Adoption Terminology

The legal transfer of all parental rights and obligations from one person or couple to another person or couple. Public Adoption is adoption of a child from the state's foster care system, because reunification with their birth parents was not possible. 

Adoptive Parent(s)
An individual or couple who have chosen to adopt and have had an adoption finalized in a court.

Birth Parents
The parents to whom a child is born; biological parents.

Closed Adoption
An arrangement in which an adopted child has no contact with and/or no knowledge of the birth family.

Dependent Child
A child who is in the legal custody of a county children and youth agency.

Home Study
This process usually involves visits to the home and talks with family members. It also includes background checks to verify employment, criminal and child abuse history checks, and character references. The profile is used to match families with waiting children.

The last legal step in the adoption process. Only after finalization do the adoptive parents have legal rights and responsibilities for the child.

Foster Parent(s)
An individual or couple who provide temporary care for a child who is in the legal custody of the Department of Social Services.

Goal Change
A formal decision involving the custodial agency and the appropriate court to determine the permanency plan for a child.

Legally Free 
A child is “legally free” when parental rights have been terminated by a court ruling and the 30-day time frame for filing an appeal to the ruling has expired.  

The process of finding prospective families suitable for a waiting child; not to be confused with "placement”.

Open Adoption
An arrangement in which the adopted child maintains contact with and/or has knowledge of the birth family.

The physical relocation of a child into a pre-adoptive living situation. When placement occur without termination of biological parental rights, it is referred to as a legal risk placement.

Placement Committee
A placement committee is a group of DSS professionals that includes the child’s foster care and adoption worker, the adoption supervisor, and generally two or three other adoption staff. The purpose of this committee is to review the home studies for multiple families that are deemed a potential match for the child’s needs, and select the most appropriate family that can best meet those needs.

Pre-adoptive Family
A family selected by the county agency or court, which intends to adopt a child who has been placed in their home. Adoption finalization is pending.

Post-Adoption Services
They are used to support the child and family after the adoption has taken place. All adoptive families are eligible for Post-Adoption Services

Special Needs
Refers to many categories of children, including children with physical, emotional or medical disabilities, healthy school-age children, children with siblings who need to be adopted together and minority children.

The spouse of a child's birth parent. A stepparent may become an adoptive parent by legally adopting the child.

Termination of Parental Rights
A court proceeding through which all legal rights and responsibilities between parent and child are severed. Termination of parental rights may be voluntary or involuntary. A termination of biological parental rights must occur before an adoption can be finalized.

Waiting Children
Children who have not yet been placed with a pre-adoptive family.

Child Welfare Services Transformation

Best Outcomes for Children and Families

Do you have a complaint regarding services being provided to a child by a state agency? Please submit your complaint by phone (1-800-206-1957) or an electronic submission form here with the South Carolina Department of Children's Advocacy.