ADD/ADHD – Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder: A common diagnosis for children who demonstrate marked degrees of inattentiveness, children who exhibit impassivity and in some cases, hyperactivity. A medical diagnosis is given to children who exhibit symptoms before the age of seven and medication or behavior modification programs are frequently prescribed. Typical behaviors include: a short attention span, are highly distracted, acting before thinking about the results, constant interrupting, engaging in risky or dangerous behavior. Children with the hyperactive component are squirmy and fidgety, talk excessively and have difficulty participating in quiet activities.
Adoptee – A person who has been adopted.
Adoption – Adoption is a way of meeting the developmental needs of a child by legally transferring ongoing parental responsibilities for that child from the parents to Adoptive Parents and in the process, creating a new kinship network that forever links the birth family and the Adoptive Family through the child who is shared by both. This new kinship network may also include significant foster families, both formal and informal, that have been a part of the child’s experience. The role of Resource Parents is to consider the adoption option when children and youth cannot return to their parents. Through adoption, Adoptive Parents keep the child or youth connected to their past.
Adoption subsidy (AAP) – Adoption Assistance Program (AAP) – AAP is financial and/or medical assistance given on an on-going basis to an adoptive parent to help with the child’s special needs. This subsidy may be provided through federal, state, county and/or local resources. (Also see Title IV-E.)
Best Interest of the Child – “Best Interest” includes concepts of a child’s sense of time, as well as a child’s need for safety, well-being and permanence (a family intended to last a lifetime). Resource Parents serve as advocates for the best interest of the child.
Blind – Used to describe a person with total loss of vision. Persons with partial vision may be described as partially sighted, visually impaired, or persons with partial vision.
Case or Family Conferencing – The caseworker is responsible for periodically bringing together key stakeholders involved with a family and child, to review progress, to assess strengths and needs and to plan with them. Resource Parents attend case conferences and should participate actively to assist in reviewing progress, assessing strengths and needs and planning for the future.
Case Planning – This is a process whereby the Children’s Social Worker helps families make effective plans for the safety, well-being and timely permanence for their children. Resource Parents are active stakeholders in the case planning process, especially as it relates to the child in foster care.
Case Review – Law requires that every child in foster care have a review of his or her case, to confirm that policy and law are being assured. Judicial review happens every six months for every child in out-of-home care. Resource Parents are expected to participate actively in case review.
Cerebral Palsy – A group of conditions resulting from brain damage before, during or shortly after birth. The most obvious symptom is an inability to coordinate or control muscles in one or more parts of the body. There is a wide range in the level of disability. In more serious cases, mental retardation, convulsive disorders and problems with thinking, vision and hearing may occur.
Child Protective Services – The legal intervention of child welfare agencies, through the judicial (court) system, to protect children and families. Resource Parents are often called upon to provide information to the child protective services worker, as well as to testify in court.
Children’s Social Worker (CSW) – The representative who works with the family who is in receiving services from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). This person may work with the birth family, the court, outside agencies providing ancillary services to the child, the child’s out-of-home caregiver (If the child was not able to remain safely at home) and others to ensure that the birth family and/or child are receiving all services needed to facilitate reunification and ensure timely permanence.
Closed adoption –An adoption in which identifying information about the birth parents and adoptive parents is not made available. California is a “closed adoption” state where all identifying information is considered confidential so records containing this confidential information are usually sealed as a result of state law and /or court order.
Concurrent Planning – The development of two permanency goals at the same time; reunification and an alternative permanent plan should reunification efforts prove unsuccessful. Concurrent planning allows for the contingency of finding a resource family which will supports efforts to reunify the child and family yet also, if necessary, adopt a child who cannot return home. Concurrent planning allows child welfare agency staff to petition to: identify, recruit, process and approve a qualified family for adoption while filing the petition to terminate the parental rights of a child’s parents.
Confidentiality – The policy or law limiting information that may be discussed about children and their families. Resource Parents must maintain confidentiality.
Congenital disability – A disability that has existed since birth. Birth defect is no longer considered an appropriate term.
Consolidated Home Study – Also referred to as home study or family assessment. The process of dually preparing a family to obtain a foster care license from the state and assessing the family for the adoption of a child – the two processes have been consolidated into one. It is the practice of educating prospective caregivers for children about adoption, ensuring that their home would be a safe and appropriate place for a child, and determining what kind of child would best fit into that family. Family assessments are usually done by social workers affiliated with a public or private adoption agency. Independent social workers, adoption attorneys and other adoption facilitators may also do family assessments. An approved assessment is required before a child can be placed for adoption.
Creating Alternative Plans – The child welfare agency must begin creating alternative plans for permanency for the child(ren) with the family at the opening of a child welfare case. Alternative plans include relative placement, foster care, guardianship and adoption. Resource Parents work collaboratively with the caseworker..
Custody – The legal responsibility for the care and supervision of a child.
Deaf – Used to describe a person with total loss of hearing. Persons with partial hearing may be described as hearing impaired, having a hearing impairment or having a partial hearing loss.
Developmental Disability – A chronic mental/cognitive and/or physical impairment incurred before the age of 22 that is likely to continue indefinitely. The disability may substantially impact independent functioning and may require life-long support. The term includes people with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, and sensory impairments. These impairments may have been present from birth or may have resulted from a traumatic accident. Although this is the federal definition, some states or other organizations serving people with developmental disabilities may use a broader or narrower definition to include those they are able to serve.
Disability – A temporary or permanent condition that interferes with a person’s ability to function independently – walk, talk, see, hear, learn. It may refer to a physical, mental or sensory condition. Terms no longer considered acceptable when talking about people with disabilities include: disabled, handicapped, crippled or deformed. Acceptable descriptions include: a person with a disability, a child with special needs, a boy who is visually impaired, a girl who has a hearing loss, a child who uses a wheelchair.
Disruption – When a child placed for adoption is removed from the prospective adoptive home and returned to foster care before the adoption is finalized. Reasons for disruptions vary but are generally the result of some incompatibility between the child and the family. In many cases, the child is eventually placed with another adoptive family. The family who could not keep that child may consider other children.
Down Syndrome – A person with Down Syndrome is born with an extra chromosome. This causes mild to moderate mental retardation, slanted eyes, short stature and poor muscle tone. Respiratory infections and congenital heart disease are common and generally treatable.
Emotional Maltreatment – Emotional maltreatment is defined by state law and is usually indicated by a combination of behavioral indicators including speech disorder; lags in physical development; failure to thrive; hyperactive/disruptive behavior; sallow, empty facial appearance; habit disorder ( sucking, biting, rocking); conduct/learning disorders; neurotic traits (sleep disorder, inhibition of play, unusual fearfulness); behavioral extremes; overly adaptive behavior ( inappropriately adult or infantile); developmental lags; attempted suicide. Resource Parents help children heal from emotional maltreatment. They also may serve as models, teachers or mentors to parents to prevent future emotional maltreatment.
Emotionally Disturbed – Term used to describe a person with behaviors that are outside the norm of acceptability. A child may be emotionally disturbed as a result of a traumatic or stressful event in his/her life. The emotional disturbance may be temporary or chronic; it may be organic or purely functional. A high percentage of children available for adoption are considered to be emotionally disturbed to some degree as a result of abuse, neglect, and removal from their family.
Finalization – The action taken by the court to legally make an adopted child a member of his/her adoptive family.
Foster/Adopt – (legal risk or fost-to-adopt) Adoptive/foster placement involve foster children who are not legally free for adoption but who may become available for adoption pending a legal termination of birth parents’ rights. If is unlikely that efforts to reunite the family will be successful, the child will be placed in a resource family that is licensed for foster care and approved to adopt.
Foster Care – Foster care is a protective service for families. Foster care usually means families helping families. Children who have been physically abused, sexually abused, neglected or emotionally maltreated are given a family life experience in an agency-approved, certified or licensed home for a planned, temporary period of time. The primary goal of foster care is to reunite children with their families. Resource Parents are often in a position to help children and their families reunify. Resource Parents are also often in a position to emotionally support parents who cannot do the job of parenting and must make a plan for adoption or another permanent plan for their children. The role of the Resource Parent today is to help protect both children and their families as they work toward reunification or an alternative permanent plan if reunification is not possible.
Foster Parents are also often in a position to emotionally support parents who cannot do the job of parenting and must make a plan for adoption or another permanent plan for their children. The role of the Resource Parent today is to help protect both children and their families as they work toward reunification or another permanent plan if reunification is not possible.
Foster Parents – Also known as Resource Parents in LA County. People licensed by the state, or certified through a Foster Family Agency, to provide a temporary home for children who cannot safely live with their birth parents.
Front Loading Services – This is a term indication that the agency puts in place as many services as possible early after a case is opened in order to prevent removal or to achieve timely reunification. Working with the caseworker, Resource Parents must be aware of and participate in (where appropriate) the services available to the parents and the child in their care.
Full Disclosure – Parents of children in foster care must be fully informed of their child(ren)’s status, DCFS and Court processes and the possible outcomes based on their participation in their reunification efforts. know everything the agency staff knows. They need full information about all the alternatives they face, as well as the legal timeframes. Likewise, Resource Parents must receive all information about a child available at the time of placement. Working with the CSW, Resource Parents must share as much information as is available with the parents of the child in their care. Resource Parents should develop a list of questions to ask the CSW before and at the time of placement.
Group Home – A large foster home licensed to provide care for several children (perhaps up to 10). Some group homes function as family homes with parents who are always available; others have staff members who work at different times along with the group home parents.
Guardian Ad-Litem (GAL) – A person appointed by the court to represent a child in all court hearings that concern him/her.
Independent Adoption – In an independent adoption, birth parents choose the child’s adoptive family and place the child directly in the home. It is usually done with the assistance of an attorney. An independent adoption may also take place when a child who is not a dependent of the court is adopted by his or her relative.
Individualized Education Plan (IEP) – IEPs are the result of an educational assessment that determines that a child has significant learning challenges. Such a plan is made for children who are having difficulty learning in school, whether due to learning disabilities, developmental disabilities or emotional and behavior problems. Learning and behavioral goals and objectives with specific measurable outcomes are identified.
Legal risk placement – See Fost/Adopt Placement
Life Book – A child-driven collection of pictures, stories and drawings that tell about the life of a child. This book is particularly important for children in foster care who have moved from place to place and have lost significant people in their everyday lives. A child’s life book is an excellent therapeutic tool and may be a treasured keepsake.
Match – Term used when an adoptive family has been selected for a waiting child. In most cases, the family is getting to know more about the child, but the child has not yet moved into the adoptive home.
Mentally ill/mental disorder – Term used to describe a person whose thought processes and/or behaviors do not fit the norm. Many mental illnesses are attributed to a chemical imbalance in the brain and can be effectively treated with medication or psychological counseling. Some mental illnesses seem to run in families. A mental illness is not the same as mental retardation, though intellectual functioning may be negatively affected by the behaviors associated with the mental illness.
Mental retardation – A level of intellectual functioning that is significantly below average. A person with mental retardation generally has an IQ below 70. Also referred to as cognitive impairment.
Neglect – Neglect is defined by state law and some of the common indicators include: being underweight, poor growth patterns, consistent hunger, poor hygiene, inappropriate clothing, inadequate supervision, unattended physical problems or medical needs, abandonment, begging and/or stealing food, extended stays or rare attendance at school, fatigue, delayed speech development, seek inappropriate affection, expressionless, assume adult responsibilities and/or concerns, abdominal distention, bald patches on the scalp, substance abuse, vocalize in whispers or whines.
Open Adoption – An adoption where there is some interaction between the birth family, adoptive family and the adopted child. Generally the adoptive family and the birth family agree to a level and style of communication that is comfortable for both parties and in the best interests of the child. Communication may be by phone, correspondence or personal contacts. In a semi-open adoption, contact may be maintained through and intermediary, usually the adoption agency.
Orientation Meeting – An initial group meeting for prospective foster and adoptive (resource) parents where information about the agency’s procedures and policies are explained and questions about foster care licensure and the family assessment process may be answered.
Permanence – Permanence is the assurance of a family for a child intended to last a lifetime. Permanence assures a child a family where he or she will be safe and nurtured. Resource Parents work in coordination with the Children’s Social Worker and others to assure that a child returns to his or her birth family home or, should that turn out not to be a safe option, that the child has a timely plan for alternative permanence such as adoption or placement with extended family.
Permanency Hearings – Originally called a “dispositional hearing,” the “permanency planning hearing” is held 12 months after a child enters foster care. A child is considered to have entered foster care from either the date of the first judicial finding of deprivation (i.e., adjudication) or to the date 60 days after the date on which the child is removed from home. The court explores the option of ordering activation of the identified alternative permanent plan. Resource Parents attend permanency hearings and participate as the judge requests.
Permanency Planning – Permanency planning is the formulation of methods to provide services to children and their families to help keep children with their parents if at all possible. If children cannot live with their parents, permanency planning provides for placing children with relatives. If a relative placement is not possible, permanency planning provides for temporary, short-term, foster care placement with a plan to return to the parents. Finally, if return to the parents is not possible, permanency planning provides for alternative permanence via adoption, guardianship or independent living, depending upon the age, strengths and needs of the child and family. Resource Parents are active members on the permanency planning team, helping the family and CSW formulate plans.
Physical Abuse – Physical abuse is defined by state law and is usually indicated by unexplained bruises, welts, burns, fractures/dislocations and lacerations or abrasions. Other behavioral indicators include a child who feels deserving of punishment, is wary of adult contact, is apprehensive when other children cry, is aggressive, withdraws, is frightened of his or her parent(s), is afraid to go home, reports injury by parent(s), often has vacant or frozen stares, lies very still while surveying surroundings (infant), responds to questions in monosyllables, demonstrates inappropriate or precocious maturity or indiscriminately seeks affection. Resource Parents must report any physical abuse experienced by a child, as well as help a child to heal from physical abuse. They also may serve as models, teachers or mentors to parents to prevent future abuse.
Placement – A child may have had numerous out-of-home placements after a social services agency has determined that a child is not safe in his/her current home. The agency may place a child with relatives, in an emergency shelter, foster home, group home, residential treatment center or psychiatric hospital. This term is also used to refer to the day when a child moves into an adoptive home.
Post Adoption Services – Services provided by an adoption agency and/or other community resource to the adopted person, the adoptive parents and/or birth parents after and adoption has been legally finalized. These services may include assisting with reunions, providing non-identifying information, referrals for counseling, support groups, and respite care.
Post-placement – The period between the time when a child moves into the adoptive family home and the finalization of adoption. A variety of post-placement activities may be offered by an adoption agency to an adoptive family, such as counseling, referrals, support and visits by a social worker.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – A set of behaviors resulting from experiencing or witnessing an event or series of events which were most likely of a violent or abusive nature and traumatic for the child. Children who have been removed from their homes, have lost significant people in their lives and lived in multiple foster homes also may have this disorder. Some of the characteristics include flashbacks, persistent thoughts and dreams related to the event/s, and dissociation. Therapy has proven to be effective tool in helping children recover from traumatic experiences.
Reactive Attachment Disorder – An emotional and behavioral disorder marked by a child’s inability to establish a healthy parent-child relationship of trust and reciprocal exchange of affection. This is most often a result of repeated separations from a primary caretaker and disruptions in the cycle of the child’s feelings of need and having those needs satisfied before the age of five. Children with reactive attachment disorder may fail to initiate or respond appropriately to most social interactions, or they may be indiscriminate in their interactions-overly friendly with people they don’t know. A great deal of material on this subject, as well as parent support groups, is available for adoptive families of children with this disorder.
Reasonable Efforts – Although defined by state law, this term simply means that the child welfare agency has done everything reasonably possible to prevent removal and/or to achieve reunification. Resource Parents must participate actively in assuring that all possible steps are taken to help a family achieve reunification.
Relinquishment – The voluntary act of transferring legal rights for the care, custody and control of a child and to any benefits which, by law, would flow to or from the child, such as inheritance, to the adoption agency or, another family through the adoption agency. An adoption agency or lawyer must work with the state court system to make a relinquishment legal. (See Termination of Parental Rights.)
Residential Treatment Center (RTC) – A placement that provides care for more than 10 children. May also be referred to as a residential child care facility where housing, meals, schooling, medical care and recreation are provided. Therapists, counselors and teachers are trained to meet the needs of children with emotional and behavior problems.
Respite Care – The assumption of daily caregiving responsibilities on a temporary basis. Usually designed as a 24-hour-a-day option to provide parents or other caregivers temporary relief from the responsibilities of caring for a child.
Risk – Risk is the likelihood of any degree of long-term harm or maltreatment. It does not predict when the future harm might occur but rather the likelihood of the harm happening at all. Resource Parents can help caseworkers assess risk and likelihood of future harm.
Safety – Safety refers to a set of conditions that positively or negatively describes the physical and emotional well-being of children. A child may be considered safe when there are not threats of harm present or when the protective capacities can manage any foreseeable threats of harm. Resource Parents must keep children safe and free of threats of harm.
Searching For Relatives – Law requires that the child welfare agency must search for any relatives with whom the child can be placed for alternative permanence, either for foster care, or for adoption/guardianship. Resource Parents may discover information about relatives and must share that information with the agency CSW. When relatives become resources for the child and family. Resources Parents share information and help transition children to the home of the relatives.
Seizure – An involuntary muscle contraction which is a symptom of epilepsy or a brain disorder. A convulsion refers to seizures that involve contractions throughout the entire body. Many seizure disorders can be controlled with medication. The term “epileptic” is no longer considered acceptable.
Sexual Abuse – Sexual abuse is defined by state law and is usually indicated by a child’s disclosure and a combination of physical indicators including difficulty in walking or sitting, torn, stained, or bloody underclothing, pain, swelling, or itching in genital area, pain during urination, bruises, bleeding or laceration in external genitalia, vaginal, or anal areas; vaginal/penile discharge, venereal disease, especially in pre-teens, poor sphincter tone, pregnancy, bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual behavior or knowledge, poor peer relationships, delinquency, running away, change in school performance, withdrawal, fantasy or infantile behavior.
Shelter Home – A licensed foster home that is prepared to take children immediately after they have been removed from their birth home. Shelter homes keep children for a short period of time, generally no more than 90 days. If a child cannot return home, he/she will be moved to a regular or specialized Resource Family that is prepared to meet the child’s needs.
Spastic – Describes a muscle with sudden, abnormal involuntary spasms. People with cerebral palsy often have spastic muscles. It should be used to describe a muscle rather than a person.
Special Needs – Term used to identify the needs of a child waiting for adoption. Nearly all children in foster care are considered to have special needs due to their age, ethnic heritage, need to be placed with siblings, and physical, mental/cognitive, and emotional problems that may be genetic, the result of abuse and neglect, or the result of multiple moves in foster care.
Speech Impairment – Difficulty producing readily understandable speech. A person with speech impairment may have limited speech or irregular speech patterns.
Termination of Parental Rights – Legal action taken by a judge to terminate the parent-child relationship. This action ends the rights of a parent to the care, custody and control of a child and to any benefits which, by law, would flow to or from the child, such as inheritance. When the parental rights of both birth parents have been legally relinquished or terminated, the child is considered legally free for adoption. The 326.26 hearing is frequently where this occurs.
Timeliness – Because a child experiences time differently than adults, it is important to make decisions based upon a child’s sense of time. Legally, because of the passage of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), the permanency planning hearing must be held 12 months after a child enters foster care. The child welfare agency must initiate or join in termination proceedings for all children who have been in foster care for 15 out of the most recent 22 months. (The law also provides for circumstances in which it is not necessary to file such proceedings.) Resource Parents must be aware of timeframes and help the agency worker progress in a timely manner.
Title IV-E – The Title IV-E AAP is a federal program that provides assistance to families adopting qualifying children from foster care. Money through this program is distributed to adoptive families by each state.
Waiting Child – Term used to identify a child, usually in the foster care system, who is waiting for adoption. These children generally are of school age, members of a sibling group, children of color, and have physical, mental/cognitive, and emotional problems that may be genetic or the result of experiences of abuse and neglect.
Well-being – Well-being includes the physical, emotional, social, mental and moral/spiritual healthy development of a child. Resource Parents must assure well-being of children in foster care.