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Non-use of drugs or alcohol, often after a period of dependence on them. Abstinence may trigger withdrawal symptoms.
Access Card:
A government-funded health care insurance for low-income eligible families. It is also known as Medicaid.
Act 33 Clearance:
The Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) (23 Pa. C.S., Chapter 63) at 6344 (relating to prospective child-care personnel) and the Protective Services Regulations at 3490.121 – 127 (relating to verification of the existence of child abuse and student abuse records for child care services) require prospective foster parents and adoptive parents to obtain a child abuse history clearance from the Department of Public Welfare (the Department) and a criminal history clearance from the Pennsylvania State Police. You may hear these clearances referred to as “Act 33” clearances. Act 33 of 1985 amended the Child Protective Services Law to require these clearances prior to approval as a foster or adoptive parent.
The overpowering physical or psychological urge to continue alcohol or drug use in spite of adverse consequences. Often, there is an increase in tolerance for the drug and withdrawal symptoms sometimes occur if the drug is discontinued. Psychological or physical changes that occur with repeated intake of substances and lead to a chronic relapsing illness characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use.
A court decision. For a foster child, adjudication is a decision that he/she is either delinquent or dependent.
Adjudicatory Hearings:
Held by the juvenile and family court to determine whether a child has been maltreated or whether another legal basis exists for the State to intervene to protect the child.
The period of life between puberty and adulthood, ranging from age 11 to age 19. Adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood. Can be divided into two phases: early adolescence (11 to 15) and adolescence (15 to 19).
Adoption Assistance:
Financial aid available to families who adopt children who are siblings, or children with special medical, physical or emotional needs. Your adoption worker can discuss this with you.
Adoption and Safe Families Act:
Signed into law November 1997 and designed to improve the safety of children, to promote adoption and other permanent homes for children who need them, and to support families. The law requires child protective services (CPS) agencies to provide more timely and focused assessment and intervention services to the children and families who are served within the CPS system.
A dependency on alcohol characterized by craving and loss of control over its consumption, physical dependence and withdrawal symptoms, and tolerance.
Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)
Establishes unequivocally that the goals for children in the child welfare system are safety, permanence and well-being. The law intends to make the child welfare system more responsive to the multiple, frequently complex needs of children and their families. While affirming the need to forge linkages between the child welfare system, the courts and other support systems for families, the law affirms the need to assure the safety and well-being of children and their families. The law provides renewed impetus to dismantling the barriers to permanence existing for children in placement and the need to achieve permanence for these children. ASFA has been incorporated into Pennsylvania’s overall policies for the child welfare program.
Aggravated Circumstances:
The Juvenile Act defines aggravated circumstances as follows: A child is in the custody of a county agency and any of the following applies:
  • The identity or whereabouts of the parents is unknown and cannot be ascertained and the parent does not claim the child within three months of the date the child was taken into custody.
  • The identity or whereabouts of the parents is known and the parents have failed to maintain substantial and continuing contact with the child for a period of six months.
  • The child or another child of the parent has been the victim of physical abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, sexual violence or aggravated physical neglect by the parent.
  • The parent has been convicted of a specific list of offenses where the victim is a child or has been convicted of the attempt, solicitation or conspiracy to commit any of said offenses.
  • The parental rights of the parent have been involuntarily terminated with respect to a child of the parent.

If one or more aggravated circumstances is alleged at the adjudicatory phase of the dependency proceeding, the court must engage in a three-step analysis:

  1. The court must determine that the child is dependent.
  2. The court must determine whether the alleged “aggravated circumstance” has been proven. 42 Pa. C.S. §6341(c.1)
  3. If the court determines the child is dependent and one or more aggravated circumstances exists, the court must decide whether or not reasonable efforts to prevent or eliminate the need for removing the child from the home or to preserve and reunify the family should continue, in spite of the existence of the aggravated circumstance.

If the court determines that reasonable efforts need not be made, the court must schedule a permanency hearing within 30 days. See 42 Pa. C.S. § 6351 (e)(3)(ii).

Apgar Score:
A scoring system used to evaluate newborns at 1 minute of life and 5 minutes of life. The total score is effort, muscle tone, reflex irritability and color. Each of the signs is assigned a score of 0, 1 or 2. The highest possible score is 10.
Apnea Monitor:
Medical device that monitors respirations. Alarm signals if breathing has stopped.
ASFA (Adoption and Safe Families Act):
An act of Congress passed in 1997 and adopted in Pennsylvania in 1998, the goal of which is to shorten the time between when a child enters the child welfare system and the time that child achieves permanency. ASFA also changed the meaning of reasonable efforts and established that reasonable efforts to return a child home need not be made when aggravated circumstances are found to exist by the Court. Where children have been in foster care for more that 15 of the past 22 months, ASFA requires the county child welfare agency to move to terminate parental rights and seek adoption or other permanent alternatives for the child.
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR):
A reflex present at birth where turning of the head to one side causes the arm and leg of the face side to straighten, and the opposite arm and leg to bend.
A close bond between two individuals based on strong feelings and involving continuing interaction that nurtures the relationship. Secure attachment allows for the completion of the developmental task Erikson describes for the first period of life: attaining “basic trust versus mistrust.”


Basic needs:
Food, housing, clothing, required medications and transportation.
Behavioral health:
Includes concerns such as diagnosed and undiagnosedmental illness (MH) and the abuse of and/or addiction to drugs including alcohol (D&A).


CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate):
Everyday people (usually volunteers) who are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. In dependency proceedings, this person presents the court with a unique “child-centered” perspective regarding what is in the best interest of the child. To prepare their recommendations, CASAs talk with the child, parents, family members, social workers and all other persons involved in the child’s life, and most importantly, visit with the child at least once a month in order to gain a full understanding of the situation. CASAs serve to ensure that the needs and interests of a child are fully protected, staying with each child until he or she is placed in a safe, permanent nurturing home.
Case Closure:
The process of ending the relationship between the CPS worker and the family that often involves a mutual assessment of progress. Optimally, cases are closed when families have achieved their goals and the risk of maltreatment has been reduced or eliminated.
Case Plan:
The casework document that outlines the outcomes, goals and tasks necessary to be achieved in order to reduce the risk of maltreatment.
When friends or family members try to protect the dependent person from the consequences of his/her addiction by taking responsibility for the person. Typical behavior includes making explanations or smoothing out embarrassing situations.
Born with a person; existing from or from before birth.
Any unemancipated person under 18 years of age.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA):
See Keeping Children and Families Safe Act.
Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP):
A national initiative from the Office of Mental Health. CASSP addresses the needs of adolescents and children with serious emotional disturbances who are involved with two or more child-serving agencies. CASSP coordinates services among these agencies, pooling resources to serve the child most appropriately.
Clinical Description:
The unique combination of symptoms and manifestations including behaviors, thoughts and feelings of an individual that make up a given disorder.
CFSR (Child and Family Services Review):
These reviews, administered by The Children’s Bureau, part of DHHS, help states improve child welfare services and achieve the desired outcomes for families and children who receive services.

Prior to March 25, 2000, when DHHS published a final rule in the Federal Register assessing states for substantial conformity with certain federal requirements for child protective, foster care, adoption, family preservation and family support, and independent living services, the 1994 Amendments to the Social Security Act (SSA) authorized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) only to review State child and family service programs to ensure conformance with the requirements in Titles IV-B and IV-E of the SSA. The reviews had focused primarily on assessing state agencies’ compliance with procedural requirements rather than on the results of services and states’ capacity to create positive outcomes for children and families. CFSRs mark the first time federal officials have tried to measure how well children are faring across the state systems created to protect them.
Pennsylvania’s toll-free telephone hotline to report suspected child abuse and neglect. The telephone number is 1-800-932-0313.
The period between birth and adolescence. For the phases of childhood, see infancy, toddlerhood, early childhood and middle childhood, listed in alphabetical order in this glossary.
Child Protective Services or Child Protection Services (CPS):
The designation for most public state or local agencies responsible for investigating reports of child abuse and neglect. The CPS response begins with the assessment of reports of child abuse and neglect. If it is determined that the child is at risk of or has been abused or neglected, then CPS should ensure that services and supports are provided to the child and his/her family by the public child protection agency and the community. County children and youth agencies provide CPS services to abused and neglected children and their families.
Working within separate processes in a coordinated way toward a common goal.
Collateral contacts:
Conversations—by telephone, in-person or in writing—that the worker has with persons on behalf of the family. Includes professionals providing formal services (e.g., therapists, teachers) and others important to the client (e.g., neighbors, ministers).
Services and supports that are offered in the same geographic area in which the consumer lives or works, rather than in a centralized location.
Concrete services:
Provide clients with tangible resources needed to resolve specific problems or attain a normative standard of well-being, such as food, housing, transportation or clothing, or access thereto.
Concurrent Planning:
Provides for reunification services while simultaneously developing an alternative plan, should reunification efforts fail. Depending on an accurate assessment and culturally sensitive interviewing, concurrent planning is based on setting clear goals, being honest with parents about supports and consequences, and establishing time limits for work for parents.
Continuous quality improvement/Quality improvement process:
An organizational emphasis on quality of services and products as the primary focus of all activities. Continuous quality improvement processes focus on prospective analyses.
Controlled Substance Act (CSA):
Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act in 1970. This is the legal foundation of the Government’s fight against abuse of drugs and other substances.
County Solicitor:
County-employed attorney who represents CYF (Children, Youth and Families) in dependency cases and some termination of parental rights (TPR) cases.
A person who utilizes the goods and/or services provided by human service agencies.
Corporal Punishment:
Physical punishment such as spanking. It is strictly prohibited for foster parents to use corporal punishment.
County Children and Youth Agency (C&Y):
The public agency that works with dependent neglected and abused children and their families. The mission of the agency is to help the family to avoid abuse and neglect and to protect children from further abuse.
A consuming desire; longing; yearning.
Cultural Competence:
A set of attitudes, behaviors and policies that integrates knowledge about groups of people into practices and standards to enhance the quality of services to all cultural groups served. Also, the ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and faiths or religions in a manner that recognizes, affirms and values the worth of individuals, families, tribes and communities, and protects and preserves the dignity of each. Cultural competence is a vehicle used to broaden our knowledge and understanding of individuals and communities through a continuous process of learning about the cultural strengths of others and integrating their unique abilities and perspectives into our lives.
Cultural diversity:
The rich mixture of ethnic, racial, religious, national and individual characteristics that colors the landscape of the world in which people live.
Culturally sensitive:
The process of conducting social work tasks in a manner that is respectful of and effective for people of all cultures, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations and faiths or religions.
The thoughts, ideas, behavior patterns, customs, beliefs, values, skill, arts, religions and prejudices of a particular people at a given point in time.


De Novo Review:
Generally is defined as allowing complete retrial upon new evidence. In Children’s Court Dependency proceedings a party has a right to, after having had their case presented to a hearing officer, have their case re-heard on new evidence by the judge assigned to the matter.
Deliquent Act:
The term means an act designated a crime under the law of this Commonwealth, or of another state if the act occurred in that state, or under Federal law, or under local ordinances or an act which constitutes indirect criminal contempt under 23 Pa. C.S. Ch. 61 (relating to protection from abuse).

The term shall not include:
  1. The crime of murder
  2. Any of the following prohibited conduct where the child was 15 years of age or older at the time of the alleged conduct and a deadly weapon as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §2301 (relating to definitions) was used during the commission of the offense which, if committed by an adult, would be classified as: i. Rape as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3121 ii. Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3123 iii. Aggravated assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §2702(a)(1) or (2) iv. Robbery as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3701(a)(1)(i),(ii) or (iii) v. Robbery of a motor vehicle as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3702 vi. Aggravated indecent assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3125 vii. Kidnapping as defined in18 Pa.C.S. §2901 viii. Voluntary manslaughter ix. An attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit murder or any of these crimes as provided in 18 Pa.C.S. §901,902,903
  3. Any of the following prohibited conduct where the child was 15 years of age or older at the time of the alleged conduct and has been previously adjudicated delinquent of any of the following prohibited conduct which, if committed by an adult, would be classified as: i. Rape as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3121 ii. Involuntary deviate sexual intercourse as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3123 iii. Aggravated assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §2702(a)(1) or (2) iv. Robbery as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3701(a)(1)(i),(ii) or (iii) v. Robbery of a motor vehicle as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3702 vi. Aggravated indecent assault as defined in 18 Pa.C.S. §3125 vii. Kidnapping as defined in18 Pa.C.S. §2901 viii. Voluntary manslaughter ix. An attempt, conspiracy or solicitation to commit murder or any of these crimes as provided in 18 Pa.C.S. §901,902,903
  4. Summary offenses unless the child fails to comply with a lawful sentence imposed thereunder, in which event notice of such fact shall be certified to the court.
  5. A crime committed by a child who has been found guilty in a criminal proceeding for other than a summary offense.
Deliquent Child:
A child 10 years of age or older whom the court has found to have committed a delinquent act and is in need of treatment, supervision or rehabilitation.
A state in which the mind or body grows accustomed to using a drug and doesn’t feel normal without it. Dependence may be physical or psychological or both.
Dependent Child:
A child placed in agency custody by a court because a family is unable or unwilling to provide adequate care. A delinquent child, is a child who has committed a delinquent act as determined by the court, and found by the court to require supervision or rehabilitation.
Department of Public Welfare (DPW):
The state agency that regulates and monitors child welfare services in Pennsylvania, and provides a wide range of programs for children and adults.
Process in a structured medical or social milieu in which the individual is monitored for withdrawal from the acute physical and psychological effects of drug or alcohol addiction.
The part of a court hearing in which the court specifies the type of social service the child will receive.
Dispositional Hearings:
In the juvenile court process, disposition is the stage in which the court determines who shall have custody of the child in question, as well as what services should be provided to the child and family after determining that jurisdiction is proper.
Drug Abuse:
The use of a chemical substance in such a fashion that it impacts or impairs an individual in a physical, psychological, behavioral or social manner.
Dual Addiction:
The phenomenon of being addicted to two or more chemicals or drugs. Often, users are dependent on a secondary drug that may lessen the impact of the withdrawal or crash of the primary substance.
Dual Diagnosis (also Dual Disorder):
A term used when an individual has both a chemical dependence and a specific mental health disorder that is independent of the chemical dependency problem.
Also used to describe a condition in which a single person has more than one major clinical psychological or psychiatric diagnosis. Often, this phrase is used to describe people who have a severe mental illness as well as a co-existing substance use disorder.


Early childhood:
The period from approximately age 3 through age 5. Authorities vary somewhat in the time period they assign to each of the phases of childhood, and it is recognized that any such divisions are by nature somewhat arbitrary.
Early Intervention Services:
County mental health/mental retardation agencies use this term to describe services to young children designed to help them avoid or overcome physical or emotional development disabilities. Early intervention services provide the help children need to keep pace with other children their age, both socially and academically. Some foster children may need these services. Program to determine physical and mental defects in infants and toddlers and to provide short- and long-range treatment.
The developing baby from 2 to 8 weeks after conception. Some authorities define the embryo period as 2 to 12 weeks.
Emotional intelligence:
The ability to recognize, understand and control one’s own emotions so as to use them in ways that promote not only personal well-being but also that of others and of society generally.


Family-Centered Practice:
A way of working with families, both formally and informally, across service systems to enhance the capacity of families to care for and protect their children. It recognizes the strengths of family relationships and builds on these strengths to achieve optimal outcomes for children and families.
Failure to Thrive:
Term used to describe an infant or child whose growth and development pattern falls below the norms for his or her age. Can be an organic (physical) cause or anonorganic (psychological) cause.
Family Reunification:
This includes all efforts by the service delivery team to reunite children with their families. Foster parents can be a significant part of this team to work with and mentor birth families. Foster families working with birth families can have an extremely positive impact on the children.
Family Service Plan (FSP):
This plan, a part of each family case record, is prepared by the county agency and includes information about the family, the family’s needs, the agency’s goals for the family, and the kinds of services that will be provided to meet those goals.
Family Service Plan Amendment:
An addition to the Family Service Plan that describes circumstances that make placement of the child necessary.
Family-focused assessment:
A process of identifying family needs and strengths that supports families and keeps children with their parents whenever possible. This approach acknowledges that most children want to live with their families, and that it is healthier for them to live with their families, as long as children are safe from emotional or physical harm.
Family Group Conferencing, also Family Group Decision Making (FGDM):
A family meeting model used by CPS agencies to optimize family strengths in the planning process. This model brings the family, extended family and others important in the family’s life (e.g., friends, clergy, neighbors) together to make decisions regarding how best to ensure the safety of the family members. Family Group Decision Making builds on the strengths of the family and the family’s ability to make decisions on behalf of their children to keep them safe. FGDM empowers the family and their natural supports to develop and carry out the family service plan. Each member of the FGDM process accepts responsibility to play a part in the family’s future.
Fetal Alcohol Effects:
Subtle birth abnormalities (cognitive & behavioral) exhibited in children born to mothers who used alcohol during pregnancy.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome:
Birth defects (physical & behavioral) exhibited in infants born to mothers who chronically abused/used alcohol during pregnancy.
The unborn child from about 2 months after conception to the time of birth.
Fine motor skills:
Those skills that enable the child voluntarily to reach for objects and to grasp, hold and transfer them from hand to hand.
FSP (Family Service Plan):
Per § 3130.61. of the Pennsylvania Administrative Code—The county child welfare agency shall prepare, within 60 days of accepting a family for service, a written family service plan for each family receiving services through the county agency. The service plan shall be a discrete part of the family case record and shall include:
  • Identifying information pertaining to both the child and other family members.
  • A description of the specific circumstances under which the case was accepted.
  • The service objectives for the family, identifying changes needed to protect children in the family in need of protection from abuse, neglect and exploitation and to prevent their placement.
  • The services to be provided to achieve the objectives of the plan.
  • The actions to be taken by the parents, children, the county agency or other agencies, and the dates when these actions will be completed.
  • Placement amendments as required by § 3130.67 (relating to placement planning).
  • The results of family service plan reviews and placement reviews as required by § 3130.63 and § 3130.73 (relating to review of family service plans; and recording the results of reviews and hearings.
  • The service plan shall be signed by the county agency staff person responsible for management of the case. The parent or legal guardian and the child, if 14 years of age or older, shall be given the opportunity to sign the service plan. The county agency shall inform the parent or guardian that signing the plan constitutes agreement with the service plan.
  • The county agency shall provide family members, including the child, their representatives and service providers, the opportunity to participate in the development and amendment of the service plan if the opportunity does not jeopardize the child’s safety. The method by which these opportunities are provided shall be recorded in the plan.
  • The county agency shall provide family members, their legal counsel, other representatives and agencies or facilities providing services to the child and family with a copy of the service plan, including service plan amendments and results of reviews when the amendments or reviews change the previously agreed upon plan.
Family Unity Model:
A family meeting concept used by CPS agencies to optimize family strengths in the planning process; similar to the Family Group Conferencing model.
Formal resources:
Services that are provided by agencies or professional individuals, usually for a fee charged to the referring agency or the client. Formal services are often structured, goal-directed and time-limited.
Foster Care:
A planned, goal-directed service for children who cannot live with their birth families for some period of time. Children in foster care may live with unrelated foster parents, with relatives, with families who plan to adopt them or in group homes or residential treatment centers. Foster care is designed primarily as a temporary service that responds to crises in the lives of children and families. The general expectation is that children who enter care either will return to their parents as soon as possible, or will be provided with safe, stable and loving families through placement with relatives or adoption. Some children, however, remain in foster care for extended periods of time. All children in foster care have a plan for permanency, which may be a return to their birth family; long-term guardianship; often with a relative; long-term foster care; or adoption. Many children in foster care are eventually adopted by their foster parents, but the vast majority return to their birth parents. Includes, but is not limited to, family foster homes, foster homes of relatives, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, child care institutions and pre-adoptive homes.
Foster Family:
A family providing temporary care and supervision for a child placed in their home. The foster family provides parental care and supervision and works with the agency staff to help achieve permanence for the child.


General Protective Services (GPS):
These are activities and services to protect the health and safety of children who are without the proper parental supervision or have been neglected or exploited but not to an extent sufficient to be considered child abuse.
G.A.L. (Guardian Ad Litem):
A lawyer or lay person assigned by the court to represent the best interests of a child involved in dependency, TPR cases (Termination of Parental Rights) and adoption cases in Juvenile Court. A GAL is also assigned to represent parents in a dependency case when that parent is a minor or is mentally incapacitated. This person may perform a variety of roles, including those of independent investigator, advocate, advisor and guardian for the child. A lay person who serves in this role is sometimes known as a court-appointed special advocate or CASA.
Gross motor skills:
Those skills that enable the child to move around the environment efficiently, such as crawling, standing and walking.


Home Visitation Programs:
Prevention programs that offer a variety of family-focused services to pregnant women and families with new babies. Activities frequently encompass structured visits to the family’s home and may address positive parenting practices, nonviolent discipline techniques, child development, maternal and child health, available services and advocacy.


Identity Formation:
The process of deciding upon and beginning to form an identity as an individual with a specific place in society. According to child psychologist Erikson, this is the defining task of adolescence.
Established in all child abuse laws to protect reporters from civil law suits and criminal prosecution resulting from filing a report of child abuse and neglect.
Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP):
A document that describes a planning process between families and professionals that results in family-identified desired outcomes for an infant-toddler or family.
Individualized Educational Plan (IEP):
An document developed to meet the special education needs of the child; specific academic goals are set for the child.
Individual Service Plan (ISP):
A document describing the daily care and treatment to be provided to individuals within the context of the family service plan. The plan is developed by the agency serving the individuals.
Independent Living Program (IL):
For children 16 years of age or older, to teach the life skills they will need to live on their own. Services are often provided to older dependent or delinquent youths who are unable to return to their families. The goals of the program—independence and productivity—are defined by the conditions of self-supporting employment, enrollment in educational or vocational training, and a stable place of residence after they complete the program.
The period from birth to 12 months.
Informal resources:
Services or supports offered through community organizations or individuals that further the family goals, for example, a call-in counseling program offered by a church, a neighbor available to babysit or a ride-share program arranged through a community center.
In-home Services:
Assistance provided in the home of a family by professionals from a county child welfare agency, with the goal of accomplishing the requirements of the family service plan.
Working together within a shared process toward a common goal.
Integrated Children Services Plan (ICSP):
A formal explanation of how a human services agency will provide a system of supports for children that determines all the services a child needs (holistic) and provides them seamlessly across child welfare, behavioral health, juvenile justice, developmental disabilities (formerly known as mental retardation) and education systems. Since 2004, DHS has been required by law to develop an ICSP and submit it to the PA Department of Public Welfare in August of each year.


Judicial Review:
A child welfare case update done every six months in juvenile court by either a judge or court master. At this review, the judge will hear from all parties. Progress will be noted and decisions will be made.
Juvenile and Family Courts:
Established in most States to resolve conflict and to otherwise intervene in the lives of families in a manner that promotes the best interest of children. These courts specialize in areas such as child maltreatment, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, divorce, child custody and child support.


Keeping Children and Families Safe Act:
(P.L. 108-36) Included the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in its Title I, Sec. 111. CAPTA provides minimum standards for defining child physical abuse and neglect and sexual abuse that States must incorporate into their statutory definitions in order to receive Federal funds. CAPTA defines child abuse and neglect as “at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
An extended family group comprising relatives of a nuclear family, such as grandparents, uncles, aunts and second cousins. Can also refer to members of tribes or clans, godparents, stepparents or other adults to whom a child, the child’s parents and family members ascribe a family relationship.
Kinship Care:
The continuous, 24-hour care, supervision and supportive services provided to a minor child, placed by the county child welfare agency, in the home of a relative or an individual in the family support system (i.e., relatives beyond the fifth degree of consanguinity or affinity, including godparents, friends of the family and other adults who have a long-standing and beneficial relationship with the child). This definition is designed to be inclusive and respectful of cultural values and ties of affection. It allows a child to grow to adulthood in a family environment. The child welfare system has recently experienced a major growth in the number of children in state custody who are living with their relatives. Children in kinship care may receive supportive services and supervision by the county child welfare agency to assure that the placement promotes the child’s physical, emotional and intellectual growth and well-being.


Legal Custody:
The legal right to make major decisions affecting the best interest of a minor child, including, but not limited to, medical, religious and educational decisions.
Least restrictive:
The requirement to place children in the family-like setting when they must be removed from their family.


Mandated Reporter:
Individuals required by State statutes to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities (usually CPS or law enforcement agencies). Mandated reporters typically include professionals, such as educators and other school personnel, healthcare and mental health professionals, social workers, childcare providers and law enforcement officers. Some States identify all citizens as mandated reporters.
Measurable objectives:
A statement of behaviors that the worker or agency must perform to indicate that a desired skill, attitude or knowledge has been achieved. Measurable refers to the ability to quantify performance or gauge performance against an established marker.
This program falls under Title XIX of the Social Security Act and is the nation’s major strategy for providing health and long-term care coverage to low-income people. A critical healthcare safety net for millions of low-income children, Medicaid provided healthcare to 40.4 million low-income people in 1998—20.7 million children, 8.6 million adults in families, 4.1 million elderly and 7 million individuals who were blind or disabled. Children in the foster care system, like all children, need well-child care, immunizations and treatment for acute illnesses. But they also require greater attention due to their high risk for health, mental health and developmental problems, making Medicaid critical for their survival and well-being.
Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR):
Agencies that provide services to people with mental illnesses or mental retardation.
Mental illness:
Those disorders listed in the applicable APA Diagnostic and Statistical Manual; however, mental retardation, alcoholism, drug dependence and senility do not, in and of themselves, constitute mental illness. The presence of these conditions however, does not preclude mental illness.
Middle childhood:
The period of roughly ages 6 to 11.
Multidisciplinary Team:
Established between agencies and professionals within the child protection system to discuss cases of child abuse and neglect and to aid in decisions at various stages of the CPS case process. These teams also may be designated by different names, including child protection teams, interdisciplinary teams or case consultation teams.


Natural Supports:
Individuals, organizations and/or activities that are available to help individuals in times of need, which are not part of a paid profession or a public or government agency. Natural supports can be (extended) family members, friends, neighbors, coaches and people known through social, religious and recreational activities. A natural support can also be an activity that meets some need, whether done alone or with others.
The failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision or proper weather protection (heat or coats). Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling, failure to address special educational needs or allowing excessive truancies. Psychological neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love, chronic inattention to the child or exposure to spousal, drug or alcohol abuse.


Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF):
The office within the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare that is responsible for funding and regulating public and private services for dependent and delinquent youth.
The result of doing something or doing nothing. Results range from highly desirable to seriously undesirable. Some outcomes are specific and easy to measure (e.g., the number of youth who graduate high school.) Some outcomes are less concrete and defy measurement (e.g., the number of lives improved by violence reduction programs). Most agencies that provide services are required to report on their outcomes to funders to justify continued support.
Out-of-Home Care:
Child care, foster care or residential care provided by persons, organizations and institutions to children who are placed outside their families, usually under the jurisdiction of juvenile or family court.
The state produced when taking more of a drug than the body can tolerate. Symptoms may include loss of consciousness, coma or even death.
Parens Patriae Doctrine:
Originating in feudal England, a doctrine that vests in the State a right of guardianship of minors. This concept has gradually evolved into the principle that the community, in addition to the parent, has a strong interest in the care and nurturing of children. Schools, juvenile courts and social service agencies all derive their authority from the State’s power to ensure the protection and rights of children as a unique class.
Parent or Caretaker:
The person responsible for the care of the child.


Parent Advocate Attorney:
Lawyers who are assigned to represent parents in dependency and Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) proceedings.
Partial Custody:
The right to take possession of a child away from the custodial parent for a certain period of time.
Pennsylvania State Foster Parent Association (PSFPA):
An organization comprised of foster/adoptive parents, professionals and other interested parties. The goal of the association is to enhance the lives of families and children in Pennsylvania.
Permanency Planning:
Process through which planned and systematic efforts are made to ensure that children are in safe and nurturing family relationships expected to last a lifetime.
Permanence (permanency planning):
In child welfare work, a systematic effort to provide long-term continuity in a dependent child’s care, as an alternative to temporary foster placements. This might be done by facilitating adoption, by establishing clear guidelines for remaining in foster care or by helping the child’s family become capable of meeting the child’s needs.
Permanency Goal:
The stated goal in the Family Service Plan as to what permanent placement of the child that the county child welfare agency and family are working to make possible. Among other things, the goal can be return the child to his family, adoption, permanent legal custodianship and Alternative Permanency Planned Living Arrangement (APPLA).
Permanency Review Hearing:
Hearing conducted at least every six months in dependency cases where the court reviews the progress that a family is making on its family service plan and determines whether it is appropriate to continue on a course of reunification or whether the case needs to move to some other form of permanency for the children involved in the case. The Juvenile Act only requires permanency review hearings to be conducted every six months; however, many Pennsylvania counties conduct these hearings at three-month intervals..
A request for court action filed by the county children and youth agency stating the facts of the case; states the facts of the case at the time of initial placement and at each review hearing during a child’s foster care placement.
Physical Abuse:
The inflicting of a non-accidental physical injury. This may include: burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating or otherwise harming a child. It may, however, have been the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child’s age.
Physical Custody:
The actual physical possession and control of a child.
Physical dependence:
An alteration of normal body functions that necessitates the continued presence of a drug in order to prevent withdrawal or abstinence syndrome.
Placement Amendment:
Changes made to the placement service plan, prepared by the agency. It identifies any changes in the original placement service plan, such as identifying additional services or noting significant progress or completion of goals identified in the family service plan. Copies of the amendments are furnished to the child and the parents.
Placement Service Plan:
A part of the family service plan that is completed when a child is placed in foster or other substitute care; includes a statement of goals that the agency, the foster family and the child agree to work on while the child is in the foster home.
The probable course and outcome of a disorder over time
Protective Factors:
Strengths and resources that appear to mediate or serve as a buffer against risk factors that contribute to vulnerability to maltreatment or against the negative effects of maltreatment experiences.
The agency or individual that supplies tangible goods or services to individuals in need.
A series of changes, beginning, on average, around 10½ years in girls and 12½ in boys, involving the maturation of the reproductive organs and accompanying secondary sexual characteristics. In the female, menstruation first occurs in late puberty. By late puberty, individuals become capable of reproduction. There is a wide variation in when individuals begin and complete the processes of puberty.


Quality assurance:
The processes an organization uses to determine that its products or services measure up to the standards established for them. This determination may be accomplished by having supervisors, peers, consumer advocates or legally designated overseers inspect the work, review the descriptions of the work or evaluate the system for producing the work. Quality assurance measures used for social workers include sufficient education from an accredited school of social work, entry level work under qualified supervision, licensure and certification, competency exams and continuing education requirements. For the profession of social work, measures include codes of ethics, peer review, utilization review, program evaluation, professional sanctions, civil malpractice suits and criminal negligence charges.
Quality control:
A system for verifying and maintaining a desired level of quality in a product or process by careful planning, use of proper equipment, continued inspection and corrective action where required. Similar to QA, but quality control is primarily used in the business world to emphasize a system for assuring that the process of product is always the same.


Achieving and sustaining a state of health in which the individual no longer engages in problematic behavior or psychoactive substance use and is able to establish and accomplish goals.
A return to any drinking and/or drug-using behavior following a period of abstinence, as well as the process during which indicators appear before the client’s resumption of substance use. The length of relapse varies, as does the frequency. Often referred to as “falling off the wagon.”
Residential Treatment/Residential Care:
This highly flexible care encompasses a broad array of services for children with pronounced special needs, providing for varying lengths of stay, based on the client’s situation. Length of stay may range from a short respite due to tense family situations, to long-term therapy for problems such as drug or alcohol addiction. Although long-term stays in family-like, community-based group homes best serve some children’s individual needs, residential group care is usually a temporary placement. Many children in residential care have emotional or physical conditions that require intensive, on-site therapy; others receive services from day treatment programs in their communities. The most common reasons for residential care placement include abuse, neglect, behavioral acting out, status offenses, pregnancy, family crisis and substance abuse. Placement may also be needed due to physical and/or mental disabilities; attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD); or mental illnesses such as depression, conduct disorder, anorexia nervosa, bulimia, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and psychosis.
Resource family:
An adult or family unit recruited, trained and supported to serve children and families involved with a child welfare agency. Resource families may be emergency placement facilities, foster families, adoptive families, kinship families and/or respite families.
Respite Care:
Service provided by short-term substitute caregivers where available. It allows a foster family a temporary relief from parenting responsibility. Respite care is a good prevention for burnout and can also be used during foster parent illness, times of other stresses and necessity.
Review Hearings:
Court proceeding held by the juvenile and family court to review dispositions (usually every 6 months) and to determine the need to maintain placement in out-of-home care or court jurisdiction of a child.
The likelihood that a child will be maltreated in the future.
Risk Assessment:
The measurement of the likelihood that a child will be maltreated in the future; frequently carried out through the use of checklists, matrices, scales and other methods.
Risk Factors:
Behaviors and conditions present in the child, parent, or family that likely will contribute to child maltreatment occurring in the future.


Absence of an imminent or immediate threat of moderate to serious harm to the child.
Safety Assessment:
A part of the CPS case process in which available information is analyzed to identify whether a child is in immediate danger of moderate or serious harm. Determining the safety of a child in his/her current living situation and in all of his/her collateral environments. For example, a safety assessment would review not only the safety of the home, but also the safety of the daycare center, the walk to school, the visitation arrangements and/or the non-custodial parent.
Safety Plan:
A casework document developed when it is determined that the child is in imminent or potential risk of serious harm. In the safety plan, the caseworker targets the factors that are causing or contributing to the risk of imminent serious harm to the child, and identifies, along with the family, the interventions that will control them and ensure the child’s protection.
Providing necessary services without a break, despite differences in types of services.
Service Agreement:
The casework document developed between the CPS caseworker and the family, which outlines the tasks necessary to achieve risk reduction goals and outcomes.
Sexual Abuse:
Inappropriate adolescent or adult sexual behavior with a child. It includes fondling a child’s genitals, making the child fondle the adult’s genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, sexual exploitation or exposure to pornography. To be considered child abuse, these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of a child (for example a babysitter, a parent or a daycare provider) or related to the child. If a stranger commits these acts, it would be considered sexual assault and handled solely by the police and criminal courts.
Shaken Baby Syndrome:
Disorders/effects related to abuse from jerking movements inflicted on infant.
Shared Custody:
An order awarding shared legal or shared physical custody, or both, of a child in such a way as to assure the child of frequent and continuing contact with and physical access to both parents.
Shelter Hearing:
When a child is removed from his home pursuant to emergency circumstances, this court proceeding is commenced within 72 hours to determine whether the child can be returned home or should remain in another setting until a full hearing is convened.
Substance Abuse:
A pattern of drug, alcohol or other chemical use resulting in clinically significant physical, mental, emotional or social impairment or distress, such as failure to fulfill major role responsibilities, or use in spite of physical hazards, legal problems or interpersonal and social problems.
Substance Use Disorder (SUD):
A medical condition that includes the abuse of or addiction to (or dependence on) alcohol or drugs.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):
Also known as crib death, is defined as the sudden death of an infant under one year of age that remains unexplained after a complete postmortem examination, including an investigation of the death scene and a review of the case history.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) :
This Social Security Administration program provides federal funds for eligible adults who have disabilities that prevent them from finding employment and for children who are unable to perform age-appropriate tasks.
Special Needs Child:
A child who is over the age of five (5), is a member of a minority or sibling group, or has a disability. These children require a special commitment from their foster or adoptive parents. Many special needs children are available for financial adoption assistance.
State Wide Adoption Network (SWAN):
A partnership among public and private agencies, judges and the legal community, and foster and adoptive parents in Pennsylvania, its purpose is to build a better collaborative adoption process. The Department of Public Welfare administers the network through a prime contractor. The program serves children in the custody of county children and youth agencies with the goal of adoption. The network is designed to support the work of the county agencies in expediting the adoption process.


Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF):
Created by the federal welfare reform legislation P.L 104-193, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), replacing Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). States are required to use TANF funds to serve families with children, but the law does allow states broad flexibility in administering the TANF program. For example, each state is allowed to set its own income eligibility standards. The main requirement is that programs funded by TANF address one or all of the four purposes defined in the TANF law: (1) providing assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; (2) ending dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting work and marriage; (3) preventing and reducing out-of-wedlock-pregnancies; and (4) encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families. Although the overall effect of TANF on child maltreatment is not yet clear, TANF has become the major source of funding for child welfare services, especially kids in out-of-home care.
Termination of Parental Rights (TPR):
After all interventions have been exhausted by the agency to reunite a family, a TPR hearing is held before the court for decision and determination. Once a court has granted TPR, the biological parents no longer have any parental rights to the child, legal or otherwise. A TPR can be a voluntary request agreed to by the parent or can be involuntary and presented to the court without the consent and agreement of the parent(s) for the court’s decision.
Therapeutic services:
A systematic process and activity designed to remedy, cure or abate some disease, disability or problem. May include psychotherapy, group therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, recreational therapy, etc.
Roughly the period from a child’s first learning to walk to age 3.
With regular use of a drug, more and more of the drug becomes required to produce the same effects. Non-addictive drugs do not possess this property.
Transition-age youth:
Young adults between the ages of 16 and 23 years are considered transition-age. Special attention is often given to this group so that their move from the child-serving system to adulthood and/or the adult-serving system is streamlined. In many cases, transition-aged youth involved in the foster care system move to the responsibilities of adulthood without the benefit of parental or family support.
An event that precipitates others; a stimulus; to initiate; activate; set off.


Unsubstantiated (also Not Substantiated):
An investigation disposition that determines that there is not sufficient evidence under State law or policy to conclude that the child has been maltreated or is at risk of maltreatment. A CPS determination means that credible evidence does not exist that child abuse or neglect has occurred.


The right to spend time with a child. The term does not include the right to remove a child from the custodial parent’s control.


Symptoms that appear during the process of stopping the use of a drug that has been taken regularly. A clearly defined, measurable set of physical reactions that occur as a result of cessation or a decrease in alcohol and drug use.
Withdrawal Symptoms:
Physical reactions that occur as a result of cessation or a decrease in alcohol and drug use, which may include body aches, vomiting, muscle tremors, insomnia, perspiration, hot flashes, diarrhea, cramps, dehydration, dizziness, visual distortion and a sudden drop in blood pressure.
Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC):
A supplemental food program for low-income pregnant woman, mothers of infants and children up to age five. Administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the program provides vouchers for certain kinds of nutritious food. Pronounced “wick.”