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.
The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery. (Human Trafficking Hotline)
LD (See learning disability.)
The ability to set a direction and influence others to follow. Increasingly, child welfare researchers and reformers have focused on the importance of leadership in building and maintaining an effective workforce. Agency administrators and judicial officers can set the tone for the organization and affirm the importance of its workforce through large and small decisions as well as day-to-day interactions with staff.
learning disability (LD)
A neurological condition that interferes with an individual's ability to store, process, or produce information. Learning disabilities can affect one's ability to read, write, speak, spell, compute math, and reason, and can affect an individual's attention, memory, coordination, social skills, and emotional maturity. (Adapted from Learning Disabilities Association of America.)
An organization/system in which there is a culture that is proactive and supports ongoing learning as a framework for continuous quality improvement. (Adapted from the CB CQI IM-12-07.)
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 custody (See child custody.)
An adult to whom the court has given parental responsibility and authority for a child. Appointment as guardian requires the filing of a petition and approval by the court and can be done without terminating the parental rights of the child's parents.
legal risk placement
A placement made prior to the relinquishment or termination of parental rights where the prospective adoptive parents acknowledge, in writing, that a child may return to the care of his/her parent. A final decree of adoption shall not be entered in any jurisdiction until all required consents or a termination of parental rights are obtained or dispensed with in accordance with applicable law.
legal service provider
A contractor, subcontractor, grantee, or subgrantee funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) that coordinates legal services and pro bono representation for unaccompanied children in ORR custody. (Office of Refugee Resettlement)
legally free (in adoption)
A child is legally free for adoption when the parental rights of that child's birth parents have been terminated in a court of law.
licensing, licensure for child placement
Regulations in each State that ensure children are cared for in physically and developmentally safe environments. Licensing may not be required for kinship or relative care.
life book, life story book
A journal or scrapbook that provides a chronicle of a child's life story and personal history. A social worker, therapist, foster parent, or adoptive parent can help a child to make a life book. It can then serve as a therapeutic tool to help facilitate the child's identity formation and understanding of adoption, and provides a way to share parts of the child's life not spent with their parents.
lived experience (in child welfare)
Refers to the personal knowledge and exposure to specific circumstances and events, such as the involvement with the child welfare system and/or placement in foster care. Specifically, individuals who were in foster care may be able to use their voice and share their unique experience to inform policy decisions for the benefit of children and families.
Applied lived experience that may support systems change. Lived expertise acknowledges the depth of knowledge and expertise that can come from firsthand experience with a system.
Map or a simple illustration of what an individual does, why he/she does it, what he/she hopes to achieve, and how he/she will measure achievement. It includes the anticipated outcomes of services, indicators of those outcomes, and measurement tools to evaluate the outcomes.
long-term foster care
The placement of a child in foster care for an extended period of time. The Adoption and Safe Families Act does not recognize long-term foster care as a permanency option and, increasingly, State child welfare systems no longer view long-term foster care as a placement alternative.
The harm or distress resulting from losing. Children and families involved in child welfare typically have suffered many losses that may be attributed to abuse and neglect, removal from the home (loss of family and friends), and/or the transitions or disruptions they may experience throughout the process.