Terms and Definitions

Adoption Decree

A legal order that finalizes an adoption to the adoptive parents.

Adoption Plan

An arrangement made by the birth parents stating their expectations and preferred circumstances. (i.e. open or closed adoption and level of involvement)

Adoption Triad

The child, birthparents, and adoptive parents.

Birth Father

The biological father who has consented in the adoption plan.

Birth Mother

The biological mother placing the child of adoption.


The adoptive parents appear in court, asking to become the child’s legal parents. The judge grants the request if all is in order.

Home Study

Assessment of the adoptive parents’ ability to provide a safe and healthy home. This provides information on the couple’s health, home life, financial standing, background information, and even about their extended families. The assessment is done by a trained adoption specialist and submitted to the agency and court as part of the adoption decree.

Relinquishment Papers

Legal documents that the birth parents must sign, showing that they choose to place their child for adoption and that they terminate all legal rights to the child. These papers are signed no earlier than 48 hours after the child is born or after the mother has left the hospital.