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Glossary of terms used in this website

Here are some explanations of the terminology used on this website.
These descriptions were included in Annex G of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) guidance accompanying the Adoption and Children Act 2002.


Adopted Children Register – a register maintained by the Registrar General of all legal adoptions in England and Wales since January 1927, including all registrable foreign adoptions since June 2003, registered on the authority of orders (or overseas equivalent) from the courts (or overseas equivalent) granting the adoption.
Adoption agency – a local authority or a voluntary adoption agency.
Adoption Contact Register – a database, maintained by the Registrar General, which allows adopted adults and their birth relatives to register their details if they would welcome contact or wish to have no contact. To be eligible for registration applicants need to be 18 years or over. Part 1 of the Register is for an adopted adult to specify with which birth relative(s) they are hoping for, or do not wish to have, contact. Part 2 of the Register is for any birth relative to register their desire for contact, or non-contact, with an adopted adult. If a link is made both parties will be notified, but only the adoptee will be provided with the current name and address because the onus is on the adopted person to make initial contact. Under prescribed conditions information may be divulged from the Contact Register to appropriate adoption agencies or intermediary agencies.
Adoption Register – a database of approved prospective adopters and children waiting for adoption across England and Wales. A team of experienced social workers will use the database to link children with approved prospective adopters where local matches cannot be found.
Adoption service – a service maintained by a local authority within their area to meet the needs, in relation to adoption, of:
children who may be adopted, their parents and guardians
persons wishing to adopt a child, and
adopted persons, their parents, natural parents and former guardians
and for that purpose must provide the requisite facilities. These include the aking, and participating in, arrangements:
for the adoption of children, including adoptions with a foreign element, and
for the provision of adoption support services.
Adoption society – see registered adoption society.
Agency – an adoption agency. Neither an Adoption Support Agency nor an Intermediary Agency is included in the definition of agency.
Appropriate adoption agency – the agency which placed the child for adoption or, if different, the agency which holds the relevant information in relation to the adoption. It may also be the local authority to which notice of intention to adopt was given.


Contact – allowing a person contact with the child to be placed for adoption. Contact may take the form of indirect contact, letters and cards, and background information on the child’s progress being sent via a social worker. In some cases there may be some form of direct contact where the child visits or stays with a particular person.
Counselling – information, advice and support. The latter may include therapy.


Fee – includes expenses.


Information – information recorded or preserved in any form. It includes reports, letters, cards, or information preserved digitally or by other means such as audio-visual material or microfiche.
Intermediary agency – a registered adoption support agency or an adoption agency that provides intermediary services in accordance with section 98 of the Act and the ISR Regulations.
Intermediary service – a service provided for the purposes of assisting adopted adults and their adult birth relatives in obtaining the information they need to trace a relative and facilitate contact between them.


Local authority – any unitary authority, or any county council (so far as they are not a unitary authority).
Local authority adoption service – see adoption service.


Protected information – this is defined in section 57(3) of the Act. It covers any section 56 information (see below) that is also identifying information and any information obtained by the adoption agency from the Registrar General on application from an adopted adult under section 79(5) of the Act. It is also any information kept by the agency about an entry relating to an adopted person in the Adoption Contact Register.


Registrar General – a Crown-appointed statutory officer who administers, through the General Register Office, the registration services relating to all births (including adoptions), marriages, civil partnerships and deaths in England and Wales.
Registered adoption society (known also as a voluntary adoption agency) – a voluntary organisation that is an adoption society registered, under Part 2 of the Care Standards Act 2000, by the registration authority responsible for the location within which the society has its principal office. A registered adoption society:
is an incorporated body
does not operate for profit
has its principal office in England or Wales
has its branches in England and/or Wales.
Once registered, the society may make arrangements for the adoption of children. It can operate only within the conditions of its registration. For example it may provide an intercountry adoption service only if the conditions of its registration permits.


Section 56 information – information that adoption agencies are required to keep by virtue of section 56 of the Act and AIR Regulations. It includes identifying information and background information about the adopted person, the natural parents, the adoptive parents and others involved in the adoption.
Social worker – a person who is registered as a social worker with the General Social Care Council or the Care Council for Wales under section 56 of the Care Standards Act 2000 or in a corresponding register maintained under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland.


Voluntary Adoption Agency (VAA) – see registered adoption society.

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