Many child welfare terms are subject to interpretation. The Glossary identifies commonly held definitions for terms that can be found on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website or in products and materials developed by external entities (e.g., Federal or State Agencies or other reliable organizations). When noted, Information Gateway is cited as the source. The Glossary also provides common acronyms and includes links to information on major Federal legislation and related child welfare terms. The Glossary will be updated as new terminology emerges in the field, as new legislation is enacted, and as child welfare terms take on new meaning.
For additional information on glossary terms, please see our index Search A-Z.
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.
Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (See Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption.)
A diverse group of severe chronic conditions caused by mental and/or physical impairments. People with developmental disabilities may have problems with major life activities such as language, mobility, learning, self-help, and independent living. Developmental disabilities begin anytime during development up to 22 years of age and usually last throughout a person's lifetime.
A way of structuring child protective services to allow for more flexibility in how it responds to low- and moderate-risk cases and better meet the needs of families. In differential response systems, screened-in reports are assigned to one of two (or more) tracks based on factors such as the type and severity of the maltreatment, the number and sources of previous reports, and the willingness of a family to participate in services. (See alternative response.)
The process of developing and implementing emergency responses in the event of a natural or human-made disaster.
Training that develops self-control, self-sufficiency, and orderly conduct. Discipline is based on respect for an individual's capability and is not to be confused with punishment.
The unequal experience or outcome of one racial or ethnic group as compared to the experience or outcome of another group. Disparities are evident through comparisons of two or more groups when looking at the same issue, experience, or outcome. (Capacity Building Center for States)
Hearings held by the juvenile and 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.
disproportionality (See racial disproportionality.)
disruption (See adoption disruption.)
dissolution (See adoption dissolution.)
The presence of differences within a given setting, generally referring to psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among individuals. A diverse group, community, or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist and a variety of backgrounds, races, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, religions, cultures, and/or other identities are represented. (Capacity Building Center for States)
The adoption of children residing in the United States by adoptive parents who are U.S. citizens and/or lawful permanent residents.
A pattern of assaultive and/or coercive behaviors, including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion, that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners.
dossier (in intercountry adoption)
A collection of required documents sent to a foreign country in order to process the adoption of a child in that country's legal system. Adoptive families will have documents translated for those involved in the process of adoption in the child's country of origin. Required information varies by country but generally includes records to prove a family's identity, finances, health, and character.
Distinguishes the improper or unhealthy use of medication or alcohol from the proper use of a medication as prescribed or alcohol in moderation. This includes the repeated use of drugs to produce pleasure, alleviate stress, and/or alter or avoid reality. It also includes using prescription drugs in ways other than prescribed or using someone else’s prescription medication. Behavioral changes are also accompanied by changes in brain function, especially in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers. This term can be applied to a caregiver or a child. If applied to a child, it can include infants exposed to drugs during pregnancy. (Adapted from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.)
dual-system served/crossover youth
Youth who are involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. These youth are also sometimes referred to as joint-case or multisystem-involved youth. (Adapted from Center for Juvenile Justice Reform & Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps.)
dual track (See differential response.)
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.