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.
IAA (See Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000.)
ICAMA (See Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance.)
ICPC (See Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.)
IEP (See Individual Education Plan.)
IEPA (See Interethnic Adoption Provisions of 1996.)
IFPS (See intensive family preservation services.)
An adoption resulting from abuses such as: abduction, the sale of, trafficking in, and other illegal or illicit activities against children.
An individual admitted to the United States as a lawful permanent resident. Permanent residents are also commonly referred to as immigrants; however, the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) broadly defines an immigrant as any alien in the United States, except one legally admitted under specific nonimmigrant categories (INA section 101(a) (15)). (Adapted from U.S. Department of Homeland Security.)
The act of entering a country or region to which one is not native with the intent of living there.
Legal protection from civil or criminal liability for individuals making reports in good faith of suspected or known instances of child abuse or neglect. (Adapted from the Child Welfare Information Gateway State Statutes Series, Immunity for Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect)
The study of methods to promote the integration of research findings and evidence into child welfare policy and practice. (Adapted from U.S. National Library of Medicine)
Sexual contact between closely related persons. Laws vary across States regarding what constitutes crimes of incest. (Adapted from RAINN)
independent adoption, private adoption
Adoption arranged through an intermediary rather than through a licensed adoption agency to assist prospective parents with the adoption process. This method of adoption usually involves the adoption of an infant. (Adapted from Adoption Options.)
independent living program
A program that assists youth who are transitioning from an out-of-home care placement in receiving services necessary to become independent. Programs provide youth with services such as stable, safe living accommodations, basic life-skill and interpersonal skill-building techniques, educational opportunities, assistance in job preparation and attainment, trauma-informed mental health care, and physical health care. (Adapted from the Administration for Children and Families, Family and Youth Services Bureau Transitional Living Program Fact Sheet)
Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) (See Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption.)
Information and/or data that helps measure progress toward desired outcomes, goals, and objectives. Within the child welfare field, indicators can be used by administrators, policymakers, and researchers to assess an agency/organization's progress toward achieving child safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes.
Individualized Education Program (IEP)
A federally mandated statement of goals written for each child with a disability that is developed, reviewed, and implemented in a school-based setting. The IEP may be revised in a meeting in accordance with outlined regulations and may address the needs of youth with emotional disabilities, learning disabilities, or other health impairments. (Adapted from the U.S. Department of Education.)
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
A law ensuring services to children with disabilities throughout the nation. IDEA governs how states and public agencies provide early intervention, special education, and related services to more than 6.5 million eligible infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities. (U.S. Department of Education)
Services provided to children and families who have been reported to child protective services for possible child abuse or neglect and who are assessed as being able to benefit from services delivered in the home. Services are generally provided to families who have an "open case" with the child welfare agency and whose children remain at home or have returned home from out-of-home care.
The practice or concept of placing a child or youth in a congregate care setting for an extended period. Being institutionalized can impact an individual's future adjustment outside of a structured environment.
A respectful, systematic process of gathering personal information of either clients or clients’ caregivers in order to facilitate service providers as well as clients to make informed decisions about the needed programs and/ or services. (See National Council of Social Services)
A disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18. (Adapted from American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.)
intensive family preservation services
Family-focused, community-based crisis intervention services designed to maintain children safely in their homes and prevent the unnecessary separation of families. They are characterized by small caseloads for workers, short duration of services, 24-hour availability of staff, and the provision of services primarily in the family's home or in another environment familiar to the family. They are often offered to families as an alternative to placing a child in out-of-home care. (See family preservation services)
The adoption of children who are citizens of one country by parents who are citizens of a different country.
Intercountry Adoption Act of 2000 (See Major Federal Legislation Concerned With Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption.)
Interethnic Provisions of 1996 (Section 1808 of P.L. 104-188, Removal of Barriers to Interethnic Adoption) (See Major Federal Legislation Concerned with Child Protection, Child Welfare, and Adoption.)
The placement of children across county and State lines.
Interstate Compact on Adoption and Medical Assistance (ICAMA)
An agreement between member States that governs the interstate delivery of and payment for medical services and adoption assistance payments/subsidies for adopted children with special needs. The agreements are established by the laws of the States that are parties to the Compact. Nearly all 50 States and the District of Columbia are parties to the ICAMA.
Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)
An agreement regulating the placement of children across State lines. All 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have adopted the ICPC as statutory law in their respective jurisdictions.
An action intended to modify an outcome; a set of techniques and therapies practiced in counseling.
investigationA type of child protective services' response that involves the gathering of objective information to determine whether a child was maltreated, or is at risk of maltreatment, and establishes if an intervention is needed. It generally includes face-to-face contact with the alleged victim and results in a disposition as to whether or not the alleged maltreatment occurred. (Child Maltreatment reports)
IR-3 Visa (for intercountry adoption)
An immigrant visa issued to children adopted from non-Hague Convention countries. IR-3 visas are issued after a full and final adoption is completed abroad by both adopting parents, both parents physically see the child prior to or during local adoption proceedings, and the country in which the child resides does not require readoption in the United States. Children who are under 18 automatically acquire U.S. citizenship upon entry to the United States on IR-3 visas. In such cases, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services automatically sends Certificates of Citizenship without requiring additional forms or fees. (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)
IR-4 Visa (for Intercountry Adoption)
A type of immigrant visa issued to children adopted from non-Hague Convention countries. IR-4 visas are issued to children for whom a full and final adoption will be completed in the United States. This classification is used when a foreign country only permits prospective adoptive parents to obtain guardianship of a child, rather than allowing a full and final adoption and/or the prospective adoptive parent(s) have not seen and observed the child prior to the adoption process. Orphans admitted to the United States on IR-4 visas become lawful permanent residents and are automatically processed to receive an Alien Registration Card ("green card"). (Adapted from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.)