The Facts About Adoption

What Is Adoption? [Adoption Definition]


Adoption is a life-changing journey.

For prospective birth parents, it is a way to respond to an unplanned pregnancy that can create a better future for yourself and your child. For hopeful adoptive parents, it’s a pathway to fulfilling lifelong dreams of parenthood. For adoptees, it is a way to ensure that children experience their birthright: to grow and thrive in the care of a loving family.

If you’re interested in adoption, you may be a looking for a more precise adoption definition. What is the definition of adoption? Does it change depending on the type of adoption? And are there other terms to know?

Here, we’re going to define adoption and a few other terms. The process can be a bit confusing, and understanding the language will give you a better sense of what is happening.

Define Adoption

What is the adoption definition?

Adoption is a process that transfers legal rights from birth parents to adoptive parents. This happens by placing a child in the legal care of adoptive parents. The adoption process can take several different shapes, as we’ll explore below, but always involves the termination of the biological parents’ rights and the transfer of parental rights and responsibilities to the adoptive parents.

This transfer of legal rights happens over the course of the adoption process, which can take months to years, depending on the type of adoption and other circumstances affecting the process.

The type of adoption is the single most important factor in determining how the process goes. The types of adoption can result in such distinct processes that it is worth exploring a unique adoption definition for each.

Domestic Infant Adoption Definition

Also known as private adoption, the adoption definition here is the placement of a newborn infant into the legal care of adoptive parents. The prospective birth parent chooses adoption while pregnant (or shortly after birth) of their own volition (as opposed to the state removing the child from the parents’ care). Working with an adoption agency, the prospective birth parent chooses an adoptive family for her baby.

Foster Care Adoption Definition

The definition of adoption from foster care is quite different. In this situation, a child is removed from their biological parents’ care by the state. Oftentimes, a reunification plan is attempted, which would bring the child and parents back together. If this plan fails, then the child is placed for adoption by the state.

International Adoption Definition

International adoption, also called intercountry adoption, occurs when the adoptive parents travel to another country to adopt a child who has lost his or her biological parents, often because of abandonment or tragedy.

Definition of Adopted

We’ve talked about the definition of adoption, but what about the definition of adopted? The two terms are only a few letters apart, but they refer to different things.

While adoption is a process that transfers legal rights from biological parents to adoptive parents, adopted is an identifier for a child who has been through the process. One is about the process; the other is about the person.

Adopted Definition: The state of any child who has been placed in the legal care of adoptive parents.

While the process is equally important for prospective birth parents and hopeful adoptive parents, everyone involved is really there to care for the adopted child. Everyone wants what is best for those who are adopted.

Definition of Adoption and Other Related Terms

The adoption process is a complex series of steps that can take months to years. During the process, a variety of professionals will be involved, and each steps has its own unique requirements.

You will also find that the process has a language of its own. There are certain terms that you may be vaguely familiar with, and others that are totally new to most people.

This glossary of terms is meant to provide the definition of adoption and the most important related terms that anyone interested in the process should know:

Adoption Definition: The transfer of parental rights from biological parents to adoptive parents.

Adoptive Definition: An adjective describing the family who takes on the parental rights of the child, i.e. “the adoptive family.” Once the adoption is complete, it is unnecessary to continue describing the family as “adoptive.” They are simply and fully “family.”

Adopted Definition: An adjective describing the child who has been placed with the adoptive family, also known as an “adoptee.”

Definition of Biological/Birth: The birth parents, or biological parents, are the child’s family of origin whose parental rights are terminated in the adoption process.

Define Adoption Agency: An adoption agency is a licensed and regulated organization that provides services required to complete an adoption placement. There are several different types of agencies corresponding to the different types of adoption.

Placement Definition: Placement is the goal of the adoption process. It is the step when a child is taken into the care of the adoptive parents.

Define Adoption Consent: Prospective birth parents who choose to place their baby for adoption must give their official consent to the adoption, which terminates their parental rights so that the adoptive family can assume legal care of the child.

Learn More

These are only a few of the important terms that you’ll hear in the adoption process. This process can be confusing, but the good news is that you’re not supposed to go through it on your own. There are professionals ready to help.

Would you like to learn more? You can contact us today to be connected with an adoption agency. This connection is always free, and you are never obligated to choose adoption.


Ready to get started? Contact an adoption agency now to get free information.

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