Acronyms and Definitions of Terms used in the Child Welfare System

ASFA-Adoption and Safe Families Act

CASA - Court Appointed Special Advocates

CP - Concurrent Planning

CPP - Child Permanency Plan

CPS - Child Protective Services

CPSL-Child Protective Service law

CYF-Children Youth and Families

FGDM - Family Group Decision Making

FSP - Family Service Plan

GAL - Guardian Ad Litem

GPS - General Protective Services

ICWA - Indian Child Welfare Act

IEP - Individual Education Plan

IL - Independent Living

ISP - Individual Service Plan

OCFC -Office for Children and Families in the Court

OCYF - Office of Children, Youth and Families

PLC - Permanent Legal Custodians

SWAN - Statewide Adoption Network

TPR - Termination of Parental Rights 


Definitions and Terminology

Act -Something that is done to harm or cause potential harm to a child.

Adult - An individual 18 years or older.

Affinity by birth or adoption - Relationship by marriage between a person and the blood relations of their partner

Bodily Injury - Impairment of physical condition or substantial pain.

CASA-Court-Appointed Special Advocate – She/he advocates for your child’s interests in court.  A CASA advocate is not an attorney.  She/he does not represent or advocate for you (the parent) and may agree or disagree with you in court.  Not all youth have a CASA.  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)

Caseworker - The Caseworker sets up planning meetings, and checks in with the service providers working with your family.  The Caseworker must make sure you and your family are getting the services you need.  Your Caseworker must tell your progress, or lack of progress, to the court.  Your Caseworker should meet with you regularly.

Child - An individual under 18 years of age.

Child Abuse - Child abuse is when a parent, caregiver or other person emotionally, physically or sexually abuses, or abandons a child. In Pennsylvania the law states: a recent act or failure to act resulting in physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or emotional/ mental injury.

Childline - Accepts calls from the public and professional sources 24 hours a day, seven days a week. ChildLine will provide information, counseling and referral services for families and children to ensure the safety and well being of the children of Pennsylvania. Each call is answered by a trained intake specialist who will interview the caller to determine the most appropriate course of action. Actions include forwarding a report to a county agency for investigation as child abuse or general protect services, forwarding a report directly to law enforcement officials or refer the caller to local social services.

ChildLine/Abuse Registry - Statewide list of all cases of child abuse that are under investigation, indicated, or founded. 

Child Permanency Plan (CPP) - A plan developed for children, youth and families by county child welfare agencies. 

The Child Permanency Plan (CPP) lists the goals for the child and child’s family (usually either going home to the biological parent(s), being placed for adoption or being placed with a relative), as well as the services that must be provided to achieve the goals.  In some counties, this plan is called the Family Service Plan (FSP).  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)

Child Protective Services (CPS) - Services provided to children reported as abused and neglected as required by the Child Protective Service (CPS) Law.

Child Welfare System -The child welfare system is the government system that is responsible for taking care of children who are abused or neglected, or whose parents are not able to take care of them.  In Pennsylvania, the state child welfare agency is called the Office of Children, Youth, and Families.  Each county has a child welfare agency.  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)

Concurrent Planning - A process of working towards one legal permanency goal (typically reunification) while at the same time establishing and working on an alternative permanency goal in case the primary goal cannot be accomplished in a timely manner.  It is a back-up plan to move children/youth more quickly to a safe and stable permanent family.  It is not a fast track to adoption, but to permanency.  (Office of Children, Youth and Families Bulletin – Concurrent Planning Policy and Implementation))

County Agency - The county child welfare agency is the agency that is responsible for providing care and assistance to children when their families are not able to care for them, they are abused, or they are neglected.  In most counties, it is known as the county children and youth agency (In Philadelphia, this called the Department of Human Services (DHS)).  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)

Court designated advocate - A trained citizen volunteer appointed by the court to advocate on behalf of dependent children and alleged dependent children involved in juvenile court proceedings.

Expunge - To strike out or obliterate entirely so that the stricken information may not be stored, identified or later recovered by any means—mechanical, electronic or otherwise. 

Family Finding - Family finding involves a process of searching for, identifying and engaging the relatives - or even close family friends – of children who have been removed from their homes and placed into foster care or whose immediate families are receiving services from the county's children and youth agency.  Involving extended family as part of a child's support system is better for the child, in part because we know children are best cared for within their families and communities.  (PA Partnerships for Children)

Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) - A planning process that brings together the child’s parents extended family members and others with an interest to ensure a child’s safety.

Family members - Spouses, parents and children or other persons related by consanguinity or affinity. The term does not include foster parents, foster children and paramours. 

Founded report - A child abuse report made under the CPSL and this chapter if there has been any judicial adjudication based on a finding that a child who is a subject of the report has been abused, including the entry of a plea of guilty or nolo contenderee or a finding of guilt to a criminal charge involving the same factual circumstances involved in the allegation of child abuse. 

Indicated report - A child abuse report made under the CPSL and this chapter if an investigation by the county agency or the Department determines that substantial evidence of the alleged abuse exists based on any of the following:

     (i)   Available medical evidence.

     (ii)   The child protective service investigation.

     (iii)   An admission of the acts of abuse by the perpetrator. 

Individual residing in the same home as the child - An individual who is 14 years of age or older and who resides in the same home as the child. 

Medical evidence - Evidence provided by a licensed health care professional, including a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, psychiatrist or licensed psychologist. 

Paramour - A person who is engaged in an ongoing intimate relationship with a parent of the child but is not married to and does not necessarily reside with the child’s parent.

Parent - A biological parent, adoptive parent or legal guardian. 

Perpetrator - A person who has committed child abuse and is a parent of a child, a person responsible for the welfare of a child, an individual residing in the same home as the child or a paramour of the child’s parent. 

A parent of the child; a spouse or former spouse of the child’s parent; a paramour or former paramour of the child’s parent; a person 14 years of age or older and responsible for the child’s welfare; an individual who is 14 years of age or older who resides in the same home as the child; an individual 18 years of age or older who does not reside in the same home as the child but is related within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity by birth or adoption to the child.

Protective services - Services and activities provided by the Department and each county agency for children who are abused or in need of general protective services under this chapter.

Serious Mental Injury - A psychological condition, as diagnosed by a physician or licensed psychologist, including the refusal of appropriate treatment.

SWAN - SWAN is a partnership among public and private agencies, judges and the legal community, foster and adoptive parents to build a better collaborative adoption process in Pennsylvania. SWAN serves children in the custody of county Children and Youth agencies who have a goal of adoption. These are children with special needs and finding an adoptive family may be a bigger challenge due to one or more of the following factors:

The child is five years old or older;
The child is a member of a sibling group in the same adoptive home;
The child is a member of a minority group;
The child has an emotional, physical, or mental condition or disability; and
The child has a genetic condition that may lead to a disease or handicap.

Unfounded report - A report made under the CPSL and this chapter unless the report is a founded report or an indicated report.