Language Translation
  Close Menu

Common Terms

All terms are defined in the context of Child Welfare and applicable Federal and State Law.  
Definitions may vary in another context.

A, B, C, D, E, F, G , H, I, J, K, L, M, N , O, P, Q, R, S, T, U , V, W, X, Y, Z


A parent's or custodian's act of leaving a child without adequate care, supervision, support, or parental contact for an excessive period of time; an expressed or implied intention to sever the parent-child relationship and avoid the obligations arising from the relationship.

To abolish by authoritative action; to do away with.

Absent Parent:A biological or legal parent who does not live in the same household as the child.

Accreditation : The acknowledgment and verification that an organization fulfills explicit specified standards. For example, public and private child and family service agencies may apply for accreditation with several accrediting bodies—including the Council on Accreditation of Services for Families and Children—conduct a self-assessment, and undergo periodic accreditation reviews to ensure that they meet quality standards.

Acculturation: The process whereby immigrants adapt to and integrate with the host society’s culture by modifying their own.

Active Efforts:
The term used to describe the level of effort that any party seeking to effect a foster care placement of, or termination of parental rights to an Indian child under State law is required to make in order to satisfy the court that:

  • proactive efforts have been made to provide remedial services and rehabilitation designed to prevent the breakup of the Indian family; and
  • these efforts have proved unsuccessful.

Additional Appropriation:
Permission to spend specified amount approved by a legislative branch or governmental body in addition to a previously approved budget.

A finding of the court, which shows that allegations made in a petition are proved.

Adjudicated Father:A person not married to a child’s mother when the child was born, whose relationship to the child has been established by court order or paternity affidavit.

Administrative Costs:
Costs associated with the proper and efficient administration of the Title IV-E State Plan including the salary and the training of employees and current or potential foster or adoptive parents (Social Security Act 474).

Administration for Children and Families (ACF) :
An agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that provides national leadership and creates opportunities for families to lead economically and socially productive lives.  ACF's programs are designed to help children develop into healthy adults and to help communities become more prosperous and supportive of their members.  ACF is responsible for Federal programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ): A Hearing Officer hired or appointed by a governmental agency to preside over and issue decisions in administrative appeals.

The legal process by which a child becomes the legal child of a person or persons other than biological parents.

Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS):
A federally regulated system for collecting reliable information regarding children under the care and supervision of the State and are receiving Title IV-B and/or Title IV-E federal funds for placement and care.

Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA):
Law enacted in 1997 that established national goals for children in the child welfare system related to safety, permanency, and well-being; brought about reform, designed to strengthen the child welfare system nationally.

Adoption Assistance Agreement: A written agreement, binding on the parties to the agreement, between the State agency, other relevant agencies, and the prospective adoptive parents of a minor child which at a minimum:

  • specifies the nature and amount of any payments, services, and assistance to be provided under such agreement; and
  • stipulates that the agreement shall remain in effect regardless of the State of which the adoptive parents are residents at any given time.

Adoption Assistance Program (IV-E AAP):
A program by which the local office, through the use of Title IV-E funds, provides financial assistance to parents who adopt or plan to adopt an eligible child.

Adoption Disruption :
An adoption that is terminated prior to finalization, often after the child is placed in the adoptive home, necessitating in a new placement plan for the child.

Adoption Dissolution :
A term used to describe an adoption that ends after it is legally finalized, resulting in the child's return to (or entry into) foster care or placement with new adoptive parents.  This process requires court action.

Adoption Exchange :
An organization that provides adoption information to educate prospective adoptive parents and connect waiting families with waiting children.  Often these organizations serve to promote the adoption of children with specials needs and use print, radio, television, and the Internet to recruit prospective adoptive families for specific children.  An adoption exchange can be local, State, regional, national, or international in scope.

Adoption Facilitator :
A person, not part of a licensed agency, who acts as an intermediary between birth parents and prospective adoptive parents in arranging independent adoptions, often for a fee.  It may also refer to a person who facilitates post adoption contact/reunion in adoption searches.  Some States explicitly prohibit the use of facilitators in arranging adoptions, and others have laws that regulate the use of facilitators in an effort to ensure that no person, either the intermediary or a member of the birth family, profits from the placement of the child.

Adoption Petition :
The legal document through which prospective parents request the court's permission to adopt a specific child.

Adoption Placement:
The point at which a child begins to live with prospective adoptive parents, prior to finalization of the adoption.

Adoption Plan :
The birth parent's decision to allow his/her biological child to be adopted into an adoptive family.

Adoption Proceedings:
Those court proceedings leading to the adoption of a child by a qualified pre-adoptive person(s).  An individual who is at least 18 years of age may be adopted by a resident of Indiana:

  • upon proper petition to the court having jurisdiction in probate matters in the county of residence of the individual or the petitioner for adoption; and
  • with the consent of the individual acknowledged in open court.

Note: If there is no factor present that would indicate that the adoption should not be finalized, the court issues an official adoption decree.  (IC 31-19-2)

Adoption Revocation :
Legal withdrawal of an agreement to adoption by the birth parents.  Circumstances and time limits for revocation are established by States.

Adult Sibling :
Any brother or sister of whole or half blood who is 21 years of age or over.

Affidavit of Diligent Inquiry (ADI): A sworn statement that the individual made reasonable efforts to locate someone.

Agreed Entry: A document that the parties agreed to, which has been ordered by the court.

Alcohol-Related Birth Defects :
Physical or cognitive deficits in a child that result from maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy.  This includes but is not limited to fetal alcohol syndrome.

A charge or complaint about an act or condition which needs to be proved at a hearing.

Alleged Father:A person whose biological relationship to a child is claimed, but has not been established by court order or paternity affidavit and who was not married to the child’s mother on or before the date when the child was or is to be born.

Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA) : A planned, permanent arrangement that is the goal for a youth after reunification, adoption, legal guardianship, and relative placement have been ruled out.  This plan usually involves the designation of a specific adult or couple who will exercise certain powers and responsibilities and likely live with the young person. Furthermore, the caregiver's familial relationship will continue beyond the youth's formal involvement in foster care.

Apostille: A type of certification for documents in inter country adoptions.  An apostille is necessary if the country participates in the Hague Convention.  Documents are certified by State Department officials who have been designated as competent to issue certifications by apostille.


The initiator of an appeal of an action or decision of the court, person or agency with authority to review the decision.

Permission by a legislative branch or governmental body to spend a specific amount for a certain purpose or purposes.

Appropriation Account:
An account used to keep track of appropriation used and amount of appropriation left.

Article 7:
Federal law which provides for special education programs and related services without charge by public schools in Indiana.  Article 7 guarantees that children with disabilities between the ages of (3 to 21) will be provided a free and appropriate public education.

The process of gathering and analyzing information about the child, his/her family, and the circumstances that lead to DCS involvement.

Back to the Top


Baby Doe:Federal regulations specifically require that health care providers (e.g., hospitals) report to child protection service agencies “circumstances which they determine to constitute known or suspected instances of unlawful medical neglect of handicapped infants”. This is a federal statutory definition and does not apply to or mean an infant abandoned by his/her parent.

Background Check:A background investigation of prospective foster and adoptive parents and all adults residing in prospective foster and adoptive households.  The background investigation includes a check of Federal and State criminal records and child abuse and neglect registries.  A background check will consist of any or all of the following sources of child protection, juvenile or criminal history:

  • National Criminal History;
  • Indiana State Limited Criminal History;
  • Sex and Violent Offender Registry;
  • Child Protection Services History;
  • Indiana State Juvenile History;
  • Juvenile Court Records;
  • Local Police Records.

Note: The Central Office Background Check Unit will store all rap sheets received from the FBI and ISP as a result of the National Fingerprint-Based Criminal History Check.

Best Interest (BI):Title IV-E court order language requirement that indicates the removal of a child from the home is beneficial and necessary to protect the safety of the child (CFR 1356.21(c)).

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:As a standard of proof, it is that quantum of evidence that is sufficiently conclusive and complete as to remove all reasonable doubt regarding the facts sought to be established.  This is the standard required in criminal cases or in those cases that involve proving that a child is a delinquent.

Birth parent:An individual's biological mother or father.

Bonding:The process of forming a psychological attachment between two persons.

Back to the Top


Candidacy:A child who is at serious risk of removal from home as evidenced by the state agency either pursuing his/her removal from the home or making reasonable efforts to prevent such removal (Social Security Act Section 471(a)(15)(B)(i)).

Caregiver:One who provides for the physical, emotional, and social needs of a dependent person who cannot provide for his or her own needs. The term most often applies to parents or parent surrogates, daycare and nursery workers, health-care specialists, and relatives caring for children or elderly or ill family members.

Case Conference:See Child and Family Team Meeting and Educational Conference.

Case File:A folder or other container holding documentation and a running record of DCS activities relating to a specific child(ren).

Case Management:Services that include the assessment and identification of client needs, the identification of available resources to meet client needs, the development of an individualized service plan; the coordination, monitoring and evaluation of services for each client, and advocacy for a client to assure that services and resources are accessible and provided.

Case Plan:Documentation acknowledging a child’s placement, caregiver information, health summary, education, and services offered to prevent the removal of the child from the home and to reunify the family (CFR 1356.21).  A plan for assuring that the child receives safe and proper care and that services are provided to the parents, child, and foster parents in order to improve the conditions in the parents' home, facilitate return of the child to his/her own safe home or the permanent placement of the child, and address the needs of the child while in foster care, including a discussion of the appropriateness of the services that have been provided to the child under the plan (Social Security Act – Section 475 (1)).  Note: Indiana policy requires the Permanency Plan to be identified no later than 45 days from the date the child is removed from the home.  Permanency options available to the court include:

  • Reunification;
  • Adoption;
  • Legal Guardianship;
  • Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA); or
  • Fit and Willing Relative.

Case Records:Written information and documentation of facts to be preserved as evidence either for service delivery, accountability for court proceedings, or both.

Chafee Independent Living Program:A program designed to develop the potential of youth ages (16 to 21) who are in out-of-home care to become self-sufficient yet interdependent with the community, and to successfully transition into adult living.

Child:A person under the age of 18.

Child Abuse or Neglect (CA/N):The term used to refer to a child who is alleged to be in need of services as defined in Indiana Code (IC 31-9-2-14), i.e., the CHINS definition.  See Chapter 3 Intake, Statutory Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect for further details.Note:  As defined by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) as any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

Child Advocacy Center:Community-based, child-friendly, multidisciplinary service center for children and families affected by sexual abuse or severe physical abuse.  These centers bring together, often in one location, child protective services investigators, law enforcement, prosecutors, and medical and mental health professionals to provide a coordinated, comprehensive response to victims and their caregivers.

Child and Family Services Review (CFSR): |The CFSR is the federal government’s review of how state child welfare systems perform – based on the outcomes that children and families experience.  The CFSR examines the delivery of child welfare services.  The CFSR looks at the outcomes for children and families who receive these services in three (3) main areas:

  • safety;
  • permanency; and
  • child and family well-being.

Child and Family Team Meeting (CFTM):A process that brings together (a) family; (b) interested people such as friends, neighbors, community members; and (c) formal resources such as child welfare, mental health, education, and other agencies with the family for the purpose of:

  • learning what the family hopes to accomplish;
  • setting reasonable and meaningful goals;
  • recognizing and affirming the family strengths;
  • assessing family needs;
  • finding solutions to meet family needs;
  • designing individualized supports and services that match the family’s needs and build on their strengths;
  • achieving clarity about who is responsible for agreed upon tasks; and
  • agreeing on the next steps.

Child at Imminent Risk of Placement: A child less than 18 years of age who, in the near future, reasonably may be expected to face out-of-home placement as      a result of at least one of the following:

  • dependency, abuse, or neglect;
  • emotional disturbance;
  • family conflict so extensive that reasonable control of the child is not exercised;
  • delinquency adjudication.

Child-Caring Institution:A children’s home, i.e., means an orphanage, an institution, a shelter care facility, a private secure facility, or other place maintained or conducted by any group of individuals or political subdivision engaged in:

  • receiving and caring for dependent children, children in need of services; or
  • operating for gain a private business of boarding children who are unattended by a parent/guardian/custodian.

Child Fatality Review Panels:Multidisciplinary teams whose specific task is to identify missed prevention opportunities in child fatalities.  The goal of a child fatality review panel is to learn, through confidential case review, what could have or should have been done to prevent the deaths.Note: The panels are not meant to serve as investigatory bodies, nor are they designed to be punitive and cast blame on people or agencies.

Child in Need of Services (CHINS):See Chapter 6 Court Involvement, 6.B Tool - Statutory Definition of CHINS.

Child-Placing Agency:Any person, association or corporation advertising as:

  • placing or finding homes for children;
  • placing or assisting in placing children in homes of persons other than relatives; or
  • causing or assisting in causing the placement of children for adoption or in another planned permanent living arrangement.

Child Protection Index (CPI):This database replaces the Central Client Index (CCI) and the State Central Registry (SCR).  When a report of child abuse or neglect is substantiated, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) will enter all appropriate information into the CPI.

Child Protection Team (CPT):An interdisciplinary, community-wide group, the members of which are either specified by statute or appointed by the local office director.

Child Support Payments:Court ordered payments levied against noncustodial parents to help meet the daily maintenance and care expenses of children incurred by the custodial parent(s) or guardian(s).  
(42 USCS § 651).

Child Welfare Services:A continuum of services, ranging from prevention to intervention to treatment, for the purpose Of:  (42 USCS § 621)

  • protecting and promoting the welfare of all children;
  • preventing the neglect, abuse, or exploitation of children;
  • preventing the neglect, abuse, or exploitation of children;
  • supporting at-risk families through services which allow children, where appropriate, to remain safely with their families or return to their  families in a timely manner;
  • promoting the safety, permanence, and well-being of children in foster care and adoptive families; and
  • providing training, professional development and support to ensure a well-qualified child welfare workforce.

Clear and Convincing:It is a higher burden of proof than preponderance of evidence but less than beyond a reasonable doubt.  This is the level of burden of proof that is required in all court proceedings involving termination of parental rights.

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR):  The codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government.

Coercive Intervention:The inability or unwillingness of the parent/guardian/custodian to provide needed supervision and or services for a child without a court order.

Co-Facilitator [of Child and Family Team Meeting]:The person who mirrors and supports the facilitator.  The co-facilitator assists the facilitator with such things as recording information on flip charts and asking clarifying questions to extend the engaging process and help the team stay focused.  He/she must be an astute listener and recorder who can assist with preparation and provide post-meeting feedback.

Collateral Information:Secondary information gathered in the course of an investigation that tends to support or refute the primary allegations (i.e., information gathered from schoolteachers, neighbors, etc).  These sources of information cannot be approached until the decision to investigate is made.

Concurrent Planning:Planning that requires caseworkers to plan at the same time for both reunification and permanent placement elsewhere.  Ideally, concurrent planning:

  • achieves early permanency for children within or outside the birth family;
  • decreases a child’s length of stay in foster care;
  • develops a pool of resource families that can be of assistance to both child and family; and
  • maintains family relationships.

Confidentiality:  The legally required process and ethical practice of not disclosing private information about a client without the client's consent as well as not soliciting private information from a client unless it is essential in assuring safety, providing services, or achieving permanence for children. In specific circumstances, professionals may be compelled by law to reveal some information, such as a threat of harm, to designated authorities.

Consent Decree:  A court approval to put an agreement between disputing parties into the form of a binding judgment or contract.

Contrary to the Welfare (CTW):Title IV-E court order language requirement that indicates that the removal of a child from the home is beneficial and necessary to protect the safety of the child (CFR 1356.21(c)).

Corporal Discipline:Any kind of punishment inflicted upon the body for the purpose of disciplining a child.

Correctional Facilities for Juveniles:A facility operated by the Department of Corrections (DOC) to serve adjudicated delinquent juveniles who have been made wards of the DOC by a juvenile court.

County General Fund:A fund set aside for the financial transactions of most departments of county government, e.g., the auditor, clerk treasurer, recorder, sheriff, assessors, courts, etc.

County Welfare Budget:A budget that reflects the anticipated expenditures of a local office for a calendar year and an estimate of receipts and county taxes required for funding.

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA):A community volunteer who:

  • has completed a training program approved by the court;
  • has been appointed by a court to represent and protect the best interests of a child; and
  • may research, examine, advocate, facilitate, and monitor a child's situation.

Children and Family Services Review (CFSR):A federal review of children and family services in a state to determine whether the system is meeting federal and state requirements.  See Program Improvement Plan (PIP).

Cultural Competence: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 continuous process of learning about the cultural strengths of others and integrating their unique abilities and perspectives into our lives.

Culture: All that in human society which is transmitted socially rather than biologically; the symbolic and learned aspects of human society; a learned complex of knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, and custom.

Custodial Parent:The parent who has been awarded physical custody of a child by a court.

Custodian:Any person with whom a child resides or any of the following:

  • a license applicant or licensee of:
    • a foster home or residential child care facility that is required to be licensed or is licensed,
    • a child care center that is required to be licensed or is licensed,
    • a child care home that is required to be licensed or is licensed, or
  • a person who is responsible for care, supervision, or welfare of children while providing services as an owner, director, manager, supervisor, employee, or volunteer at:
    • a home, center, or facility described in the first bullet point above,
    • a child care ministry that is exempt from licensing requirements and is registered or required to be registered,
    • a home, center, or facility that serves migrant children,
    • a school, or
  • a child caregiver; or
  • an individual who has direct contact, on a regular and continuing basis, with a child for whom care and supervision is provided at a house, center, or facility described above.

Custody Study: An investigation into the personal lives of parties seeking custody of children that determines the parties’ overall ability to properly care for the child in an environment that will serve the child’s best interests.  Most of these  investigations that are conducted by DCS are specifically ordered by a court of competent jurisdiction.  The court names the parties to be investigated and the person, or agency, or both, to complete the investigation.

Back to the Top


Decree of Adoption : The document signed by a judge to finalize an adoption. It formally creates the parent-child relationship between the adoptive parents and the adopted child, as though the child were born as the biological child of its new parents.  It places full responsibility for the child on the new parents.

Detention [out-of-home]:
Placement of a child who is or appears to be a child in need of services in a shelter care facility.

Detention Hearing: A court hearing required within 48 hours after Detention.

Diligent Search :
Efforts made to locate or identify the biological parents of a child, initiated as soon as the division is made aware of the existence of the parent, with progress reports at each court hearing until the parent is identified and located or the court excuses further search.

Training that develops self-control, character, orderliness, and efficiency.
The Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) prohibits  the use of the following types of punishment  by resource families:

  • corporal punishment[1];
  • physical exercise (e.g., push-ups, running, etc.);
  • requiring or using force to make the child take an uncomfortable position;
  • verbal remarks that ridicule the child and/or his/her family;
  • denial of an emotional response;
  • denial of essential services (e.g., health care, food, clothing, bedding, sleep, mail or family visitation, etc.);
  • threats of removal or denying reunification;
  • shaking;
  • placement in a locked room; and
  • holding with physical, mechanical or chemical restraints.

Note: DCS allows the following techniques for discipline by substitute caregivers:

  • verbal and written contracts (i.e., the use of lesser forms of discipline including contracts and behavior management, before corrective action is used) to agree upon desirable behaviors;
  • behavior management through incentives and rewards; and
    • the substitute caregiver with input from the DCS Family Case Manager (FCM), Child and Family Team (CFT), and other professionals (e.g., child’s psychologist) as needed will develop a behavior management program for the child.
  • corrective action for undesirable behaviors.
    • corrective action does not include physical discipline.

[1] Corporal punishment: Physical hitting or any type of physical punishment inflicted in any manner upon the child’s body.  See policy - Chapter 8, section 18: Discipline in Resource Homes for further details.

A decision by a judge regarding:

  • a child’s care, treatment, or rehabilitation;
  • participation by the parent/guardian/custodian in the plan of care for the child;
  • efforts made, if the child is a child in need of services, to prevent the child’s removal from the parent/guardian/custodian; or
  • efforts made, if the child has already been removed, to reunite the child with the parent/ guardian/custodian in accordance with federal law; and
  • family services that were offered and provided to a child in need of services or the child’s parent/guardian/custodian in accordance with federal law.

Dispositional Hearing:
Hearings held by the juvenile or family court to determine the legal resolution of cases after adjudication.  Dispositional hearings may determine where the children will live for the time being, who will have legal custody of them, and what services the children and family will need to reduce the risk and to address the effects of maltreatment.

Domestic Violence :
A pattern of assault and/or coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners in which the perpetrator and victim are currently or previously have been dating, cohabiting, married, or divorced.

Dually Licensed Home:
A home that is licensed to provide both foster care and licensed childcare.

Due Process :
The principle that every person has the protection of a day in court, representation by an attorney, and the benefit of procedures that are speedy, fair, and impartial.

Back to the Top


Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Program (EPSDT):A Medicaid program that requires all States to evaluate, treat, and ameliorate any physical or mental conditions found in eligible children under age 21.  State programs are required to inform all eligible persons and their families of the benefits available and help them obtain appropriate treatment.

Ecomap:  A graphic representation of a family in relation to their environment.

Educational Conference:A conference called by a local school corporation to determine if the school district has exhausted all local options for providing the special education and related services required by a special needs child.

Educational Neglect:Failure to ensure that a child's educational needs are met.  Such neglect may involve permitting chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child in school, or inattention to special education needs.

Eligible Child:A child who meets the criteria for receiving funds or services under various entitlement programs such as IVE-AAP and IVE-FC.

Emancipation:Release of a child fully or partially by a juvenile court from the control of the person or agency having legal responsibility for the child.  The court may specify the terms of the emancipation.

Emergency Removal:An involuntary removal of a child that is required to protect the immediate health and safety of the child.  These removals generally occur with little or no notice.

Emotional Injury:Injury to the mental or psychological capacity or emotional stability of a child as evidenced by a substantial impairment in the child’s ability to function within a normal range of performance and behavior with due regard to his/her age, development, culture and environment as testified to by a qualified mental health professional.

Emotional Neglect:Failure to provide adequate nurturing and affection or the refusal/delay in ensuring that a child receives needed treatment for emotional or behavioral problems.  Emotional neglect may also involve exposure to chronic or extreme domestic violence.

Emotionally Abused Child:A child whose health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm, when his/her parent/ guardian/custodian inflicts or allows to be inflicted an emotional injury or creates or allows to be created a risk of emotional injury upon the child.

Ethical Practice:Behavior or professional conduct that meets the system of moral principles and perceptions about right versus wrong developed and guided by the profession's standards of conduct or code of ethics.

Ethnic:  Of or pertaining to a group of people recognized as a class on the basis of certain distinctive characteristics such as religion, language, ancestry, culture, national origin, rites and rituals, foods, etc.

Ethnicity:  The condition of belonging to a particular ethnic group.

Evidence-Based Practice:Involves identifying, assessing, and implementing strategies that are supported by scientific research as being effective in improving outcomes for children and families.  In child welfare practice, evidence-based practices are those that have strong research design, evidence of significant positive effects, sustained effects, and capacity for replication.

Exigent Circumstances:Situations that would cause a reasonable person to believe that a timely interview with the child is necessary due to concerns for the child’s well-being and safety, and that seeking parental/guardian/custodian consent first may cause harm to the child or place the child at greater risk.

Expunge:To destroy of all records, reports, photographs, x-rays, and other materials.

Back to the Top


Facilitator [of Child and Family Team Meeting]:
The person responsible for building the team, directing the process, and resolving differences.

The nuclear unit of parent(s) and child(ren) regardless of their physical location or legal status.

Family Functioning:
The family’s capacity, availability, and willingness to meet the child’s basic care and developmental needs reliably on a daily basis.

Family Network Diagram (FND): A pictorial representation of a family’s connections to their extended family, persons, and/or systems in their environment.  The FND is a combination of two different tools, the Genogram and the Ecomap.

Family Preservation Services:
Services provided to prevent a child from being removed from his/her parent/guardian/custodian and/or to reunite the child with his/her parent/guardian/custodian when removal has occurred.

Family Support/Community Services Plan:
A written agreement between DCS and the parent/guardian/custodian specifying what extended family supports or community services will be utilized and how those will ensure the immediate safety of the child.  The plan should contain steps, which should have completion deadlines that do not extend beyond the end of the assessment.  All actions should relate directly to the child’s immediate safety.

Offense defined in criminal law for which a convicted person could be imprisoned for more than one year.  (IC 35-50-1-2)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS):
Refers to a set of physical and mental birth defects found in babies whose mothers drank alcohol regularly and heavily during pregnancy.

Fit and Willing Relative: Permanent placement of a child, as a plan of permanency, with a relative who is able and willing to care for the child.

Five-Year Child and Family Services Plan:
A plan for delivery of Child Welfare Services (CWS) that can be funded through Title IV-B of the Social Security Act.  The plan is the vehicle through which federal money is allocated to the Department of Child Services under this title.  The plan is signed by the Department of Child Services Administrator, sent to the Governor who also must sign, and then submitted to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The federal agency officially notifies the state of the plan approval.  The plan will cite statutes, rules, or policies in order to show what Child Welfare Services will be provided in that five (5) year period.  Annual program and fiscal updates are required.

Foster Care: The temporary care of a child by individuals who have no legal or custodial rights to the child.  Foster care is generally supervised by the State or a licensed child placing agency (LCPA) that has legal custody of the child.  Should the placement become more long-term because it is in the best interest of the child, it is deemed to be a planned, or permanent living arrangement.

Foster Care Adoption:
The adoption of a child from the foster care system after a determination has been made that the child cannot safely reunite with his/her birth family and the parental rights of the birth parents have been terminated.

Foster Child :
Child who has been placed in the State's or county's legal custody because the child's custodial parents/guardians are unable to provide a safe family home due to abuse, neglect, or an inability to care for the child.

Foster Parent :
State- or county-licensed adults who provide a temporary home and everyday nurturing and support for children who have been removed from their homes.

Foster Family Home:
A place where an individual resides and provides licensed care and supervision on a 24 hour basis to a child.

Back to the Top


A graphic representation of a family tree that displays the interaction of individuals within a family.  The Genogram should go back at least three generations.  It goes beyond a traditional family tree by allowing the user to analyze family, emotional and social relationships within a family group.  It is used to identify repetitive patterns of behavior and to recognize hereditary tendencies.

Emotional reaction to a significant loss.  For children and families in the child welfare system, it can be the acutely sad and painful emotions experienced when they are separated from each other.

Group Home:
A type of child-caring institution licensed to care for ten or fewer children age six (6) or older who are apart from their parents or guardian 24 hours a day.  Children who are appropriate candidates for placement in a group home have demonstrated the ability to follow directions and take appropriate action for self-preservation.  (IC 31-27-5)

A person appointed by a court to have the care and custody of a child, or the child’s estate, or both.

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL):
A lawyer or layperson who represents a child in juvenile or family court. Usually this person considers the best interest of the child and may perform a variety of roles, including those of independent investigator, advocate, advisor, and guardian for the child.

The transfer of parental responsibility and legal authority for a minor child to an adult caregiver who intends to provide permanent care for the child.  This can be done without terminating the parental rights of the child's parents.  Transferring legal responsibility removes the child from the child welfare system, allows the caregiver to make important decisions on the child's behalf, and establishes a long-term caregiver for the child. In subsidized guardianship, the guardian is provided with a monthly subsidy for the care and support of the child.

Back to the Top


Hague Convention :
A multinational agreement (The Convention on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Inter country Adoption) that sets out internationally agreed-upon rules and procedures for adoptions between countries that have a treaty relationship under the Convention.  It provides a framework for member countries to work together to ensure that adoptions take place in the best interests of a child and to prevent the abduction, sale of, or traffic in children.  The Convention also establishes a central authority in each country to ensure that one authoritative source of information and point of contact exists for prospective adoptive parents to receive reliable and accurate information.

Hard to Place Child:
A child with unique needs, because of:

  • ethnic background;
  • race;
  • color;
  • language;
  • physical or mental disability;
  • age; or
  • because the child is a member of a sibling group that should be placed in the same home.

Health Care Provider:
Means any of the following:

  • a licensed physician, intern, or resident;
  • an osteopath;
  • a chiropractor;
  • a dentist;
  • a podiatrist;
  • a registered nurse or other licensed nurse;
  • a mental health professional;
  • a paramedic or emergency medical technician;
  • a social worker;
  • a x-ray technician or laboratory technician employed by a hospital;
  • a pharmacist; or
  • any person working under the direction of any of the practitioners listed above.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA):
Federal legislation primarily concerning transactions that generally involve submitting health claims for payment and transmitting insurance information.  The legislation applies to “covered entities” which include health plans, health care clearing houses, or health care providers who transmit any health information in electronic form in connection with a transaction within the scope of HIPPA.  The principal purpose of local DCS offices is not to provide for the provision or payment of health care related services.  Therefore, local offices are not considered covered entities subject to HIPPA regulations.  However, local offices continue to have the same duties and obligations to safeguard identifying information concerning clients in these programs.

Hispanic: A person who identifies his/her ethnicity or ancestry as having roots in Spain.  The term is also used by some individuals to identify the common bond of those who speak Spanish.

Home-Based Services :
Services provided primarily to families in their homes.  In child welfare, this may include home visiting, parent aides, respite care, and homemaker services.

Home Study :
Process of mutually assessing and preparing prospective foster, adoptive, or kinship families to determine their suitability to foster or adopt and determine the type of child whose needs would best be met by them.  A home study may include a range of evaluative activities, visits to the family's residence, and educational activities.

Back to the Top


Imminent Risk:Immediate threat of injury or harm to a child when no interventions have occurred to protect the child.

Immunity:Legal protection from civil or criminal liability provided to a person making a report of child abuse or neglect.  (IC 31-33-6)

Implied:Suggested, indicated, or understood although not clearly or openly expressed.

Incest:Sexual intercourse between persons who are closely related by blood.  In the United States, incest is prohibited by many State laws as well as cultural tradition.

Independent Living (IL):A program to assist youth ages (16 to 21) who are or have been in out-of-home care to develop skills that will enable them to be prepared to live independently.  This program is funded through federal Title IV-E IL.   Note: In regard to age → Wards (16 to 21) and non-Wards (18 to 21).

Indian Child:Any unmarried person under age 18 who is either a member of an Indian tribe, or is eligible for membership in an Indian tribe.

Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA):  Federal law that regulates placement proceedings involving Indian (Native American) children.  If the child is a member of a tribe or eligible for membership in a tribe, the family has the right to protection under the ICWA.  These rights apply to any child protective case, adoption, guardianship, termination of parental rights action, runaway or truancy matter or voluntary placement of children.

Indian Tribe:Any Indian tribe, band, nation or other organized group or community of Indians recognized as eligible for the services provided to Indians by the Secretary of the United States Department of the Interior because of their status as Indians, including any Alaska native village as defined in Section 3(c) of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (85 Stat. 688, 689), as amended (43 USC § 1601, 1602(c)).

Indiana Child Welfare Information System (ICWIS):An electronic record-keeping system (i.e., computer application) designed in response to a federal mandate for all States utilizing federal dollars for child welfare to have a State Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS).

Indiana Code (IC):Indiana law.

Indiana Drug Endangered Child Response Protocol:A protocol outlining procedures for law enforcement, child welfare, public health, emergency medical services, fire, social services and others who respond to assist children found to be living in methamphetamine (meth) labs or homes.

Individual Education Plan (IEP):A plan for educational support services and outcomes developed for students enrolled in special education programs.

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA):A law that governs how States and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities.  Infants and toddlers with disabilities (birth-2) and their families receive early intervention services under IDEA Part C.  Children and youth (ages 3 to 21) receive special education and related services under IDEA Part B.

Informal Adjustment (IA):  A program of care, treatment, and rehabilitation established without involving the formal procedures of the juvenile court.

Informed Consent:  A process of continually informing clients about the intervention plans and the rise of forms so that those clients can provide consent to proposed treatment with adequate knowledge of costs, benefits, and alternative procedures.  Informed consent is not satisfied by the mere completion of a written form.  A valid consent form is not an open-ended, blanket agreement but rather an agreement to specific procedures based on adequate information.

Institution:Children’s homes, orphanages and other places maintained by any group of persons engaged in caring for dependent, neglected, handicapped children or children in danger of becoming delinquent who are unattended by parents.

Intake Officer:A Family Case Manager (FCM) or other DCS staff person or a probation officer who performs the intake, preliminary inquiry, or other functions specified by the juvenile court or juvenile law.

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC):Federal law which governs movement of children between states.

Investigation [assessment] Decision:The decision, based upon the investigation findings, as to whether the investigation should be classified as unsubstantiated, indicated, or substantiated.

Investigation Findings:The sum total of all the information compiled during the course of an investigation.

Irrevocable:Impossible to retract or revoke.

Back to the Top


Jurisdiction [of a court] :
The specific type of case a court is designated to hear.  For example, criminal courts hear criminal cases, and civil courts often hear adoption cases.  Geographical factors also have implications for a court's jurisdiction.

Juvenile and Family Court :
Court that specializes in areas such as child maltreatment, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, divorce, child custody, and child support.  These courts were established in most States to resolve conflict and to intervene in the lives of families in a manner that promotes the best interest of children.

Juvenile Delinquency :
Antisocial or criminal behavior by children or adolescents.

Back to the Top


Back to the Top


Latino/Latina: Refers to a person who is from or whose ancestry originates in Spanish-speaking countries in which the integration of Spanish, indigenous, and African peoples has occurred.

Law Enforcement Agency (LEA):
Law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where child abuse or neglect occurred.  LEA may investigate a report in coordination with DCS.

Learning Disability (LD):
A lifelong neurological disorder resulting in a child having difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, and/or recalling or organizing information.  Children with learning disabilities have normal or above normal intelligences.

Legal Counsel :
Another term for a lawyer or attorney.  A legal counsel advises clients about their legal rights and obligations and represents clients in legal proceedings.

Legal Settlement:

A finding by the court related to children who have been removed from their homes.  The school district having legal settlement of a student means the student's status with respect to the school corporation that has the responsibility to allow the student to attend its local public schools without the payment of tuition, or to pay transfer tuition under (IC 20-26-11) if the student attends school in a local public school of another school corporation.

Legally Free :
The legal status of a child whose birth parents' rights have been legally terminated so that the child is free to be adopted by another family.

Legend Drug:
Drugs which are inappropriately prescribed or are stolen from the manufacturing facility and illegally distributed.

A license, including a license for foster homes, therapeutic foster homes, and special needs foster homes may be issued to any foster family home applicant or licensee by Central Office through the Residential Licensing Unit Manager upon completion of the application process and submission of the recommendation and approval from the local DCS director or the director’s designee.  A licensed child placing agency (LCPA) should submit the recommendation to Central Office for approval by the Residential Licensing Unit Manager.

Licensed Child Placing Agency (LCPA):
A licensed child placing agency (LCPA) is a private agency that is licensed by the State of Indiana through the DCS Central Office Residential Licensing Unit.  LCPAs provide training and recommend individuals for special needs and therapeutic foster home licenses.  LCPAs also conduct adoption home studies and make recommendations regarding the readiness of the child(ren) and adoptive family in the preparation for adoption.  DCS Central Office licenses child placing agencies, but DCS Central Office does not manage or operate the LCPAs.

Life Book:
A type of book designed for developing a record of the life of a child who is in out-of-home care.  The book can contain photographs, narration, art work the child has done, etc.  There are many such specialty products available for recording the life of a child.

Legal proceedings.

Local Coordinating Committee:
A Local Coordinating Committee may be established in each county.  In addition, is comprised of professionals from many disciplines whose purpose as a member of the committee is to review proposed placements that are more restrictive than the ones the children are currently in.  The committee meets only when a referring agency, which may be a court, refers such a case to it.  (IC 31-38-1)

The act or an instance of losing something or the condition of being deprived of what one once had or ought to have.  Children and families involved with the child welfare system typically have suffered many losses.

Back to the Top


Mandated Reporter :
Individuals required by State statutes to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities (usually child protective services or law enforcement agencies).  Mandated reporters typically include educators and other school personnel, health-care and mental health professionals, social workers, child care providers, and law enforcement officers or others who have frequent contact with children and families.  Some States identify all citizens as mandated reporters.

The practice of involving trained, neutral, third-party mediators in child welfare cases as a means of resolving disputes and expediting permanency for children in foster care.  This process may involve birth parents, kin, and foster or adoptive parents in planning by engaging them in an inclusive, confidential, and nonjudgmental process in which their wishes are considered and respected.

Medically Fragile:
A child who has a medical condition that is:

  • documented by a physician and may become unstable or change abruptly resulting in a life-threatening situation;
  • chronic and progressive illness or medical condition; or
  • requires special service or ongoing medical support.

Medical Neglect:
Failure to seek medical or dental treatment or to comply with medical advice for a health problem or condition that, if left untreated, could become severe enough to represent a danger to the child.

Medical Passport:A booklet provided to the child’s substitute caregiver to assist in tracking the child’s medical history.  Periodically, the information contained in the Medical Passport is to be entered into ICWIS, after which the Medical Passport booklet is to be returned to the child’s substitute caregiver.  When the child leaves out-of-home care, the Medical Passport and other medical documents are to be given to the child without cost.

Meth Home:
A home in which the caregivers are dealing/using methamphetamine, where children under the age of 18 are found to be living in the home.

Meth Lab:
A home in which the caregivers are manufacturing methamphetamine in/around the home, where children under the age of 18 are found to be living in the home.

A group of substances, most of them synthetic, that have a stimulating effect on the central nervous system and are highly psychologically addictive.  Methamphetamine can be injected, snorted, smoked, or ingested orally.  The popular term "crystal meth" usually refers to the smokable form of methamphetamine.  Other amphetamine-type stimulants include anoretics (appetite suppressants) and non hallucinogenic drugs such as "ecstasy".

Multi-Ethnic Placement Act and Inter-Ethnic Placement Act (MEPA/IEPA):
Federal requirements established to prohibit discrimination, whether directed at children in need of appropriate, safe homes, at prospective parents, or at previously "underutilized” communities who could be resources for placing children.  The three basic mandates include:

  • prohibiting the delay or denial of a child’s foster care or adoptive placement on the basis of the child’s or the prospective parent’s race, color, or national origin;
  • prohibiting the denial to an individual of the opportunity to become a foster or adoptive parent on the basis of the prospective parent’s or the child’s race, color, or national origin; and
  • requiring diligent recruitment of foster and adoptive parents who reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the children in the state who need foster and adoptive homes.

Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy:A syndrome in which a parent or caregiver deliberately makes a child sick or convinces others that the child is sick by misleading (i.e., lying, exaggerating, or reporting fictitious episodes) others into thinking that the child has a medical problem.  

Back to the Top


National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS):
A voluntary national data collection and analysis system created in response to the requirements of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).

Natural Consequences:
Discipline that occurs as a result of circumstances brought about by a child’s actions rather than any intervention by a substitute caregiver.

Near Fatality:
A "near fatality" is defined by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) as “an act that, as certified by a physician, places the child in serious or critical condition”.

Note: DCS defines near fatality as a situation in which a child has been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) or a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and has been placed on a ventilator due to injuries sustained from alleged abuse/neglect.

The inability or refusal by those responsible for the care, custody, and control of a child to provide necessary food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education, or supervision necessary for the child’s well-being.

Non-Custodial Parent:
A parent who does not have legal or primary physical custody of the child.

Nonemergency Removal:
A voluntary or involuntary removal of a child under circumstances that do not require immediate protection of the health and safety of the child.  In such circumstances, appropriate planning can be done.

Behaviors and activities that further the growth and development of another person, family, group, or community.

Back to the Top


Omission:An occurrence, in the context of child protection service, in which the parent/guardian/custodian allowed that person’s child to receive any injury that the parent/guardian/custodian had a reasonable opportunity to prevent or mitigate.  (IC 31-34-1-2)

Out-of-home Care:An array of services, including family foster care, kinship care, and residential group care, for children who have been placed in the custody of the State and who must reside temporarily away from their families.

Back to the Top


Parens Patriae:A legal term referring to the State's power to act for or on behalf of children who cannot act on their own behalf, in their best interest.

Parent:In reference to Juvenile Law, this refers to a biological or adoptive parent.  Unless otherwise specified, the term includes both parents, regardless of their martial status.

Parental Rights:The legal rights and corresponding legal obligations that go along with being the parent of a child.

Paternity Affidavit:The official document that a putative father signs in order to declare legally that he is the father of a child.

Peer Coaches:Individuals who are DCS staff members and are trained to educate facilitators for their role and responsibilities in Child and Family Team Meetings (CFTM).  Peer coaches have all been facilitators themselves.

Per Diem Rate:The amount, set by DCS that foster parents are paid per day for the care of a child in need of services (CHINS).

Periodic Case Review:A scheduled case review of each child who is placed in the child’s own home or in out-of-home care under a dispositional decree.  This review must be conducted at least once every six (6) months, or more often, if ordered by the court.  (IC 31-34-21-2)

Permanency Goal:The desired outcome of intervention and service, which is determined to be consistent with the health, safety, well-being, and best interests of the child.

Permanency Planning:A plan made for a child in out-of-home care at the point when the court determines that DCS no longer needs to make reasonable efforts to reunite the child with the child’s family.  The goal of the plan is to see that the child is placed in a permanent home under circumstances that will ultimately eliminate the need for DCS supervision.  Permanency options available to the court include:

  • Reunification;
  • Adoption;
  • Legal Guardianship;
  • Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA); or
  • Fit and Willing Relative.

Perpetrator:Any person who abused or neglected a child.  Prior to substantiation of child abuse or neglect or conviction in a criminal court for such an act, the term “alleged” is used to define the term.

Petition:A written request or plea in which a specific court action is requested.

Physical Abuse:  Child abuse that results in physical injury to a child.  This may include, burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating, or otherwise harming a child.  Although an injury resulting from physical abuse is not accidental, the parent or caregiver may not have intended to hurt the child.  The injury may have resulted from severe discipline, including injurious spanking, or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child's age or condition.  The injury may be the result of a single episode or of repeated episodes and can range in severity from minor marks and bruising to death.

Physical Neglect:Failure to provide for a child's basic survival needs, such as nutrition, clothing, shelter, hygiene, and medical care.  Physical neglect may also involve inadequate supervision of a child and other forms of reckless disregard of the child's safety and welfare.

Placement:The arrangement for the care of a child in a relative home, foster home, group home, child caring institution, shelter care facility, or a medical facility; or the process of moving a child from one home to another.

Pre-Adoptive Home:A family home that has been approved to adopt a specific child at an adoption staffing.

Predispositional Report:A report that is prepared by the Family Case Manager (FCM) to aid the court in arriving at a disposition regarding the case (IC 31-34-18), which contains:

  • a statement of the needs of the child for care, treatment, rehabilitation, or placement; and
  • recommendation for the care, treatment, rehabilitation, or placement of the child.

Preliminary Inquiry:A written report prepared by a Family Case Manager (FCM) including the child’s background, current status, and school performance.  The report must relate facts and circumstances establishing reason to believe the child is a CHINS.

Prenatal Substance Exposure:Fetal exposure to maternal drug and alcohol use that can significantly increase the risk for developmental and neurological disabilities in the child.  The effects can cause severe neurological damage and growth retardation in the substance-exposed newborn.

Preponderance of the Evidence:That degree of evidence that carries greater weight or is more convincing than the evidence which is offered in opposition to it; or evidence which, as a whole, shows the fact to be proved to be more probable than not.  The CHINS standard is “preponderance of the evidence”.

Private Adoption Agency:Any Indiana-licensed child placing agency which provides adoption services.

Probable Cause:The existence of facts and circumstances within one’s knowledge and of which one has reasonable, trustworthy information, which are sufficient in themselves, in the context of child welfare, to warrant one to believe a child is in need of services.

Program Improvement Plan (PIP):A plan that is created by an entity such as a government agency or corporate enterprise that is designed to improve a component(s) of their operations.  This is based on outcomes from the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR).

Progress Report:At any time after the date of an original dispositional decree, the juvenile court may order the department to file a report on the progress made in implementing the decree.  The juvenile court will order the department to file a report every three (3) months after the dispositional decree is entered on the progress made in implementing the decree.  If, after reviewing the report, the juvenile court seeks to consider modification of the dispositional decree, the juvenile court will proceed under.  (IC 31-34-23, 21)

Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:All the evidence must point to one conclusion, without reasonable question or doubt.  This is the standard used in criminal or delinquency cases.

Protective Custody:A child may be taken into custody by a law enforcement officer under an order of the court.  If a law enforcement officer's action will not adequately protect the safety of the child, the child may be taken into custody by a law enforcement officer, probation officer, or caseworker acting with probable cause to believe the child is a child in need of services (CHINS) if:  (IC 31-34-2-2)

  • it appears that the child's physical or mental condition will be seriously impaired or seriously endangered if the child is not immediately taken into custody;
  • there is not a reasonable opportunity to obtain an order of the court; and
  • consideration for the safety of the child precludes the immediate use of family services to prevent removal of the child.

Psychological Maltreatment:A pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incidents that convey to children that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value in meeting another's needs. This maltreatment may be perpetrated by parents or caretakers using extreme or bizarre forms of punishment or threatening or terrorizing a child.  The term "psychological maltreatment" is also known as emotional abuse or neglect, verbal abuse, or mental abuse.

Putative Father:A man, regardless of age, who is commonly accepted or stated to be a child's father and who has signed a paternity affidavit to legally declare that he is, in fact, the father of a child.  A putative father was not married to the child's mother on or before the date that the child was or is to be born nor has his paternity of the child been established in a court proceeding.

Putative Father Registry:Registry system that serves to ensure that birth fathers' rights are protected.  Some States require that birth fathers register, while other States presume that the father does not wish to pursue paternity rights if he does not initiate any legal action.

Back to the Top


Quality Assurance/Quality Improvement:
The processes and measures an organization uses to determine that its products or services measure up to the standards established for them.  In child welfare agencies, quality assurance programs may contain one or more of the following components:

  • a client information/data system;
  • a peer review system; and
  • a case record review system.

Note: All State child welfare agencies are required to develop and implement standards to ensure that children in foster care are provided quality services that protect the safety and health of the children. They are also required to operate an identifiable quality assurance system that evaluates the quality of services, identifies strengths and needs of the service delivery system, provides relevant reports, and evaluates implemented program improvement measures.

Back to the Top


Racial Disproportionality:
The differences in the percentage of children of a certain racial or ethnic group in the country as compared to the percentage of the children of the same group in the child welfare system.  For example, in 2000, Black children made up 15.1 percent of the children in this country but 36.6 percent of the children in the child welfare system.

Reasonable Efforts:
The exercise of ordinary diligence and care by DCS to utilize all family preservation services available to:

  • enable the child to live at home safely;
  • effect the safe reunification of the child and family when it has been necessary to remove a child from the home to ensure immediate safety; or
  • make and finalize alternate permanency plans in a timely manner when reunification is not appropriate or possible.

Unless: A judicial determination has been made that reasonable efforts are not required, the court must make such determination:

    • within 45 days of the removal of the child from the home, if the child is to be eligible for IV-E FC for the duration of the stay in foster care; or
    • within 12 months of the date, the child entered foster care and every 12 months thereafter while the child remains in foster care.

Rebuttable Presumption:
A presumption based upon certain known facts that support a belief; however, the presumption may be rebutted, or overcome, through the introduction of contrary evidence.

A party state of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) with which another (sending) party state can arrange for the receipt of any child into the state for placement with state or local public authorities or with private agencies or persons.

Redaction: A process where a document is reviewed thoroughly to remove text prior to release.

Regional Services Council:
All 18 regions in the state have a regional services council.  The purpose of these councils is to:

  • assess the services available in communities;
  • identify needed services for families and children; and
  • ensure that the needed services are available in communities.

Rehabilitative Services:
Services provided to the child and/or family to address issues identified as leading to involvement with DCS.  These services include but are not limited to parenting classes, drug and alcohol treatment, psychological assessment, etc.

Reimbursement Payments:
Court-ordered payments made to DCS by the parent or guardian that are applied to expenses incurred by the Family & Children Fund for the care of a child in out-of-home care.  These payments may be applied to expenses incurred over the entire placement period or any portion of it.

Relative Placement:
A placement, licensed or unlicensed, in which a qualified adult (e.g., a grandparent, aunt, uncle, adult sibling) provides care for a related child.  By law, a court must consider placement in the home of any willing relative of a child in need of out-of-home care before considering placement elsewhere.

Relinquishment of Parental Rights :
A voluntary termination of parental rights (TPR).

Requested Custody Study:
An investigation not ordered by a court, but rather requested by either an out-of-state court or agency or by an attorney representing a person seeking custody whose purpose is to substantiate, prior to court action, a person’s ability to properly care for the child whose custody is being sought.

Resource Family :
Includes foster/adoptive parents, foster parents, and relative or kinship caregivers.

Resource Home:
A term applied to foster homes, pre-adoptive homes, and relative homes that serve or can serve as resources for children in need of out-of-home placement or adoption.

Resource Parent:Includes a foster/adoptive parent, foster parent, and relative or kinship caregiver.

Respite Care:
Child care offered for designated periods of time to allow a caregiver to tend to other family members; alleviate a work, job, health, or housing crisis; or take a break from the stress of caring for a seriously ill child.  Respite for foster and adoptive parents is a preventive measure that enhances quality of care for the child, gives the caregiver a deserved and necessary break, and ensures healthy and stable placements for children.

The state, quality, or fact of being responsible; a thing or person that one is answerable for; a duty, obligation or burden.

Right to be Heard: Resource parents of a child in foster care who are required to be notified, also have been given the right to be heard in all court proceedings pertaining to a child in their care.

In child welfare, the likelihood that a child will be maltreated in the future.

Risk Assessment :
A measure of the likelihood that a child will be maltreated in the future, frequently through the use of checklists, matrices, scales, and other methods of measurement.

Risk Factor :
Behaviors and conditions present in the child, parent, or family that will likely contribute to child maltreatment occurring in the future.  Major risk factors include substance abuse, domestic/family violence, and mental health problems.

A function or position.  With respect to child welfare, many entities (parent/guardian/custodian, DCS, service providers, etc.) play a specific role in the life of the child.

Back to the Top


Safety:Absence of an imminent or immediate threat of moderate-to-serious harm to the child.

Safety Assessment:A part of the child protective services case process in which available information is analyzed to identify whether a child is in immediate danger of moderate or serious harm.  Safety assessments also are conducted throughout the life of a case, including while in-home services are provided, when a child is in out-of-home care, preceding and during family visitation, and throughout the process of achieving permanency for the child.

Safety Plan:A casework document developed when it is determined that a 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 the safety factors and assure the child's protection.

Secure Facility:A place of residence other than a shelter care facility, that prohibits the departure of the child.  (IC 31-9-2-114)

Secure Private Facility:A secure facility licensed under (IC 31-27) in Indiana or a similar facility located in another state to provide residential care and treatment to one or more children in a secure facility other than a juvenile detention center, a facility operated by the department of correction or a jail or juvenile detention center operated by a local sheriff.  (31-9-2-115)

Sending State:A party state of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) that arranges with another (receiving) party state for the receipt of any child into the state for placement with state or local public authorities or with private agencies or persons.

Sexual Abuse:According to the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker or interfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

Shaken Baby Syndrome:The collection of signs and symptoms resulting from the violent shaking of an infant or small child.  The consequences of less severe cases may not be brought to the attention of medical professionals and may never be diagnosed.  In severe cases that usually result in death or severe neurological consequences, the child usually becomes immediately unconscious and suffers rapidly escalating, life-threatening central nervous system dysfunction.

Shelter Care Facility:A place of residence licensed under the laws of any state, other than a secure facility, which is not locked to prevent a child’s departure unless the administrator determines that locking is necessary to protect the child’s health.

Social Security Act:Federal legislation enacted in 1935 which created the public welfare system.  In its current amended form, it now includes, under the welfare umbrella, public assistance (Title IV-A which is the AFDC program), child welfare services (Title IV-B), child support (Title IV-D), foster care and adoption assistance (Title IV-E), Medicaid (Title XIX) and Social Services Block Grant (Title XX).

Social Security RSDI and Other Benefits:Social Security for Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance; these benefits are paid for the care of dependents.

Social Service Block Grant (SSBG):A federally funded social services program under Title XX of the Social Security Act which provides reimbursement for social services.  The Department of Child Services, other state agencies, and private providers are reimbursed for social services provided to eligible recipients.

Solution Focused Questions:Questions used with clients to get to the underlying needs of the family.  These questions help family members define the who, what, why, where, when and how of the problem and the solution.  It helps to identify the nature of the problem and the solutions, as well as who else is interested in this problem or has information that might be helpful in solving the problem.

Special Needs Adoption Program (SNAP):A State program designed to assist with the placement of children with special needs based upon the following criteria:

Special needs children include:

  • a child two (2) years of age or older;
  • a child who is a member of a sibling group of two (2) or more children and who must be placed together with the sibling group in the same home;

Note: At least one (1) child in a sibling group must be two (2) years old.

  • a child with a medical condition or physical challenge, as determined by a physician licensed to practice medicine in Indiana or another state or territory; or
  • a child with a mental, emotional, or developmental challenge as determined by a physician licensed to practice medicine in Indiana or another state or territory.

Note: This definition of a special needs child for the Special Needs Adoption Program (SNAP) is consistent with the federal definition for purposes of determining eligibility for financial assistance under the federal IVE-Adoption Assistance Program (AAP).  However, the child(ren) must also meet the categorical requirements for AAP which deals with their birth family's financial status before entering the child welfare system.

Special Needs Children:Children in out-of-home care who meet certain criteria related to greater challenges in securing adoptive families for them.  This most frequently refers to children who are school-aged, part of a sibling group, or children of color or those with special physical, emotional, or developmental needs.  There is no Federal definition of special needs and guidelines for classifying a child as special needs vary by State.  The preferred term is "children with special needs".

Special Needs Foster Family Home:
A licensed home in which a qualified adult provides care for a child who has a mental, physical, or emotional disability.

Specified Relative:For purposes of determining a child’s eligibility for the expenditure of Title IV-E funds, a specified relative is any of the following or the spouse of any of the following, (even if the marriage is terminated by death or divorce) who is within the fifth degree of kinship to the child and whose relationship is by blood, half-blood or legal adoption.

  • mother (stepmother);
  • father (stepfather);
  • grandmother or grandfather (great, great-great, great-great-great);
  • sister or brother (step, in-law, half);
  • aunt or uncle (great, great-great, in-law);
  • niece;
  • nephew;
  • first cousin (once removed).

Note:  To qualify for the expenditure of Title IV-E funds, the child must have been removed from the home of a specified relative or have lived with a specified relative within six (6) months prior to the removal.  The definition of a specified relative does not include a non-related custodian or legal guardian.

State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP):Title XXI of the Social Security Act, jointly financed by the Federal and State governments and administered by the States.  This national program is designed for families who earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid, yet cannot afford to buy private health insurance.  Within broad Federal guidelines, each State determines the design of its program, eligibility groups, benefit packages, payment levels for coverage, and administrative and operating procedures.

Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS):A comprehensive automated case management tool that supports social workers' foster care and adoption assistance case management practice (see ICWIS).

Status Offense:Acts of delinquency that are not crimes for adults.  The status offenses under the Juvenile Code include:

  • running away;
  • truancy;
  • habitual disobedience;
  • curfew violations; and
  • underage drinking.

Strengths-Based:A perspective that emphasizes an individual or family's capabilities, support system, and motivation to meet challenges.

Subpoena:A document requiring a person to appear at a certain court on a certain day to give testimony in a specified case.

Substance Abuse:A pattern of substance use that results in at least one of four consequences:

  • failure to fulfill role obligations;
  • placing oneself or others in danger (e.g., driving under the influence);
  • legal consequences; or
  • interpersonal/social problems.

Substantiated:An investigation disposition concluding that the allegation of child maltreatment or risk of maltreatment was supported or founded by State law or State policy.  A child protective services determination means that credible evidence exists that child abuse or neglect has occurred.

Summons:A document notifying a person of the filing of a lawsuit against the person.  In CHINS cases, a summons is sent to the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child alleged to be a CHINS.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI):A federally funded, needs-based disability program for adults and children that provides monthly cash benefits and, in most States, automatic Medicaid eligibility.

Surrogate Parent Program:A program in which a person is assigned to monitor the educational needs and rights of special needs children whose parents are unknown or unavailable.  The administrator of the special education program that an eligible child attends makes the assignment.  A Family Case Manager (FCM) cannot serve as a surrogate.  Special training is required before persons who qualify to be surrogates can accept an assignment.

Back to the Top


Teaming, Engaging, Assessing, Planning, Intervening (TEAPI): A social work practice methodology designed to:

  • protect children from abuse and neglect;
  • support families in identifying and using their inherent strengths and the resources in their community to resolve the conditions that led to abuse and neglect;
  • effect permanent change that enhances the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and families;
  • maintain and develop essential connections with family when children are unable to remain in their homes; and
  • ensure that all children have the opportunity to achieve swift permanency through family preservation, family reunification, adoption or independent living.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) :
A program that provides assistance and work opportunities to needy families by granting States the Federal funds, and wide flexibility to develop and implement their own welfare programs. The focus of the program is to help move recipients into work and to turn welfare into a program of temporary assistance.

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR):
A judicial proceeding in which a court terminates the rights of a parent or guardian to a child either voluntarily by having the parent or guardian sign a relinquishment or a consent for adoption or involuntarily via a court finding that the parent or guardian has abandoned the child, is unfit to care for the child, etc.

Verified evidence given by a competent witness under oath or affirmation as distinguished from evidence derived from writing other sources.

Therapeutic Foster Family Home:
Care provided by foster parents who have received special training to care for a wide variety of children and adolescents, usually those with significant emotional or behavioral problems. Therapeutic foster parents typically receive additional supports and services.

Title IV-B:
A program under the Federal Social Security Act that provides grants to states for the purpose of enabling the federal government, through the US Department of Health and Human Services to cooperate with and assist state agencies in establishing, extending, and strengthening child welfare services (Part I); and family preservation, support, and reunification services (Part II).

Title IV-E:
A program under the Federal Social Security Act that provides funding for foster care and payments maintenance and adoption assistance payments for children who meet the program eligibility requirements and funding to assist with costs of administrative and training related to the program.

Title XX:
See Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).

An internal or external injury or wound brought about by an outside force.

Tuition Transfers:
Payments to be made by the school corporation having legal settlement when a child is placed out of the school corporation.

Back to the Top


United States Code (USC):
Federal Law.
Universal Precautions:

Use of appropriate barrier precautions (e.g., gloves) by workers whose occupation involves exposure to blood.  The purpose of using universal precautions is to prevent contact with blood or other bodily fluids capable of transmitting HIV infection.

An investigation disposition that determines that there is not sufficient evidence under State law or policy to conclude that a child has been maltreated or is at risk of maltreatment.  A child protective services determination means that credible evidence does not exist that child abuse or neglect has occurred.

Back to the Top


One who is harmed by or made to suffer from an act, circumstance, agency or condition.  A person who is deceived, swindled, etc.

A fundamental right of children in placement to visit with their parents, siblings, grandparents and/or significant others. Note: Planned face-to-face contact between a child in out-of-home care and his or her family members.  The purpose of visitation is to maintain family attachments, reduce the sense of abandonment that children may experience during placement, and prepare for permanency.

Vital Record : Official records usually maintained by States that document births, deaths, marriages, divorces, naturalization, and adoption.

Voluntary Placement: An agreement between the parent/guardian/custodian and DCS concerning a child with an emotional, behavioral, or mental disorder or a developmental or physical disability who is voluntarily placed out of the home for special treatment or care, solely because the parent/ guardian/custodian is unable to provide the treatment or care.

Back to the Top


Work unit:
Any division, office or bureau of the department, examples include local office, DCS Central Office, Bureau of Family Protection and Preservation.

Work unit manager:
The manager or supervisor of any work unit, examples include local office director, regional manager, and DCS Deputy Director.

Back to the Top


Back to the Top


Youth Development:
A process that prepares young people to meet the challenges of adolescence and adulthood through a coordinated, progressive series of activities and experiences that help them to become socially, morally, emotionally, physically, and cognitively competent.  Positive youth development addresses the broader developmental needs of youth, in contrast to deficit-based models that focus solely on youth problems.

Youth Involvement/Engagement:
A component of family-centered practice that centers on recognizing youth as experts in determining what is best for themselves and engaging youth in the development of policy, program, and service design and in decision-making, implementation, and evaluation.

Back to the Top


Back to the Top

 Top FAQs