Adoption Terms


A document from the State of California confirming the child’s availability for adoption.


A person who joins a family through adoption.


A permanent, legally binding arrangement whereby persons other than the child’s birthparents parent the child.

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Adoption Agency

An agency licensed by the State Community Care Licensing to prepare families to adopt children and to do all of the necessary legal, administrative, and social work tasks to ensure that adoptions are efficiently handled, and are in the best interest of the children.

Adoption Assistance Program (AAP)

A financial assistance program established by the Federal and State governments to help adoptive families with some of the long-term expenses when they adopt children who qualify for the program.

Adoption Matchers

Adoption social workers that maintain a list of adoptive families approved to adopt and a list of children available for adoption. When an adoption social worker determines there might be a match between a child and an adoptive family, the adoption social worker provides the information to the child’s assigned social worker for possible placement.

Adoptive Parent

A person or persons who become the permanent parent with all of the social and legal rights and responsibilities incumbent upon any parent.

Amended Birth Certificate

The document issued, after a child has been adopted, reflecting the adoptive parents as the child’s parents. This document replaces the child's original birth certificate.

Applicant worker

A social worker assigned to complete the applicant’s home study.

Birth Certificate (original)

A certified document that indicates the birth information of a person, including the person’s mother and father’s names, and the name given to the person at the time of birth.

Birth Parent(s)

The parents responsible for giving birth to a child.

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Child Abuse Clearances

A method of checking to see whether a person has a history of reported child abuse. This is completed as part of the approval process for prospective adoptive parents.

Child Worker

The social worker assigned to the child and who is responsible for finding a suitable adoptive family for the child.

Closed Adoption

An adoption in which there is no contact between the child’s birth parents and adoptive parent(s).

Concurrent Family Home

A family that has a foster care license and is approved for adoption. A concurrent planning family accepts foster care placement of a child whom they intend to adopt, until the child’s parents’ parental rights are terminated. When the child becomes legally free for adoption, the family may then adopt the child.


Protection of one’s personal identifying information. Adoption agencies may not disclose identifying information about any client to any other source except in special circumstances as described in licensing regulations.

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Consent to Adoption

A legal document, which is issued by an adoption agency, allowing the adoptive family to finalize the adoption after all agency and legal requirements have been met. The Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) may not be granted without this consent.

Criminal Clearances

Similar to the child abuse clearances, this is a clearance obtained through the State Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) to determine whether a person has a criminal record. All adults, 18-years of age and older, living in a household must obtain criminal and child abuse clearances prior to a foster or adoptive child being placed in the home.

De facto Parent

A person who has been found by the Court to have assumed the role of a parent. A de facto parent may be appointed counsel at the Court’s discretion.

Dependency Termination

Terminating jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court over a dependent child.


Disruption occurs when a child leaves an adoptive home prior to the finalization of the adoption. Disruption can occur because the adoptive parents choose to return the child for reasons of their own, or because the Agency disrupts the adoption if the adoptive parents are not complying with post-placement requirements or are endangering the child in any way.

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The court hearing that results in the adoption decree. This is the moment when the adoptee becomes the permanent, legal child of the adoptive parent(s). Before finalization can be granted in California, the child is required to have resided with the adoptive parent(s) for at least six months and there can be no appeals regarding the child’s dependency case pending in court.

Foster Child

A child being cared for by foster parents.

Foster Parent

A person who has been approved through a screening, licensing and training process to provide foster care services for a child.

Home Study

A three-part process required before a child can be placed with a family for adoption, and which results in a written document that provides a summary of the applicant’s family life. The home study document must be completed and updated as needed by a licensed adoption agency social worker. The three-part process includes the following:

  • The written portion includes but may not be limited to: the completed application; applicant autobiographies and references; medical reports and child abuse and criminal clearances for each applicant and other adults, 18 years of age and older, living in the home; copies of marriage records and veteran’s discharge information, as may be applicable; copies of financial statements; certified copies of birth certificates for each applicant and their children, as applicable; and, other written materials as may be required.

  • The interview portion includes but may not be limited to: a series of interviews between the applicant and an adoptions social worker, to occur in the office and in the applicant’s home, to discuss a variety of issues, such as, the applicant’s background, motivation to adopt, and understanding of adoption and parenting.

  • The educational portion includes specialized training in adoption and parenting issues.

In-Pro Per Finalization

A petition filed by the Adoptive parents, without the services of an attorney, to adopt a child who is a dependent of the Orange County Juvenile Court.

Livescan (fingerprinting)

A livescan machine takes computerized images of an individual’s fingerprints. The images are submitted to the Department of Justice to determine if the person has a criminal record.

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Nonrecurring Adoption Expenses Reimbursement

An agreement, which is signed by the adoptive parents and an authorized representative of the Social Services Agency, that the adoptive parents are eligible to be reimbursed, up to a maximum of $400.00 per child, for adoption-related expenses after finalization of the adoption. The reimbursement will be issued upon verification of payment of expenses provided that:

  • This agreement is completed prior to the final decree of adoption; and,

  • A claim of payment, including proof of payment, is provided to the Agency within two years of the final decree of adoption.

Petition to Adopt

A brief legal document that provides identifying information about the adoptive parents and the child to be adopted. The Petition to Adopt is filed with the Juvenile Court to initiate adoption proceedings.


The giving-up of custodial and legal rights to a child by the child’s birth parent.

Special Needs Child

All children that are dependents of the Juvenile Court are considered “special needs children.” However, in terms of adoption, this also includes children who meet one or more of the following criteria:

  • A child with a specific physical, medical, mental, or emotional handicapping condition.

  • An "older child," usually over 5 years of age.

  • Siblings (2 or more children) who must be placed together.

Termination of Parental Rights (.26 Hearing)

A process involving a court hearing, whereby a judge or bench officer enters a decree permanently ending all legal parental rights of a birth parent to the child. The termination of parental rights must occur before a child is considered “legally free” for adoption. In Orange County, children’s parents generally have 60 days from the date of this hearing to file an appeal.

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