A Note on Adoption Terminology

Below are definitions of terms central to this series of blog posts. While not a comprehensive list of adoption terminology, these particular terms are key to the topics and ideas I’ll discuss throughout this month.

Domestic or In-Country Adoption: adoption involving adoptive parents and child who reside within the same country

Intercountry, International, or Transnational Adoption: adoption involving adoptive parents and child residing in different countries

Transracial Adoption*: adoption involving adoptive parents and child of different racialized group membership, commonly white adoptive parents adopting non-white child.

Adoptee, Adopted Person: a person who joins their family through adoption

Birth family, First Family, Biological Family: adopted person’s relatives by birth

Adoptive Family: person(s) who become permanent, legal parents through adoption

Adoption Triad: the three main persons in adoption – birth parent(s), adopted person, adoptive parent(s)


* While transnational adoption is predominately also transracial adoption, the term transracial adoption has historically been used to refer to the adoption of Black children by white adoptive parents. By confining the designation of transracial to describe domestic Black-white adoption only and not transnational cross-racial adoptions, the role of race and racialization of transnationally adopted children is minimized. However, as detailed by more contemporary research and adoptees’ personal accounts, the transracial nature of transnational adoptions has implications for transnational transracial adoptees’ identity formation and mental health, among other personal, family, and community-level outcomes, some of which I’ll discuss in upcoming posts.


For a more comprehensive list of adoption terminology, see:



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