documents and case requesting adoption of a specific child are reviewed and approved. Countries have various requirements regarding requirements for one or both parents to attend the hearing, acceptability of Power of Attorney representation, and waiting periods in which the outcome of the hearing may be contested or before documents will be signed.

Dossier - The collection of paperwork used in an international adoption that has been properly authenticated and translated.

Embassy/Consulate - The United States has an Embassy or Consulate in countries where it currently maintains diplomatic relations. An Embassy can fulfill all exit requirements/visas for an adopted child. A Consulate can handle most of the exit requirements and the adoptive family may need to travel to the country’s US Embassy later to complete exit requirements. 
Employer Assistance - Adoption benefits provided to employees by employers which may include direct cash assistance for adoption expenses, reimbursement of approved adoption expenses, paid or unpaid leave (beyond federal leave requirements established through the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993) and resource and referral services. 
Home Study - A study of the home of prospective adoptive parents, normally completed prior to placement of a child in their home. It validates suitability to adopt for the courts.

I-171H Letter - A form letter from the BCIS stating that they have processed and approved your Application to Advance Process Orphan Approval (I-600A form) and that they have cabled the US Embassy abroad as indicated on your I-600A. Their decision to approve is based primarily on FBI fingerprint clearances and home studies. 
I-600 and I-600A Visa Petition - An official request to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to classify an orphan as an immediate relative - providing expedited processing and issuance of a visa to allow the child to enter the United States after having been adopted abroad or in order to be adopted in the United States. 

Institutionalization - The placement of children in hospitals, institutions or orphanages. Placement in institutions during early critical developmental periods and for lengthy periods is often associated with developmental delays due to environmental deprivation, poor staff-child ratios or lack of early stimulation. 

International Adoption - The adoption of a child who is a citizen of one country by adoptive parents who are citizens of a different country. 

Loss - A feeling of emotional deprivation that is experienced at some point in time. For a birth parent the initial loss will usually be felt at or subsequent to the placement of the child. Adoptive parents who are infertile feel a loss in their inability to bear a child. An adopted child may feel a sense of loss at various points in time; the first time the child realizes he is adopted may invoke a strong sense of loss for his birth family. 

Matching - The process of finding prospective families specifically suited to meet the needs of a waiting child, not to be confused with "placement.” 

Orphan (international adoption definition) - For immigration purposes, a child under the age of 16: • whose parents have died or disappeared • who has been abandoned or otherwise separated from both parents • whose sole surviving parent is impoverished by local standards and incapable of providing that child with proper care and who has, in writing, irrevocably released the child for emigration and adoption. To enter the United States, an orphan must have been adopted abroad by a U.S. citizen or be admitted to the United States for the purpose of adoption by a U.S. citizen. 

Orphanage - Institution that houses children who are orphaned, abandoned or whose parents are unable to care for them. Orphanages are rarely used in the United States, although they are more frequently used abroad.

Placement - The point in time when the child goes to live with his or her legal adoptive parents. 

Post-Placement Visits - Investigation and interviews with an adoptive family once a child has been placed with them. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder - A condition with onset before age 5, resulting from an early lack of consistent care, characterized by a child's or infant's inability to make appropriate social contact with others. Symptoms may include failure to thrive, developmental delays, failure to make eye contact, feeding disturbances, hyper-sensitivity to touch and sound, failure to initiate or respond to social interaction, indiscriminate sociability, self-stimulation and susceptibility to infection.

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. The prospective parents have a specific amount of time after a referral is made to decide whether to accept or decline the referral. 
Social Worker - Person who completes home studies, works with birth parents and adoptive families in adoption situations.

United States Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) - This federal agency is operated under the United States Department of Homeland Security, and has the responsibility of overseeing the immigration of all foreign-born individuals into the United States, whether they are adults or children. Before a foreign adoption can take place, permission must first be obtained from USCIS for the foreign child to be able to lawfully enter the United States for the purpose of being adopted. After this approval has been given and the child has been adopted and brought to the United States under a visa and/or a green card issued by the INS, the adoptive parents can then apply to the USCIS for the child to become a United States Citizen, just as if the child had been born to the adoptive parents as their biological child.

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