The first time I read about adoption I got a little intimidated by its terminology.

The fact is that many things in adoption are mentioned so frequently that it’s more practical to refer to them by their acronyms, rather than in full. It’s not unusual to read people writing sentences like:

SW sent our PAR to LA manager for review, before it’s presented to the AP.

And this is one of the easy ones, other phrases would be worthy of the Enigma machine!

By the end of the adoption process most people can make sense of that (actually, I still can’t), but if you’re learning about adoption for the first time, chances are that most of what you read makes no sense whatsoever.

So, we put together a list containing some of the most recurring acronyms used in adoption and a short explanation for each, in the hope that it might help new recruits in deciphering the lingo.


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    Acronym Full Name Definition
    AD Attachment Disorder Attachment Disorder is defined as the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. See also RAD.
    ADD Attention Deficit Disorder Outdated term for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
    ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder A behavioural disorder affecting the child’s ability for concentration and learning. Symptoms include inattentiveness, hyperactivity and impulsiveness.
    ARBD Alcohol-Related Birth Defects See FASD.
    ARND Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder See FASD.
    AO/ACO Adoptive (Court) Order The adoption court order, issued by the Family Court, gives you parental rights and responsibilities for the child, making the adoption permanent.
    AP/BP Adoptive Parents/Birth Parents Also AM (Adoptive Mother), BM (Birth Mother), AF (Adoptive Father), and BF (Birth Father).
    AP Adoption Panel Major milestone in the adoption process when a panel made up of independent experts and experienced adopters discuss the suitability of the prospective parent(s) to adopt.
    AS Asperger Syndrome A form of autism that make it difficult for people to understand non-verbal form of communication, as facial expressions, tone of voice, jokes and sarcasm, abstract concepts.
    AS/ASD Autism Spectrum/Autism Spectrum Disorder Conditions classified as neurodevelopmental disorders that affects social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.
    CAMHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services CAMHS are specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services.
    CPV Child to Parent Violence Child-to-parent violence (CPV) includes acts committed by a child to intentionally cause physical, psychological, or financial pain to a parent. Also Adolescent to Parent Violence.
    EP Educational Psychologist Educational psychologists tackle challenges such as learning difficulties, social and emotional problems, issues around disability as well as more complex developmental disorders.
    FAE Foetal Alcohol Effects See FASD.
    FAS/pFAS Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome See FASD.
    FASD Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders A group of conditions that can occur in a person whose mother drank alcohol during pregnancy. It is an umbrella term that covers Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Alcohol-Related Neurodevelopmental Disorder (ARND), Alcohol-Related Birth Defects (ARBD), Foetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) and Partial Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (pFAS). Its effects range from reduced intellectual ability and Attention Deficit Disorder to heart problems.
    FC Foster Care/Foster Carer Fostering is a way of providing a stable family life for children and young people, who are unable to live with their parents at a point in time. A foster carer is a person or a family looking after children in such a situation.
    IRO Independent Reviewing Officer Individual appointed by all local authorities with who is responsible for protecting children's interests throughout the care planning process.
    LA Local Authority The governing body of a county, district, city, etc. It provides advice on the care and support system, and services available locally.
    LAC Looked After Child(ren) Also Child in Care. A child who is being looked after by their local authority for a continuous period of more than 24 hours.
    LB Letter Box Type of contact in which two families exchange periodic letters via a third party, the letterbox co-ordinator (more often the Adoption Services office).
    LD Learning Disabilities This term describes a symptom rather than the underlying cause. It’s often used to group together children and adults with disorders that may lead to learning disabilities.
    LO Little One Generic term to indicate someone’s child, or the smaller of a group of siblings.
    MP Matching Panel Major milestone in the adoption process when a panel made up of independent experts and experienced adopters discuss the match between a child/children and a prospective family.
    NVR Non Violent Resistance A psychological approach for overcoming destructive, aggressive, controlling and risk-taking behaviour.
    ODD Oppositional Defiant Disorder A condition in which a child displays an ongoing pattern of an angry or irritable mood, defiant or argumentative behavior, and vindictiveness toward people in authority.
    PAR Prospective Adopter’s Report Document prepared by a Social Worker. It is the report that is presented to Adoption Panel for prospective adopters to be approved as suitable to adopt a child.
    PDD Pervasive Developmental Disorder This category is used to refer to children who have significant problems with communication and play, and some difficulty interacting with others, but are too social to be considered autistic. It’s sometimes referred to as a milder form of autism.
    PTSD Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder An anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events. Someone with PTSD often relives the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt.
    RAD Reactive Attachment Disorder Reactive Attachment Disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Symptoms may include: withdrawal, fear, sadness, watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction, inability to smile.
    SEND Special Educational Needs and Disability A system that supports children and young people with special educational needs and disability.
    SPD Sensory Processing Disorder Also known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction, is an umbrella term used to indicate a range of sensory disfunctons caused by the inability to process outside input (touch, vision, sound). The disorder frequently affects autistic children.
    SS Social Services A service provided by local or national government or another organization to help people who are old or ill or need support in their lives.
    SW Social Worker A member of the Social Services team.
    TA/EA Teaching Assistant/Educational Assistant A teacher assigned to individual pupils who are in need of additional help.
    TP Therapeutic Parenting Therapeutic Parenting is the term used to describe the type of high structure/high nurture intentional parenting that fosters the feelings of safety and connectedness so that a traumatized child can begin to heal and attach.
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