Abandonment – A form of neglect where a child is left without the means to sustain himself. 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 the child while still living with him or her. When abandonment occurs and the parents are unable to be located or are unresponsive, the courts may terminate the parents' rights and work to place the child in an adoptive family. In some countries, abandonment is the only way to relinquish a child who will then be placed in an orphanage or foster home and made available for adoption.

Aboriginal – According to the British Columbia Adoption Act, an Aboriginal person is someone:

  • who is registered under the Indian Act (Canada),

  • who has a biological parent who is registered under the Indian Act (Canada),

  • who is a Nisga'a child,

  • who is a treaty first nation child,

  • who is under 12 years of age and has a biological parent who

    • is of aboriginal ancestry, and

    • considers himself or herself to be abori ginal, or

    • who is 12 years of age or older, of aboriginal ancestry and considers himself or herself to be aboriginal.

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

Adoptee – Someone who has joined their family through adoption.

Adoption – The legal transfer of parental rights and responsibilities from birthparent(s) to adoptive parent(s).

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

Adoption order – An adoption order is a document granted by the courts that gives complete parental rights 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) regarding the adoption of their child.

Attachment – Infants learn that they are loved and cared for by having their needs met over and over again. They learn to trust, attach and bond to their parent or caregiver automatically, through biological imperative.

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.

Autism Spectrum Disorders – A group of developmental conditions that give children difficulties in communication and interactions with other people.

ASD/Autism Spectrum Disorder – ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder is the central diagnosis given to a continuum of complex, conditions that affect individuals from all walks of life (Gov’t of Canada). Diagnoses such as Asperger's Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS) are now considered to be part of Autism Spectrum Disorder and are diagnosed as ASD. 

MCFD/Ministry of Child and Family Development – The MCFD is a division of the BC Federal government whose primary focus is to support vulnerable children and their families using a client-centred approach to service delivery that builds on the family’s existing resources and capacities. The MCFD also controls the Autism Funding Unit.

Access – Under the Divorce Act, this refers is the time a child spends with a parent who does not have custody of the child. You will only use the terms custody and access if you apply for orders about your family issues under the Divorce Act in Supreme Court. You will not use the terms if you apply for an order under the Family Law Act in Supreme Court or in Provincial Court.

Affiliation – Shall have the same meaning as in the Affiliation Agreement dated February 28, 2017 and appended to this Agreement… <--- ???? 

Agreement – A written document that sets out how spouses have agreed to deal with things like parenting, support, and property. You can make an agreement before you move in together, while you’re living together, or after you separate. Some agreements, like ones about child support, guardianship, and parenting arrangements can only be made at or after separation.

Best interests of the child/children – The “best interests of the child” is a legal test used to decide what would best protect your child’s physical, psychological, and emotional safety, security, and well-being. It looks at factors including:

  • The child’s emotional health and well-being

  • The child’s views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them

  • The child’s relationships with parents, guardians, and other important people, and

  • The impact of any family violence

When you make parenting arrangements after a separation, the law says you must only consider the child’s best interests. And if you go to court, the judge can only consider the child’s best interests in making parenting orders.

Behaviour/Emotional/Social Issues – These terms are broad terms that describe how an individual cannot or will not respond appropriately to a situation. Socially, emotionally, or behavioural responses vary in severity according to the individual.

Best Interest of the Child – Meant to describe the set of principles that guide a court’s deliberation on adoption issues. The core philosophy is that the needs of the child trump all other concerns.

Biological child – The child of parent by birth.

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

Birth family – The biological family of a child who is adopted.  

Birth father – The biological father of a child who is adopted.

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

Birth mother – The biological mother of a child who is adopted. Also called birthmom.

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

Caregiver - A person who is designated by the government to be responsible for a child in care.

Child - Refers to any person 19 years of age or under, in a general sense. Specifically refers to a person 12 years or younger. For a person aged 13-19, the term youth is used.

Child care experience – Adoption agencies sometimes seek to place a child with a family with prior parenting experience, or experience working with children (ie: as a teacher).

Cultural Matching – Many adoption agencies aim to place children for adoption with families who are of the same cultural background. This provides a cultural connection and consistency for the child.

Child support – Parents have a legal responsibility to financially support their children, whether they live together as a family or not. After separation or divorce, child support is the amount a parent pays to another parent to help support the children. It used to be called maintenance. Although parents have the primary responsibility to pay child support, other guardians and step-parents also have a duty to support the child and may be responsible to pay child support.

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

Custom adoption – Custom adoption is the full time care, nurturing and protection of a child by a customary caregiver identified by the child’s Aboriginal community. Caregiver(s) may include relatives, band members, or an adult whom the child has a bond with. This definition is designed to be inclusive and respectful of cultural values and ties to affection.

Custom care – Is temporary or alternate care for Aboriginal children whose parents are not able to care for them and ensures the child maintains their cultural, linguistic, and spiritual identity. 

Contact/contact with the child – Under the Family Law Act, contact is the time that a person who is not a guardian spends with the child. This person could be a parent who doesn’t have guardianship, or another relative, like a grandparent.

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

Disruption – The unplanned ending of an adoption before finalization.

Dissolution – The unplanned ending of an adoption after finalization.

Domestic adoption – Any adoption of a British Columbian child by a family in BC. Includes licensed agency, MCFD, and relative adoptions, and is distinct from international adoptions.

Failure to thrive - Description applied to children whose current weight or rate of weight gain is significantly below that of other children of similar age and sex.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder - FASD is a medical diagnosis for a birth defect syndrome caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. Alcohol is a “teratogen” that is toxic to the baby’s developing brain. Damage can occur in various regions of the brain, depending on which areas are developing at the time the alcohol is consumed.

Finalization – Adoption finalization is the last part of the adoption process. 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.

Forever family – The people in your life who will love you unconditionally until the end of time.

Foster care –  A temporary living arrangement for a child who cannot live safely with their family of origin.

Foster parent(s) – Someone who act as parent or guardian for a child in place of the child’s biological parents, but without legally adoption the child.

Grief and Loss - When a child enters the adoptive home, they come with a tremendous amount of grief and loss. Losses can include birth parents, extended family, home, pets, neighbourhoods, schools, friends, treasured belongings, and in some cases culture. Adults often have the words to describe losses in their lives and can communicate to others. Children don’t have those words so they express loss using behaviours. Part of being an adoptive family is to understand and help the child work through loss issues throughout their lives.

Guardian – Guardians are responsible for the care and upbringing of, and decision making about, a child.

Guardian/Guardianship – A guardian is responsible for their child’s care and upbringing. Under the Family Law Act, the general rule is that a parent is a guardian of their child, except where they have never lived with their child. Only a guardian may have parental responsibilities and parenting time. A parent can be added or removed as a guardian by agreement or court order. A non-parent can become a guardian of a child through a court order.

Interim order or non-final order – A short-term court order granted before a trial or a final court order. The order - which may be used to temporarily settle such issues as parenting arrangements or support - will remain in effect until the court makes a final decision or until you and your former spouse reach an agreement.

Mediation– In mediation, you and your former spouse work with a mediator who is specially trained to help you reach an agreement.

Mediator – A specially trained person who acts as a neutral third party to help people involved in a dispute come to a mutually acceptable agreement.


Rights of children and youth in care

In December 2008 The Federation of BC Youth in Care Network released a handbook Your Life – Your Rights which explains the rights of youth in care in a youth friendly manner.