Many of the words and terms we use may be new or confusing as you learn more about AGAPE’s work with birth parents, adoptive parents and foster care families. We have provided the following glossary of terms for you to use as a handy reference guide.

ABI/FBI Clearances:

This is a criminal history background check through the Alabama and Federal Bureau of Investigation to see if a person has a criminal record. In addition to completing application forms, the person must be fingerprinted. There is a fee and they must be updated annually as required by the state of Alabama.

Adoption Petition:

This is the document that is filed with the court on your behalf to commence your adoption action. It states the legal basis on which you think you should be able to adopt a certain child, why the court has jurisdiction to grant the adoption, your qualifications to adopt the child, and the name that you want to be given to your child when the requested adoption becomes final. This is usually filed through an attorney after the placement of a child.

Aging Out:

When a youth leaves foster care because they have reached age 19 without returning home or being adopted.

Child Abuse and Neglect Clearances (CANS):

This is a method of checking to see if a person has a history of child abuse. This is used as part of the approval process for prospective foster and adoptive parents. A prospective parent (or employee) must complete a form and submit it to this registry and the registry will send back information indicating that the person is either clear or has a record. These clearances must be updated annually as part of the annual updating of a home study.

Closed Adoption (Confidential Adoption):

In these adoptions, the birth family and the adoptive family do not share any identifying information about themselves, and do not communicate with each other, either before or after the placement of the child. The adoptive family will, however, receive non-identifying health and other background information about the child and the birth family before the placement takes place. The birth parents may also receive non-identifying information about the adoptive parents. The adoption files will be sealed after the adoption, and typically are not available to the adopted child.


The legally required process of keeping secret; the legally and ethically required principle and practice which compels adoption attorneys, social workers, employees of adoption agencies, court personnel, and other professionals to not disclose identifying or other significant information about the parties to an adoption, without legal authority and the written consent of the involved parties to do so.

Consent to Adoption:

Consent to adoption refers to a legal document signed by the birth parents to give legal intent to their desire for the adoption of their child, or a document issued by the adoption agency allowing the adoptive family to finalize the adoption after all agency and legal requirements have been met. The consent of the child being adopted may also be needed.

Domestic Adoption:

An adoption that involves adoptive parents and a child that are citizens and residents of the United States.


The legal process which transfers custody of a child from the adoption agency to the adoptive parents. In a court hearing, an attorney represents the family and presents the case to the judge, resulting in the adoption decree. This is the moment when the adoptee becomes the permanent, legally adopted child of the adoptive parents. This process cannot occur until the adoptive parents have had the child in their home for the time determined by state statute

Foster Adoption:

A form of adoption in which a child is placed into a home as a foster child, with the expectation that the child will become legally free for adoption and be adopted by the foster parents.


A guardian ad litem is appointed for a child (0-19 y/o) by the court to provide an independent adult to act on behalf of the child in the legal proceeding, and to make certain that the interests and legal rights of the child are given adequate consideration and are adequately protected in that process. The legal protective status of a guardian ad litem will exist only within the confines of the particular court case in which the appointment was made.


A person who fulfills some of the custodial and parenting responsibilities of the legal parents of a child, although the court or biological parents of the child may continue to hold some jurisdiction and decision-making authority over the child. Guardians are subject to ongoing supervision by the court and do not have the same reciprocal rights of inheritance as birth or adoptive parents have with their children. The relationship between the guardian and child ends when it is terminated by the court, or when the child reaches the age of majority.

Hague Convention Adoption:

According to the U.S. Department of State, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption is an international agreement to protect intercountry adoptions. The Hague Adoption Convention applies to all adoptions between the United States and the other counties that have joined the agreement. The United States joined the Hague Convention in 2008 and adheres to the guidelines in the agreement.

Home Study:

The process of assessing and preparing a family for adoption. It is used to determine the family’s suitability to adopt and the type of child whose needs would be best met by that family. The home study includes written materials, individual or group meetings with a social worker, and education about adoption and parenting issues.

Home study also refers to the written document, completed by a licensed agency, which is the end result of this process. Sometimes called a family profile or an adoption study, it gives a summary of the applicant’s family life. This document indicates approval of the applicant for adoption and clarifies what type of child the applicant is approved to adopt. It must be updated annually. The home study format varies slightly depending on the type of adoption.
Individual Service Plan (ISP): A written document describing long range goals and short range objectives for the provision of service for a foster youth.


The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is an agreement by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, to provide a process to move children across state lines for the purpose of adoption, foster care or residential care, while protecting their safety and well-being. Every state has signed the ICPC and made it law. The compact guarantees that each state’s adoption laws and procedures are met and that the child’s placement is properly managed and finalized. For more information about the ICPC, visit at

Medically Fragile:

A medically fragile child usually has a need for specialized in-home healthcare. Typically, these children are infants under 3 years of age who are prone to hospitalization.

Life Book:

Pages or a packet of information prepared with or for a child regarding his/her social back-ground. It includes pictures and stories about people, events and places which are important to the child’s history and life.

Open Adoption (Cooperative Adoption):

An open adoption or cooperative adoption allows for some form of association between the birth family, adoptees, and adoptive parents. This can range from picture and letter sharing, to phone calls, contact through an intermediary, or open contact between the parties themselves. Many adoptions of older children and teens are at least partially open, since the children may know identifying or contact information about members of their birth families, or may want to stay in touch with siblings placed separately.


The identity of the biological father of a child.

Post Placement:

The period after a child has been placed in an adoptive home. Usually post-placement refers to the period before legal finalization.

Post Placement Reports/ Post Placement Supervision:

The process of providing support and supervision to the adoptive family between the time of placement and finalization. Post-placement supervision is required and usually includes a specified number of visits to the family’s home and/or a specified period of time. In Alabama, one post placement report is generally required prior to finalization.


The voluntary surrender or termination of custodial and legal rights to a child by a birthparent. This is a legally binding, permanent procedure which involves the signing of legal documents and court action.

Respite Care:

Temporary care for a youth in foster care, intended to give either the youth or foster parent a break.

Special Needs:

The term generally refers to children that traditionally have been more difficult to place, because they are older, have some form of physical, mental, emotional, or developmental challenge, or who are multi-ethnic or biracial children. This definition also includes children that are part of a sibling group that it is expected would do better if they were adopted together.

Suitability Letter:

The letter that AGAPE receives from ABI/FBI stating that an individual has been cleared and has no criminal reports.
Therapeutic foster care: Foster care in which the foster parents have received specialized training to enable them to provide care for a wide variety of children and adolescents, usually those with significant emotional or behavioral problems and disorders. Therapeutic foster homes are also monitored more closely in terms of supervision and level of care provided.


Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) is a court process which permanently ends all legal parental rights of a birthparent to a child. Termination of parental rights can be voluntary or involuntary.

Withdrawal of Consent/ Consent to Adopt:

The document that is voluntarily signed by the birthparents in an adoption that allows the adoptive parents to adopt their child. In the state of Alabama, it must be signed in front of witnesses and a Notary Public. The birthparents have a period of revocation (in Alabama this is 14 days) in which they can withdraw their consent to the adoption.