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When people talk about adoption, they may use terms you do not understand. The following are general definitions for most of those terms.


Adoption means voluntarily taking a child of other parents as one’s own child. In Texas, adoptions can take place either through a licensed agency or privately through an attorney.

Open Adoption

With the help of a third party such as counselor, the birth parents and the adoptive parents decide what type of future contact they want. They make these decisions prior to placing the child in the adoptive home. This contact can range from sending pictures and letters to one another through an agency to a fully disclosed adoption where birth parents and adoptive parents know each other’s full names, addresses, and telephone numbers.

Semi-Open Adoption

May involve meeting adoptive parents with non-identifying information and limited contact (ex. picture & letters)

Closed Adoption

These are adoptions where there is no contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents. The adoptive parents receive only descriptive information about the adoptive parents of their child.

Adoption Decree

The adoption decree is a legal document that finalizes the authority of adoptive parents to parent a child who was placed in adoption.

Adoption Plan

Birth parents that choose to place their baby for adoption make an adoption plan. In the adoption plan, the birth parents decide whether they want an open or closed adoption. If they choose an open adoption they decide how much contact they would like to have with the adoptive parents.

Adoption Triad

The adoption triad consists of the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the child.


This is another way to describe the biological father of a child placed for adoption. Birthfathers have legal rights and must consent to the adoption plan. They are encouraged to participate in the process and receive counseling services.


This is another way to describe the biological mother of a child placed for adoption.


With the help of a professional, people explore options to help resolve crisis situations. This may be done individually or through support groups. In pregnancy counseling, a birthmother examines the options of parenting or placing a child for adoption. In discussion about adoption, counselor and client may talk about: what the process of placing the child will be like, the feelings of grief and loss associated with placing a child, and ways to explain to others the decision to place the child.


Following placement and the mandatory supervision period, the adoptive parents appear in court requesting the right to become the child’s legal parents. If everything is in order, the judge will grant their request.

Financial Assistance

In Texas, licensed adoption agencies may provide financial assistance to birth parents in cases of financial need. This assistance may include help with basic living expenses such as rent, food, utilities, clothing, and transportation. Medical and legal expenses may also be covered.

Home Study

All adoptive families must complete a home study process before they can adopt a child. A social worker will meet the prospective adoptive parents and will review areas such as: marital and family relationships, financial stability, health status, and criminal history.

Understanding of the issues related to parenting an adopted child

During a home visit the worker will address child safety issues and assess whether or not the home is suitable for child.

Legal Rights of the Birth Parents

The birthmother, as biological parent, has full rights and responsibilities for the child born to her, regardless of her age. This means making decisions she thinks will be in the child’s best interest. The birthfather, as biological parent, has certain rights and responsibilities depending upon whether or not he has established a legal claim as the child’s father. In both cases, birth parents’ legal rights must be ended by the court n order for their child to be placed for adoption.

Legal Rights of the Adoptive Parents

At time of placement, the adoptive parents are given the authority to carry out all of the rights and responsibilities of biological parents for the child placed with them for adoption. This is done through the licensed child placing agency or the court in the case of a private adoption. At the time of finalization, the court gives them the final authority in the form of an adoption decree which declares them the legal parents of the child.

Licensed Child Placing Agency

A licensed child placing agency is an organization which follows and is bound by the rules developed by the state department of child protection. An agency has the legal authority to provide adoption placement services.


Today in many adoptions the birth parents have the option of selecting the adoptive family for their child. Once a choice is made and the prospective parents agree, it is called a match.

Medical and Social History

This is a document competed by the birthmother, and birthfather is possible, which contains relevant information about themselves and their extended families. In a closed adoption all identifying information is removed from the document. The history is given to the adoptive parents so the child can know his medical and social background.


This is when a baby is actually placed with adoptive parents and they are able to take the child home.


This is a system set up and maintained by an adoption agency to provide a means for biological relative separated by adoption to have contact with one another.


Relinquishment papers are legal documents that must be signed by birth parents that choose to place their child for adoption. In some cases, the birthfather may sign the papers prior to the child’s birth, but the birthmother cannot sign them until 48 hours after the child is born. By signing the documents birth parents their legal rights to parent their child.


The state of Texas mandates a period of supervision for six (6) months following placement of the child in an adoptive home before the adoption is finalized. During this time a social worker or counselor follows their progress.

Temporary or Foster Care

In circumstances where a child cannot go directly from the hospital to home of adoptive parents, the child will be placed for a period of time in a licensed loving and caring home. These homes are carefully chosen and the parents work closely with agency staff to insure the well-being of the child.


Termination of parental rights is the ending of the right to parent by both parents prior to a child’s being placed for adoption. The actual termination takes place in court. The legal relinquishment documents can be signed before the court date and the birth parents do not have to appear in court.

**The information applies only to Texas

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