Understanding Adoption Terminology: A Guide for Birth Mothers

By Maleah Adams

Navigating through the adoption process can be both a hopeful and overwhelming experience. It’s a journey filled with important decisions and significant emotions. As a birth mother facing an unplanned pregnancy, understanding the terminology used during this process is crucial. It not only helps you make informed decisions but also ensures effective communication with adoption professionals and the adoptive family. Using the correct terms can empower you and provide clarity during this transformative period of your life.

The team at Adoption Choices of Colorado is honored to assist you in navigating this path, ensuring that every decision is informed and every procedure is clear. Your love for your child guides this journey, and with the right support and knowledge, you can steer it towards a rewarding conclusion.

Adoption Glossary for Birth Mothers 

Adoption Choices of Colorado is committed to supporting you by simplifying the language of adoption. Here’s a glossary of key terms that you may encounter throughout your adoption journey:


A child that is or will be adopted. 

Adoption Agency

An organization that provides adoption services between birth parents, the adoptive family, and the adoptee. Adoption agencies may or may not be licensed by the state, private or public, secular or religious, or for-profit or nonprofit.

Birth Mother

The biological mother of a child who has chosen to place her child for adoption.

Birth Father

The biological father of a child, whose rights and involvement in the adoption process, can vary based on the situation and legal factors.

Adoptive Parents

Individuals who become the legal parents of a child through the process of adoption.

Open Adoption 

An adoption is in which the birth parents and adoptive parents have some form of ongoing contact or access to information about each other and the child.

Closed Adoption

An adoption where no identifying information is shared between the birth and adoptive families and no contact is maintained post-adoption.

Semi-Open Adoption

An adoption arrangement that allows for some communication or exchange of information (like letters or photos) through an intermediary, usually the adoption agency.

ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children)

A legal agreement that regulates the placement of children across state lines in the United States.


The legal process by which a birth parent voluntarily surrenders their parental rights to an adoption agency or adoptive parents.

Adoption Plan

A plan created by the birth mother, often with the assistance of an adoption professional, outlining her wishes for the adoption process and the future of her child.

Home Study

An evaluation process that prospective adoptive parents must undergo to be approved for adoption, which assesses their suitability to become parents.

Post-Placement Supervision

Visits and assessments are conducted by an adoption agency after the child is placed with the adoptive family before the adoption is finalized.


The legal process that makes the adoption official and permanent typically involves a court hearing.

Adoption Consultant

A professional who provides advice and support to adoptive parents throughout the adoption process.


A legal arrangement is one in which a person is given the legal right to make decisions for a child in the absence of the child’s biological parents.

Parental Rights 

Legal rights that relate to a person’s status as a parent, including custody and decision-making for a child.

Revocation Period

A legally specified period during which a birth parent can change their mind about the adoption after signing relinquishment papers.

Adoption Petition

A document filed in court to request the legal adoption of a child.

Adoption Tax Credit 

A federal tax credit may be available to adoptive parents to help offset the costs of adoption.


The act of placing a child with adoptive parents pending final adoption.

Adoption Disruption

The interruption of an adoption before it is finalized is often due to issues in the matching process or changes in the adoptive family’s or birth mother’s decision.

Adoption Dissolution

The termination of an adoption after it has been finalized is usually due to serious problems in the adoptive family’s relationship with the child.

By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you will be better equipped to navigate the adoption process with confidence. At Adoption Choices of Colorado, we are here to provide you with the knowledge of the adoption agencies in Colorado and a respectful adoption experience. If you have any questions or need further explanations, our team is always here to help.

Navigating Your Journey with Confidence 

As you progress through the adoption process, understanding these terms is more than just about having a grasp of the technical jargon. It’s about gaining the knowledge that empowers you to make decisions that are best for both you and your child. Each term represents a piece of the puzzle that forms your unique adoption story. Whether you’re discussing options with counselors or setting terms for future communication in an open adoption, understanding adoption language ensures that your voice is heard.

At Adoption Choices of Coloradowe believe that informed choices are the foundation of a successful adoption experience. We recognize the emotional demands placed on birth mothers and strive to provide a supportive, compassionate environment where you feel valued and understood. By equipping you with a comprehensive understanding of your adoption options, we aim to foster a sense of control and peace throughout your journey.

If you have any questions regarding your unplanned pregnancy options or adoption terminology, please feel free to reach out to us. 

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