Adoption can seem like its own little world sometimes. It doesn’t help that, due to the specialized nature of subjects and issues that come up again and again, those who work in adoption or have been through the process can come to speak a sort of unintelligible dialect. If you’ve ever been confused by a piece of impenetrable adoption jargon or lingo, you’ve come to the right place.
Adoption Disruption – The unplanned ending to the adoptive placement of a child into a family.
Adoption Homestudy – A homestudy is a mandatory process by which an adoption practitioner assesses a family or individual who is considering adoption. At the completion of the homestudy process, the adoption practitioner and the applicants will arrive at a decision about the characteristics of the children most appropriate for their family.
Adoption Order – The adoption order is granted by a family court judge and it grants complete parental responsibility to the child’s adoptive parents and removes it from all others, including the child’s birth parents and the Children’s Aid Society.
Adoption Probation – See Probation.
Adopt Ready – See AdoptReady.
Adoption Subsidy – Financial assistance given by the Children’s Aid Society to adoptive families to help them meet the extra costs of parenting a child with special needs.
Adoption Training – There is a mandatory training course called PRIDE (Parent Resources for Information, Development and Education) for all adoptive applicants in Ontario. It is a 9-module, 27-hour educational program that is interconnected with the homestudy process. The focus of PRIDE training is to provide adoptive applicants with information about the special understanding that is required to parent a child who is adopted.
AdoptReady – Once a family has completed both their mandatory homestudy and mandatory adoption training, they are legally able to have a child placed with them. All that remains is for a match to be found. When a family has reached this stage in the process, they are certified AdoptReady. This certification is required for all non-relative adoptions in Ontario.
Aging Out – This occurs when a crown ward reaches the age of 18 without ever having been adopted and is turned out into the world to fend for themselves. Youth who age out are at greater risk for all kinds of sociological problems. One goal of the ACO is to make it so that no child need age out of the system.
Attachment Issues (or Attachment Disorder) – 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. Infants who, due to disruptions, do not learn to trust in the same way because of disruptions, abuse, and other issues may have difficulty forming close bonds later in life. With early intervention and help by a trained attachment therapist, the prognosis can be good for creating and maintaining important family and friend relationships.
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.
Best Interest of the Child – The term, “best interests of the child” is meant to describe the set of principles which guide a court’s deliberation on adoption issues. The core philosophy is that the needs of the child trump all other concerns. This principle is also used by Children’s Aid Societies to determine adoption decisions.
Birth Family – The birth family is the biological family of a child who is adopted. Many children who are adopted continue to wonder and think about their birth families after they are adopted. Adoption records in Ontario are open, so adoptees and birth families may search for each other and reconnect later in life.
CAS – Children’s Aid Society
Customary Care - Customary Care is the full time care, nurturing and protection of a child by a customary caregiver identified by the child’s First Nation community. Caregiver(s) may include relatives, First Nation community 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.
Child Care Experience (or Parenting Experience) – It is often the case that adoption agencies will be seeking to place a particular child with a family with prior parenting experience. This usually means that the child has particular needs that require parents who are more assured and confident in parenting. Families who work with children as teachers, care givers, etc. may also have the experience that is needed.
Crown Ward - A crown ward is a term used in Canada to describe a foster child who has been made the legal responsibility of the government by a family court judge. In effect, the state has become the child’s parent. For example, once a child has been removed from their family (due to abuse, neglect or relinquishment) the individuals are then known as Crown wards.
Closed Adoption – A closed adoption is one where the adopted child and adoptive family are not in contact with the child’s birth family. Note that adoption records are open in Canada, so once an adoptee turns 18 they are able to request identifying information about their birth parents from the government regardless of how open or closed their adoption has been.
Cultural Matching – See Racial Matching.
Domestic Adoption – Any adoption of an Ontarian child by a family in Ontario. Includes public, private, and relative adoptions, as distinct from international adoptions.
Emotional Issues – See Behaviour/Emotional/Social Issues.
Every Child and Youth is Adoptable – This is an important principle which reminds us that many children cannot return to the care of their birth families but still deserve a permanent and loving family. Adoption is a way to achieve this and should be considered as an option for this group no matter the child’s age, sibling group size, special needs status, etc.
Foster Care – Foster care is a temporary living arrangement for a child who cannot live safely with their family of origin. Many children spend time in foster care before being adopted.
Finalization – Adoption finalization is the last part of the adoption process. The family court judge signs the adoption order and adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child with all the rights and responsibilities of biological parents.
Grief and Loss - When a child enters the adoptive home, they come with a tremendous amount of grief and loss. Losses that 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. Examples of possible reactions of grieving children include anger, sadness, hyperactivity, changes in appetite, hoarding food, inappropriate emotional response, headaches, and difficulty making decisions, regressive behaviours, and clinginess. Because children (and adults) understand things differently at every developmental stage, grief and loss continues to be felt by the child as they grow into adulthood. Part of being an adoptive family is to understand and help the child work through loss issues throughout their lives.
Homestudy – See Adoption Homestudy.
Inducement – Inducement is a psychological concept which describes the use of 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 which can leave the adoptive parents feeling scared, angry and depressed. It is important to know that this is a normal stage of attachment and will pass.
Kinship Placement - Is provided for children who are in the care of a Children’s Aid Society and are placed with a member of their extended family or community for adoption or long term care. Kin are required to undergo the same process as adoptive applicants, including a SAFE homestudy and PRIDE training.
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.
Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) - OACAS is a membership organization representing Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario. These services have included the promotion of child welfare issues, government relations, advocacy, policy development, communications, research and special projects, member support, quality assurance in child welfare practice, and training for all protection workers throughout the province.
Open Records – See Post-Adoption Birth Information
Openness Agreement (or Openness Expectation) - Openness in adoption is becoming increasingly common in adoption. Openness describes the level of contact between a child's birth family and adoptive family. It can take many forms, including the limited semi-openness of sharing non-identifying information and annual letters and pictures via the Children’s Aid Society, to a fully open adoption, where the child develops a one-on-one relationship with birth parents or extended birth family. The term is also used to refer to contact between the child's foster family, siblings, and extended family, and the new adoptive family. Note that adoption records are open in Canada, so once an adoptee turns 18 they are able to request identifying information about their birth parents from the government regardless of how open or closed their adoption has been.
Parenting Experience – See Child Care Experience.
Post-Adoption Birth Information (Open Records) - Starting June 1st 2009, adopted adults and birth parents can apply for information from birth and adoption records, if the adoption was registered in Ontario. This information is called post-adoption birth information. It includes identifying information, like the original name of an adopted adult or the name of a birth parent. With post-adoption birth information, adopted adults may be able to find out what their original names were, as well as the names of their birth parents. Birth parents may learn the name their child was given after he or she was adopted.
Post-Adoption Support - Post-placement support and services can take a variety of forms. Informal supports are available through support groups, some of which form around a type of adoption, or stage of adoptive development. Other supports may take the form of special events, seminars and workshops, printed resources, videos, audiotapes, and Internet sites. More formal support services include experienced professionals who provide specialized services for adoptive families.
Permanency – This is a concept meant to counteract the all too common state of constant uncertainty face by crown wards, 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.
Pre-Placement Visits – The period of time between a child being matched with the adoptive family and official placement of the child in the home (prior to finalization). Pre-placement may begin with the family meeting the foster family. The next step may be for the family to meet the child briefly. Length and type of visit gradually increases depending on the comfort level of the child and family until the child is placed in the home officially.
Probation (or Adoption Probation) - The period of time after the child is officially placed in the home and before the adoption is finalized. The adoption worker will visit at 7 days, 30 days, and typically every month thereafter until the adoption is finalized. The adoption worker will provide support, offer resources, and assess the integration of the child and family. Adoption probation usually lasts six months, though it can be longer in some cases.
PRIDE Training – See Adoption Training.
Racial Matching (or Cultural Matching) – Many adoption agencies aim to place children for adoption with families who are of the same race and/or cultural background. This is to provide cultural and racial connection and consistency to the child.
R.O.A.C.H. – Stands for Report on the Adjustment of the Child in the Home. In the report, the adoption worker includes general information about the adoptive family, the adopted child and about how the adoption has progressed during the adoption probation period. The report is submitted to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and then to the Ontario courts as part of the requirements to obtain a final adoption order.
SAFE Homestudy – See Adoption Homestudy.
Social Issues – See Behaviour/Emotional/Social Issues.
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.