Access Card

Access is government-funded health care insurance for low-income eligible families. It is also known as Medicaid.

Act 33/34 Clearances

Childline Child Abuse Clearance and PA state Police Clearance


Adjudication is a court decision. For a foster child, adjudication is a decision that he/she is either delinquent or dependent.


The legal process whereby adults become parents to children not born to them. An adoptive parent assumes all legal rights and responsibilities for the adopted child.

Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)

ASFA establishes unequivocally that the goals for children in the child welfare system are safety, permanence and well being. The law intends to make the child welfare system more responsive to the multiple, frequently complex, needs of children and their families. While affirming the need to forge linkages between the child welfare system, the courts and other support systems for families, the law affirms the need to assure the safety and well being of children and their families. The law provides renewed impetus to dismantling the barriers to permanence existing for children in placement and the need to achieve permanence for these children. ASFA has been incorporated into Pennsylvania’s overall policies for the child welfare program.


A person who has been adopted.

Adoption Assistance

Adoption Assistance is financial aid that is available to families who adopt children who are siblings, or children with special medical, physical or emotional needs. Your adoption worker can discuss this with you.

Adoption Certificate

Legal document issued by the state and county of residence that registers the completion of an adoption. It is usually received a few weeks after the adoption is finalized in court. An Adoption Certificate is legal proof of adoption.

Adoption Disruption

The return of an adoptive child to the care of the agency following placement and before legal adoption (finalization).

Adoption Search

When an adoptee attempts to identify and/or locate his/her birth parents.

African American Child

An American born black child of any African descent.

Amended Birth Certificate

Birth certificate of an adopted child received after adoption finalization which identifies adoptive parents as parents of record.

Approved Family

A couple or single person who meets the agency’s adoption & foster care eligibility requirements and completes including the completion of an approved family profile.


Biological parents of a child. Usage of this term is preferred to “real” or “natural” parents.


The development of closeness, commitment, and acceptance; the development of attachment between parent(s) and children.

CASA (Volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates)

Volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are everyday people who are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. A CASA volunteer stays with each child until he or she is placed in a safe, permanent nurturing home.


A social worker who works at a public or private child welfare agency.

Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP)

The Child and Adolescent Service System Program (CASSP) is a national initiative from the Office of Mental Health. CASSP addresses the needs of adolescents and children with serious emotional disturbances who are involved with two or more child-serving agencies. CASSP coordinates services among these agencies, pooling resources to serve the child most appropriately.

Child Protective Services (CPS)

County children and youth agencies provide CPS services to abused and neglected children and their families. These services are designed to protect children from further abuse while working to rehabilitate families.


ChildLine is Pennsylvania’s toll-free telephone hotline to report suspected child abuse and neglect. The telephone Number is 1-800-932-0313.

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment is physical punishment such as spanking. It is strictly prohibited for foster parents to use corporal punishment.

County Children and Youth Agency (C&Y)

The county children and youth agency is the public agency that works with dependent neglected and abused children and their families. The mission of the agency is to help the family to avoid abuse and neglect and to protect children from further abuse.

Custody - Legal guardianship of a child

The individual(s) or the agency that has the right to make decisions on behalf of a child. Agencies retain custody of adoptive children until finalization.

Dependent Child

A dependent child is a child placed in agency custody by a court because a family is unable or unwilling to provide adequate care.

Delinquent Child

A delinquent child, is a child who has committed a delinquent act as determined by the court, and found by the court to require supervision or rehabilitation.

Department of Public Welfare (DPW)

The Department of Public Welfare is the state agency that regulates and monitors child welfare services in Pennsylvania. The department also provides a wide range of programs for children and adults.


A disposition is the part of a court hearing in which the court specifies the type of social service the child will receive.

Early Intervention Services

County mental health/mental retardation agencies use this term to describe services to young children designed to help them avoid or overcome physical or emotional development disabilities. Early intervention services provide the help children need to keep pace with other children their age, both socially and academically. Some foster children may need these services.

Family Profile (Homestudy)

Includes Parent Preparation Sessions, home and office visits with adoption and foster family applicants by a caseworker, as part of the preparation of a written report which contains an overview of the prospective adoptive family.

Family Reunification

This includes all efforts by the service delivery team to reunite children with their families. Foster parents can be a significant part of this team to work with and mentor birth families. Foster families working with birth families can have an extremely positive impact on the children.

Family Service Plan (FSP)

This is a plan that is a part of each family case record. It is prepared by the county agency and includes information about the family; the family’s needs; the agency’s goals for the family; and the kinds of services that will be provided to meet those goals.

Family Service Plan Amendment

This is an amendment to the FSP describing the circumstances that make placement of the child necessary.


The legal process by which an adoptive child becomes a permanent member of the adoptive family.

Foster Care

Temporary placement of a child with an agency approved family when birth parents are unable or unwilling to parent them. The initial goal of foster care is for the child to be reunified with their birth family.

Foster Family

An agency approved family providing temporary care and supervision for a child placed in their home. The foster family provides parental care and supervision, and works with the agency staff to help achieve reunification or other forms of permanence for the child.

Guardian Ad Litem

Guardians Ad Litem are citizens who become part of a court program to represent the best interests of an assigned child. The Guardian Ad Litem is a representative for the child before the court, social service agencies and the community. He/she also protects the child during crisis, court proceedings and follows the child’s progress after the court disposes of the case.

General Protective Services (GPS)

These are activities and services to protect the health and safety of children who are without the proper parental supervision or have been neglected or exploited but not to an extent sufficient to be considered child abuse.

Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)

An IEP is developed to meet the special education needs of the child. The IBP sets specific academic goals for the child.

Individual Service Plan (ISP)

An individual service plan describes the daily care and treatment to be provided to individuals within the context of the family service plan. The plan is developed by the agency serving the individuals.

Independent Living Program (IL)

Independent Living Programs teach children 16 years of age or older, the life skills they will need to live on their own. Services are often provided to older dependent or delinquent youths who are unable to return to their families. The goals of the program – independence and productivity – are defined by the conditions of self-supporting employment, enrollment in educational or vocational training, and a stable place of residence after they complete the program.

Judicial Review

A judicial review is a child welfare case review done every six months in juvenile court by either a judge or court master. At this review, the judge will hear from all parties. Progress will be noted and disposition will be made.

Legally Free Placement

An adoption placement of a child whose birth parents’ legal rights have been terminated in court and the legal adoption process can begin at placement.


A pictorial and written record of the significant events in the life of a child placed in foster care or adoption.

Maximum Legal Risk Placement

The foster care placement of a child where termination of parental rights may or may not occur. The possibility of adoption remains questionable.

Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR)

This refers to agencies that provide services to people with mental illnesses or other intellectual challenges.

Minimum Legal Risk Placement

The foster care placement of a child when there is a high probability of termination of parental rights and the child may be adoptable in the foreseeable future.

Office of Children, Youth and Families (OCYF)

OCYF is the office within the Pennsylvania Department of Welfare that is responsible for funding and regulating public and private services for dependent and delinquent youth.

Open Adoption

A non-legally binding agreement between the adoptive parents and birth parents which allows contact between the adoptive child and the birth parents.

Parent Preparation Sessions

A non-legally binding agreement between the adoptive parents and birth parents which allows contact between the adoptive child and the birth parents.


The provision of love, understanding, guidance, nourishment, security, and protection to a child.

Pennsylvania State Foster Parent Association (PSFPA)

PSFPA is an organization comprised of foster/adoptive parents, professionals, and other interested parties. The goal of the association is to enhance the lives of families and children in Pennsylvania.


A petition is a request for court action filed by the county children and youth agency stating the facts of the case. A petition is filed stating the facts of the case at the time of initial placement and at each review hearing during a child’s foster care placement.

Photolisting Book

Book containing photographs and written descriptions of children eligible for adoption.

Placement Amendment

Changes made to the placement service plan are done with a placement amendment prepared by the agency. It identifies any changes in the original placement service plan. For example, additional services may be identified or the family may make significant progress or complete the goals identified in the family service plan. Copies of the amendments are furnished to the child and the parents.

Placement Service Plan

The placement service plan is a part of the family service plan that is completed when a child is placed in foster or other substitute care. The plan includes a statement of goals that the agency, the foster family and the child agree to work on while the child is in the foster home.

Pre-placement Visits

Visits between the prospective adoptive parents and adoptable child which occur before the placement of that child with the family.

Private Agency

A licensed agency which oversees the adoption process of application, homestudy, placement, and post-placement supervision.

Private Adoption

The placement of a child through an attorney, physician, or other individuals without the assistance of a licensed agency.

Respite Care

Respite care is care provided by short-term substitute caregivers where available. It allows a foster family a temporary relief from parenting responsibility. Respite care is a good prevention for burnout, and can also be used during foster parent illness, times of other stresses and necessity.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

This is a Social Security Administration program, which provides federal funds for eligible adults, and children who have disabilities that prevent adults from finding employment and children from performing age appropriate tasks.

Special Needs Child

A special needs child is a child, who is over the age of 5, or is a member of a minority or sibling group, or has a disability. Special needs children require a special commitment from their foster or adoptive parents. Many special needs children are available for financial adoption assistance.

Subsidized Adoption

Special needs adoption in which the adoptive parents receive a monthly financial grant (subsidy) as well as a medical card for the adopted child.

State Wide Adoption & Permanency Network (SWAN)

SWAN is a partnership among public and private agencies, judges and the legal community, foster and adoptive parents. The Department of Public Welfare through a prime contractor administers the network.
SWAN’s purpose is to build a better collaborative adoption process in Pennsylvania.
The SWAN program serves children in the custody of county children and youth agencies with the goal of adoption. The design of the network is to support the work of the county agencies in expediting the adoption process.

Termination of Parental Rights (TPR)

After all interventions have been exhausted by the agency to reunite a family, a TPR hearing is held before the court for decision and determination. Once a court has granted TPR, the biological parents no longer have any parental rights to the child, legal or otherwise. A TPR can be a voluntary request agreed to by the parent or can be involuntary and presented to the court without the consent and agreement of the parent(s) for the court’s decision.

Transracial Adoption

The adoption of a child who is of a different race than that of the adoptive parents.

Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)

WIC is a supplemental food program for low-income pregnant woman, mothers of infants and children up to age five. WIC is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The program provides vouchers for certain kinds of nutritious food