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Adoption Glossary: A Birth Mother’s Guide to Adoption Terms and Phrases 

By Jessica Hall

Once the adoption process starts, you may feel like there are a lot of words thrown around that you don’t know. It’s good to get a handle on specific terms, so you know exactly what people are talking about. Never be afraid to ask us what things mean at Adoption Choices of Arizona. We always want you to feel confident in your choices by providing the support you need. Below is our adoption glossary with 23 necessary adoption terms and phrases all birth mothers should know. 

If you need adoption help now, please call us at 480-900-5520, text us at 602-922-0408 or visit us at Adoption Choices of Arizona

A Birth Mother’s Guide to Adoption Terms and Phrases


A child that is or will be adopted through the adoption process

Adoption Agency

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

Adoption Matching Process

An adoption follows a specific process. However, every adoption is unique. The adoption matching process helps your agency understand what your requirements are and which families fit them.

After deciding to start your adoption with Adoption Choices of Arizona, you’ll need to pick the type of adoption you want. Then, you’ll let us know the basic requirements the adoptive family will need to have. Do you want them to practice a certain type of religion? Do you want them to live close by? There are many things to consider when making the adoption plan. Once you’re finished, we’ll take these requirements and send you matching profiles of adoptive families. Depending on the type of adoption you’ve chosen, you’ll meet the family before making any final decisions. We encourage all birth mothers to meet the adoptive family to feel a sense of peace.

Adoption Plan

The list of decisions made by the birth mother or birth parents. This includes the type of adoption, requirements for the adoption, birth plan, and much more. 

Adoption Process 

The adoption agencies in Arizona generally going to follow the same steps to complete an adoption. 

Adoptive Family

The person or persons who want to take in a child that may not be biologically theirs. They are chosen by the birth mother or birth parents to adopt and provide a loving home to the birth child.

Birth Child

The biological child of the birth mother who is to be adopted by the adoptive family. Also known as the “adoptee.” 

Birth Mother

The person who is the biological mother of the child is to be adopted. 

Birth Father

The person who is the biological father of the child is to be adopted. 

Birth Parents

The biological parents of the child that is to be adopted.

Closed Adoption

When a birth mother decides to place their baby for adoption, she will need to decide what type of adoption she wants. In a closed adoption, the birth mother has little to no contact with the adoptive family throughout the adoption process. Once complete, no identifying information will be provided to the adoptive family. And neither party will be required to maintain a relationship.  

Court Termination

A court termination is required to end the parents’ rights to a child. These are used in cases when a child is in a potentially dangerous situation. And allows for the court to legally place the child in a safe home.  


This is the last legal step of completing an adoption in Arizona. The necessary parties will attend a court hearing where the judge claims the adoptive parents as the child’s legal guardians. 


Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a U.S. law that ensures protection services for adopted children. Adoptive parents will typically travel to the home state of the child to accept the placement. They’ll need to wait until both their state and the child’s state accept the adoption. 

Identifying Information

Any information that will disclose the identities of the birth parents or the adoptive family. The amount of information shared will be dependent on the type of adoption chosen. 

Open Adoption

In this type of adoption, the birth mother will typically have initial contact with the adoptive family before the birth. Then they’ll continue that relationship throughout the child’s life. This can look very different depending on the requirements listed in the adoption plan. Some birth mothers are able to schedule meetings, send presents, and more. 


After finalizing the adoption, the child will go home with the adoptive family. 

Placing a Child for Adoption

Children who are going to be adopted are never unwanted or abandoned. Adoption agencies in Arizona prefer to use the more sensitive phrase “placing a child for adoption.”

Post-Placement Services

Any services provided to the birth mother after the child is placed in the adoptive family’s home. Services include counseling, social services, adoption family outings and events, and financial assistance. 

Private Agencies

Adoption agencies are not funded by the government but are licensed by the state.


When a parent voluntarily terminates their parental rights to a child. 

Semi-Open Adoption

A type of adoption where the birth mother typically chooses and maybe meets the adoptive family. However, no identifying information would be shared.

Unexpected Pregnancy

When someone becomes pregnant without meaning to. 

Was Adopted

Once the child is placed with the adoptive family, we say the child “was” adopted, not “is.” This helps the child understand that the adoption was something that happened, not an ongoing process. Children that are placed in adoptive homes are incredibly loved by their families. 

We’re Helping Build Arizona Families 

At Adoption Choices of Arizona, we treat you with respect and dignity and ensure you receive the birth mother benefit you need. The adoption process can feel daunting, but we’re here to help. We have experienced staff who know how to help you along the way. And we have incredible families waiting to fulfill their dreams of adoption. 

For adoption resources or to begin your adoption journey, birth parents can visit us at Adoption Choices of Arizona or call us at or text us at 602-922-0408. If you are a prospective adoptive family hoping to adopt a baby, please, instead, visit us here!