MCFD, PAA, homestudy — what does it all mean? Many of these terms and acronyms will become part of everyday lingo for anyone joining the adoption and permanency community, yet there’s a lot of them to learn. This glossary covers many of the terms you’ll see all across our website.

A little girl with short black hair and red glasses is holding a green book. The book is open, and she's rasising her right hand.

A note about word choices: A word can feel right to one person, but totally wrong to another. The Belonging Network chooses words that mirror the way most adoption and permanency community members think and talk about their experiences, unless it’s harmful or outdated. This helps more people find our website and connect with our resources. 

Have we missed something? Let us know.


— 0-9 —2SLGBTQIA+ – An acronym that collectively refers to Two-Spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual communities. The “+” is used to be inclusive of people who identify with this community but aren’t represented in the acronym’s letters. Older variations include “LGBT,” “LGBTQ,” and “LGBTQ+.”

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Abandonment – A form of neglect where a child is left without the means to sustain or care for themselves. The parent may physically leave the child, one parent may leave the child while the other continues to provide care, or the parent may stop providing for their child while still living together. When abandonment occurs and the parents cannot be located or are unresponsive, the courts may end the parents’ rights, then work to place the child with another family.

Aboriginal – Aboriginal was once the preferred term to refer to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, but has been replaced by the term Indigenous. See Indigenous

Abuse – Any physical, sexual, emotional and/or other maltreatment or exploitation of a person.

Adoptee – An adopted person.

Adopt BC Kids The name of the online portal that the Ministry of Children and Family Development uses to manage parts of the application process of adopting from foster care. 

Adoption – A way of providing new and permanent family ties for a child or youth who cannot return to their birth families. It involves the legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from birth parent(s) to adoptive parent(s). See also: Permanency

Adoption from foster care – The adoption of a child or youth who is currently in government care, which includes foster care. In BC, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) facilitates this process. Also known as waiting child adoption or (incorrectly) the Adopt BC Kids program.

Adoption agency – In BC, a non-profit licensed by the province to assist prospective adoptive parents through the legal, administrative, and social work involved in adopting a child that is not in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Adoption breakdown – Informal term for when an adoption ends. See: Dissolution, Disruption

Adoption constellation – Everyone touched by the adoption process: birth parents, adoptee, adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and extended family.

Adoption Day – A day celebrated by adoptive families to recognize the day their child(ren) joined their family through adoption. Also called Family Day, Gotcha Day (disputed term).

Adoption Management System (AMS) – An internal tool used by the Ministry of Children and Family Development to help match approved adoptive parents with waiting children.

Adoption order – An adoption order is a document granted by the courts that gives complete parental rights and responsibilities to the child’s adoptive parent(s). An adoptee is then entitled to the same rights as biological children in their adoptive family. 

Adoption plan – A plan created by biological parent(s) for the adoption of their child.

Adoption records – Documents that provide information about an adoption, including the adoptee’s original birth certificate, court documents, and private records relating to the adoption process. 

Adoption Reunion Registry – Run by the provincial government of BC, this service provides search, intermediary, and counselling services to those whose lives have been affected by an adoption in BC. See also: Post Adoption Openness Registry

Adoption search – See: Reunion

Approved adoptive parent – An adult who has completed their mandatory adoption training, and homestudy and has been legally approved to have a child placed with them for adoption. See also: Prospective parent and Waiting parent

Adoption Education Program (AEP) – A pre-adoption training course required for all adoptive parents as part of the application process in BC. It can be offered prior to or in conjunction with the homestudy process. The AEP is offered by the Ministry of Children and Family and Development, licensed adoption agencies, or online at The Belonging Network. 

Adoption Networking Exchange or Adoption Resource Exchange – A conference hosted by the Ministry of Children and Family and Development that helps match children and adoptive families through video or picture profiles and opportunities for prospective parents and social workers to interact. Formerly Adoption Resource Exchange. See also: Matching event

Adoption profile – See: Family profile

Adoption tax credit – A tax credit is a sum deducted from the amount a taxpayer owes to the state. In Canada, adoptive parents may be eligible to claim certain expenses incurred during the adoption process using the federal adoption tax credit.

Adoption triad – A symbolic term for an adopted child, their birth parents, and their adoptive parents. See also: Adoption constellation

Adoptive parent(s) – A person or persons who are now the legal parents of a child, with all the rights and responsibilities of being a parent. 

Adoptive parent profile – See: Family profile

Adult adoptee – Any adopted person who is now an adult; or someone who was adopted as an adult.

AEP or AEP-Online – See: Adoption Education Program

Agency adoption – Any adoption facilitated by an adoption agency.

Aging out – An informal term for what happens when a youth in foster care reaches the age of 19 and leaves or “ages out” from the child welfare system. – A website for young people who are or were in government care (foster care) in British Columbia. It’s an up-to-date warehouse of information on resources and services available to young adults, in addition to being a learning tool to help people feel empowered as they leave care. was built and is maintained by The Belonging Network in collaboration with current and former youth in care.

Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) – See: Strengthening Abilities and Journeys of Empowerment (SAJE)

ANE – See: Adoption Networking Exchange

ASD – See: Autism Spectrum Disorder

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) – A term for certain medical procedures used to assist in the treatment of infertility with the aim of achieving pregnancy. Examples include intrauterine insemination (IUI), In Vitro fertilization (IVF), and third-party assisted ART, such as surrogacy or embryo donation.

Attachment – A relationship bond between a child or young person and their primary caregiver. When a child’s attachment needs are met they learn to trust, attach and bond to their parent or caregiver. A securely attached child knows that they are safe, loved, and cared for. Infants are biologically driven to develop this attachment by having their needs met over and over again by a primary caregiver.

Attachment disorder – A treatable condition in which individuals have difficulty trusting anyone or creating loving, lasting intimate relationships due to serious disruptions in forming that bond during early childhood. Note: Attachment disorder is not in itself a formal diagnosis within mainstream psychology and medicine. Some associated therapies are extremely controversial and potentially dangerous. See also: Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Attachment Therapy

Attachment therapy – The term “attachment therapy” is associated with a wide range of therapeutic practices and interventions. Some, such as play therapy and trauma-informed care, are well-recognized and accepted. Others, such as “holding therapy,” have faced major controversy and ethical concerns and have been implicated in the deaths of several children. Caregivers are urged to research any “attachment therapy” approaches that they may be considering, and to discuss them with their family doctor or another trusted professional. See also: Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Attachment Disorder

Note: Attachment theory and attachment parenting are relatively well-accepted practices that are unrelated to the controversial forms of attachment therapy.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – A developmental disability caused by differences in the brain. People with ASD may communicate, behave, interact, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The difficulties and strengths of people with ASD vary significantly.

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BC’s waiting children – See: Waiting children.

Behavioural issues – A broad term that describes disruptive behaviors that cause problems in school, at home or in social situations. Behavioural issues vary in severity according to the individual.

Best interests of the child – The set of principles that guide a court’s deliberation on adoption issues, defined in section 3 of the Adoption Act. The core philosophy is that the needs of the child trump all other concerns.

Biological child – The genetic child of a parent, through birth or surrogacy.

Birth certificate – An official document issued to record a person’s birth.

Birth family – The biological family of a child who is adopted. Other common terms include first family.

Birth father – The biological father of a child who is adopted. Other commonly-used terms include first father.

Birth grandparent(s) – The biological grandparents of a child who is adopted.

Birth mother – The biological mother of a child who is adopted. Other commonly-used terms include first mother.

Birth parent(s) – The biological parents of a child who is adopted.

BN – Acronym for The Belonging Network

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Care – Shortened version of Government care or Foster care.

Child – Refers to any person 19 years of age or under. May also be used to refer to a person 12 years or younger, to distinguish them from a “youth” or “teen” (a person aged 13-19).

Child in care – See: In care

Child profile – A document that contains information about a child, including social history, medical information, and information on the child’s birth family. Typically provided to prospective parents to help them decide whether to adopt the child.

Child-Specific Recruiter (CSR) – A professional who searches for adoptive families or permanency connections for waiting children and youth that are labeled “harder to place,” which may be because of their age, siblings they need to be adopted with, or sensitive histories and behaviors.

Closed adoption – An adoption arrangement where there is no transfer of information or contact between the adoptive family and birth family.

Closed adoption records – Depending on state or provincial law, a jurisdiction where adoptees and birth parents are not able to access original birth certificates or adoption records. See also: Open adoption records

Confidential adoption – See: Closed adoption

Continuing Custody Order (CCO) – In BC, this is a technical term for a legal process in which an Ministry of Children and Family Development official (called a “director”) ( becomes the sole personal guardian of a child or youth and may consent to the child’s adoption, while the Public Guardian and Trustee, a separate government official, becomes the sole guardian of the child’s property. In the adoption and permanency world, this term usually comes up in reference to the rights of the parents of a child in government care being terminated. A CCO is usually necessary before a child in care can be adopted.

Cross-cultural adoption – The adoption of a child who is from a different culture than their adoptive parents. See also: Transracial adoption, International adoption

Cultural plan – A plan created to ensure that the child learns about and remains connected to their cultural heritage.

Custom adoption – Custom adoption is an English-language approximation for permanency arrangements that are conducted according to an Indigenous community’s customs and traditions.

Note: Adoption is a term that has painful associations for many Indigenous people. First Nations, Metis, and Inuit languages often have their own words for traditional ways of caring for children whose parents can’t care for them; these words should be used whenever possible.

Customary care – Care arrangements that are based on the Indigenous customs and traditions of a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit caregiver or child. Customary care ensures the child maintains their Indigenous cultural, linguistic, and spiritual identity. First Nations, Metis, and Inuit languages often have their own words for traditional ways of caring for children whose parents can’t care for them; these words should be used whenever possible See also: Custom adoption

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Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA) – Former term for Indigenous Child and Family Service Agency.

Direct placement adoption – When birth parents choose to place their child for adoption with someone they know who is not a relative. Families must work with a licensed adoption agency to process paperwork and make sure all requirements are met.

Disruption – When an adoption process is stopped after a child is placed in the home, but before the adoption is legally finalized. See also: Adoption breakdown.

Dissolution – When an adoption ends after it has been legally finalized. See also: Adoption breakdown.

Domestic adoption – Any adoption of a child living in BC by a family in BC. 

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Embryo adoption – See: Embryo donation.

Embryo donation – A form of assisted reproductive technology. The remaining embryos from in vitro fertilization (IVF) are donated to another parent or couple. The recipient parent has the embryo placed in their uterus and goes through pregnancy and childbirth. The resulting baby is legally the child of the recipient. There may be varying levels of openness with the donor family. 

Extended Family Program – A kinship care program where the Ministry of Children and Family Development provides support when a parent voluntarily authorizes a relative or close family friend to temporarily care for a child or youth.

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FASD – Acronym. See: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Family Day – See: Adoption day

Family profile – A document that provides background information on the prospective adoptive parent(s). Used by social workers in the matching process, or by birth parents who are selecting an adoptive family for their child.

Federal adoption tax credit – A tax credit available to parents who adopt to assist with some of the costs associated with the adoption process.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) – In Canada, FASD is a medical diagnosis for problems that can occur in the brain and body when a person is exposed to alcohol before they are born. FASD is a lifelong disability. People with FASD often need support with motor skills, physical health, learning, memory, communication, emotional regulation, and social skills. Prenatal exposure to alcohol does not automatically lead to an FASD diagnosis. Some people are affected by prenatal alcohol exposure, but do not meet all the criteria for a diagnosis.

Finalization – When a judge signs the adoption order and adoptive parents become the legal parents of the child with all the rights and responsibilities of biological parents. Adoption finalization is the last step in the legal adoption process.

Foster care – A temporary living arrangement for a child or youth who cannot live safely with their previous family. Foster care is a type of government care where children live in a family home (as opposed to a group home or institutional setting). Children are cared for by foster caregivers until they can be reunited with their family or be placed in another permanency arrangement.

Foster parent (or foster caregiver) – Someone who provides care, safety and stability to children and youth who are temporarily unable to live with their own families. Foster parents are contracted by Ministry of Children and Family Development or other agencies. They go through an extensive assessment process, receive ongoing training, and work closely with the child’s entire care team, with the ultimate goal of helping children return home to their families.

First mother – One of several popular terms for an adopted child’s biological mother. See also: Birth mother

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Gotcha Day – A once-popular term for the day a child joined their family through adoption. This term is widely criticized, especially by adoptees and birth parents, and has fallen out of favour. See also: Adoption day

Guardian – A person who is legally responsible for the care, upbringing of, and decision-making about a child or youth under the age of 19. 

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Hague Convention – The Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) is an international treaty which requires signatory countries to follow basic safeguards to ensure the protection of children. It also sets out rules for how intercountry adoptions must be conducted. As of 2020, the Convention had 104 participating countries, including Canada.

All provinces and territories, including BC, have laws about international adoption that must be followed under the Hague Convention.

Homestudy A mandatory process by which an adoption social worker assesses a family or individual who is considering adoption. The process involves a series of interviews and helps prepare the family to meet the needs of an adopted child or sibling set.

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In care – In BC, this term is used when a child or youth is in government care under the temporary or permanent guardianship of the provincial director of child welfare. See also: foster care

Indigenous – An “umbrella term” for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people in Canada. Part 1 of the British Columbia Adoption Act includes a detailed definition of who is considered to be Indigenous for the purposes of that Act.

Indigenous Child and Family Service (ICFS) Agencies – An agency that has the authority to administer all or parts of the Child, Family and Community Service Act through delegation agreements with the Provincial Director of Child Welfare in BC. The amount of responsibility undertaken by each agency is the result of negotiations between the ministry and the Indigenous community served by the agency, and the level of delegation provided by the Director. Formerly known as Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA).

Inducement – A psychological concept which describes “inducing” one’s own emotional state in someone else. In simple terms, it means one person makes another person feel what he or she feels. Adopted children will often exhibit inducement behaviours as a way of coping with overwhelming negative feelings and testing whether their family can deal with them. This can be very upsetting, but it is a normal stage of attachment and will eventually pass.

Infant adoption – The adoption of a very young child or baby, usually a newborn or a child less than a year old. See also: Local infant adoption

Intercountry adoption – See: International adoption

International adoption – The adoption of a child by parents who live in a different country. In BC, this refers to the adoption of a child from a country other than Canada.

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Kinship adoption – The adoption of a child by extended family members or other adults who have a significant prior connection.

Kinship care – When a child is placed in the care of extended family members or other adults who have a significant prior connection.

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Legal guardian – See: Guardian

Lifebook – A lifebook is a record of an adoptee’s life before and after adoption, often in the form of a scrapbook. Lifebooks are a record of a child’s history and story, and a place to collect and connect important events, details, and relationships. Lifebooks can also be a place for the child to express their thoughts and feelings, and a tool to help them understand their journey and what it means to be adopted.

Local infant adoption – An infant adoption where the adoptee and the adoptive parents live in the same general area, such as when parents who live in BC adopt a baby who was born in BC. Sometimes referred to as domestic infant adoption, domestic adoption, newborn adoption, or local newborn adoption.

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Matching – Varies depending on the type of adoption taking place. For adoption from foster care and international adoption, matching refers to identifying potential compatibility between the profiles of a waiting child and an approved family. For local infant adoption, matching refers to the process birth parents go through when selecting a family for their child.

Matching event – An event where approved families can view profiles of waiting children and connect with their social workers.

Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) – The BC government ministry responsible for the provincial delivery of services that support positive and healthy outcomes for children, youth, and families. They oversee child protection, family development, adoption, foster care, early childhood development and child care, child and youth mental health, youth justice and social services, special needs children and youth, and adult community living services in BC.

Multiracial – Having ancestors of more than one race or ethnicity.

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Open adoption – An adoption that involves some level of ongoing contact between the adoptive family and the birth parents; often includes other birth family members or foster parents. Open adoption looks different for every family. It can be anything from sending occasional letters through a third party (such as an adoption agency or government) all the way to regular in-person visits. Open adoption sometimes, but not always, includes the exchange of identifying information.

Open adoption agreement – See: Openness agreement

Open adoption records – This term is used when an area allows adopted people (and sometimes birth parents) to access their original birth certificate and adoption records, usually upon reaching the age of majority. Adoption records are currently open in British Columbia, as well as many other provinces and territories. See also: Closed adoption records

Openness – See: Open adoption

Openness agreement – A written agreement that defines the context of the openness between the birth family and the adoptive family. In BC, openness agreements are “good faith” or moral agreements. In other areas , they can be legally binding. 

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Parental leave – Adoptive parents who are eligible for Employment Insurance (EI) can claim parental leave, regardless of their minor child’s age at the date of placement.

Permanence – See: Permanency

Permanency – Permanency is a developing term that means different things to different people. One simple explanation is that permanency means family, belonging, and lifelong connection. Permanency often means that a person has a safe, stable, nurturing family with relationships that are intended to last for a lifetime. Permanency has four dimensions: legal, relational, physical, and cultural permanency.

There are many ways to create permanency for children and youth. Legal permanency options in BC include Indigenous custom adoption, guardianship, and all forms of legal adoption. Arrangements like kinship care, Indigenous customary care, or long-term placement with a foster caregiver can provide permanency to children and youth without the legal dimension of an adoption or guardianship order.

Placement – When a child begins to live with adoptive parents, foster parents, guardians, or a permanency family.

Post-adoption Assistance (PAA) – Special funding that provides financial support to certain families who adopt children from the Ministry of Children and Family Development. 

Post-adoption Openness Registry – Enables adoptive parents of a child under 19, and their birth parent or other relatives to register their interest in establishing some form of openness agreement.

Pre-adoption parent – A term for a child’s parents prior to adoption. Usually, although not always, their birth parents (the pre-adoption parent could be a stepparent or, in the case of dissolution, a previous adoptive parent). Used in the Adoption Act.

Pre-placement visits – “Getting to know you” visits that occur between a child and the family they’ve been matched with for adoption. These visits take place over a period of time before the child moves into the adoptive family’s home permanently.

Prior contact check – A prior contact check searches for any history of contact between an applicant and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD). Examples of prior contact include past child protection reports or services provided to an applicant by MCFD. 

Private adoption – See: Direct placement

Proposal or proposal package – Detailed information given to prospective adoptive parents about a child or youth they’ve been matched with. Prospective parents use this to help them decide whether to proceed with the adoption.

Prospective adoptive parent(s) – Any adult who is considering adopting a child or has started the adoption process.

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Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) – See: Attachment disorder

Rehoming – An unofficial term describing the practice of placing an adoptive child in another family’s home without the support of adoption professionals and without the required counseling, background checks and clearances offered through government or licensed adoption agency channels. Often a child is “rehomed” because the adoptive parents are desperate due to family issues or the child’s behaviours or needs. An adoptive family that seeks this informal rehoming could potentially be charged with child abuse or neglect by their local child and family services.

Relative adoption – The adoption of a child by someone who is related to them. Also known as kinship adoption.

Respite care – Short-term, temporary care of a child by someone other than the parents in order to provide a chance for everyone in the family to rest and recharge from challenges or difficulties.

Reunion – When adoptees and birth parents or other birth family members reconnect with one another, usually after a closed adoption.

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SAFE homestudy – A specific type of homestudy used by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Strengthening Abilities and Journeys of Empowerment (SAJE) – A program that provides a variety of supports and services to youth and young adults in British Columbia as they transition from government care. Formerly known as Agreements with Youth Adults (AYA).

Step-parent adoption – Adoption of a child by their legal parent’s new spouse or partner.

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Transcultural adoption – The adoption of a child from a different culture from the adoptive parents. See also: Transracial adoption

Transracial adoption – The adoption of a child of a different race from that of the adoptive parents. See also: Transcultural adoption

Transition – The period of time when a child’s care is slowly transferred from foster parent to adoptive parent, or from any caregiver to another. Also refers to the period when a youth in care transitioned from foster care to independent living.

Trauma – A psychological, emotional, or physical wound or shock that causes substantial, lasting damage to a person.

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Waiting children – Children in government care who cannot return to their birth homes, need permanent families to grow up in, and have not yet had a family identified who will adopt them. In BC, this means they are under Continuing Custody Orders (CCOs) and have adoption in their care plans.

Waiting parents – Parents who have completed all requirements to be legally ready to adopt, and are waiting to be matched with a child. See also: Approved adoptive parent

Wendy’s Wonderful Kids (WWK) – A signature program of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program focuses on finding potential families within a child’s immediate network before moving on to consider families outside of the child’s circle. There are currently two Wendy’s Wonderful Kids recruiters based out of The Belonging Network.

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Youth – A young person, usually between the ages of 13 and 24 years old. 

Young adult – A person who is between the ages of 19 and 24 years old, though the upper age limit can vary.

Youth in care – A youth who is in government care. In BC, this means they are under the temporary or permanent care, custody, or guardianship of the provincial director of child welfare. See also: In care.

Youth from care – A youth who was, at some point, in government care. Often used to refer to a young person who has “aged out” of care. See also: Aging out, In care.

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