Throughout the adoption process, there will be many terms that you’ll hear that you may not understand. If you’re placing your child for adoption, it can be a stressful time and you may not want to ask for clarification on what a term means, but you definitely need to understand what is going on. If you’re adopting for the first time, you may feel unprepared if you don’t understand a term. This is all common and we’re here to provide adoption assistance and shed some light on the terms that you will hear during the adoption process.

Let’s take a look at some of the common terms that you’ll hear and what they mean:

Semi-Open Adoption

A semi-open adoption is a form of adoption that occurs when the birth parents and adoptive family exchange non-identifying information and have non-identifying interactions. All interactions are done through the adoption agency.

Typically, in a semi-open adoption, the adoptive family will share letters and photos regularly with the adoption agency as the child grows. The adoption agency will then turn around and forward them to the birth parents.

Open Adoption

Open adoption involves sharing identifying information between the adoptive and birth families. The two families will meet and set a plan on the amount of interaction the two families will have as the child grows. This can be anything from sharing emails, photos, and phone calls to regular visits with the family and the child. This is a fluid plan that can change and evolve as the needs of the child change.

Adoption Agreement

The adoption agreement is an agreement between the birth and adoptive family outlining the terms of the adoption including level of communication between the families and between the birth family and the child. This is a fluid agreement that can be changed as the needs of the child change.

Non-Identifying Information

This information, shared in a semi-open adoption, is strictly focused on important facts that may impact the health or well-being of the child, but cannot be used to identify who the birth or adoptive families are or how to contact them.

Home Study

A home study is the process of evaluating the fitness of an adoptive family to adopt and raise a child. The home study will include two home visits from a caseworker and one additional visit outside of the home and will include a review of doctor’s reports, financial statements, references, background checks, trainings, and more. A home study is required to be performed by a licensed agency in the home state of the adoptive family before they can be matched with a child.

Waiting Family

A waiting family is a family that has successfully passed their home study and are ready to adopt a child. They are currently waiting to be successfully matched with a birth family and child.

Birth Family

The birth family is the biological family of the child. This can include the birth mother, birth father, and even birth grandparents or siblings.

Adoptive Family

The adoptive family is the family that adopted the child. This family will ultimately have all parenting rights and responsibilities of the child once the adoption is finalized.

Adoption Order

The adoption order is the legal document that is issued to finalize an adoption stating that the adoptee is the legal child of the adoptive parents.

Adoption Plan

An adoption plan is the planning and steps involved in going through the adoption process. Typically, this document is created with the help of a caseworker. It is meant to keep the birth family informed of next steps and it helps guide the birth family through the adoption process.

You can start building your adoption plan today with our free Adoption Plan Checklist! Download it now!

Domestic Adoption

A domestic adoption is an adoption between birth and adoptive families that are both legal residents of the United States of America.


A caseworker is an employee of the adoption agency that is assigned to either the birth family or the adoptive family to help guide them through the process. Each family has their own caseworker who is solely focused on what is best for that family.


Matching is the process of bringing together qualified adoptive families and willing birth families to explore their compatibility. They can agree to move forward with the adoption or not. Both families must approve a match before the adoption can begin.

Post-Placement Services

Post-placement services include a variety of services provided by the adoption agency to both the birth and adoptive families after the finalization of the adoption including counseling, support, and even adoptive family events.

The adoption process doesn’t have to be confusing or frustrating. Adoption Choices of Colorado is here to assist every step – including clarification on what happens next and what any term means. If you’re ready to begin the adoption process or want to learn more, we are available 24 hours per day, seven days per week! You’re never alone.

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