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.
Ombudsman (in child welfare)
A Government official who is responsible for addressing and resolving citizens’ complaints. Although the purpose, responsibilities, and duties vary by State, an ombudsmsan or ombudsperson, also known in some jurisdictions as a child advocate, provides oversight of children’s services. Ombudsman offices may be instituted by legislation, executive order, or by a child welfare agency. A children’s ombudsman can be an independent office or it may be created within the child welfare agency. (Adapted from the National Conference of State Legislatures)
online child predator
Someone who seeks contact with children and adolescents on the internet for abusive and exploitative purposes that are typically sexual. Predators use the internet as a method to facilitate contact with children to potentially harm them online or offline. (INHOPE Association)
A type of adoption in which birth and adoptive families have some form of initial and/or ongoing contact. Children who are adopted need to maintain connection to and relationships with their birth families. Both families should work together to foster the child's relationships.
A system of supremacy and discrimination for the benefit of a limited dominant class that perpetuates itself through differential treatment, ideological domination, and institutional control. (Capacity Building Center for States)
orphan (in intercountry adoption)
A foreign born child who has lost one or both parents due to the death or disappearance of, abandonment or desertion by, separation from, or loss of both parents or the inability of a surviving parent or unwed mother to care for the child properly. (Adapted from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)
Institution that houses children who are orphaned, abandoned, or whose parents are unable to care for them. In the United States, orphanages have been replaced by group homes, but traditional orphanages are still used in various countries.
OPPLA/APPLA (other planned permanent living arrangement) (see OPPLA/APPLA)
other planned permanent living arrangement (OPPLA/APPLA)
Also known as another planned permanent living arrangement (APPLA), a term created by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 to replace the term "long-term foster care." With OPPLA, the child welfare agency maintains care and custody of the youth and arranges a living situation in which the youth is expected to remain until adulthood. OPPLA or APPLA is a permanency option only when other options, such as reunification, relative placement, adoption, or legal guardianship, have been ruled out.
The anticipated or actual effect of program activities and outputs. An outcome constitutes changes or improvements in the target populations being served or the target systems being affected. The Child and Family Services Reviews incorporate the following seven outcomes in evaluating State child welfare programs: (1) Children are, first and foremost, protected from abuse and neglect; (2) children are safely maintained in their homes whenever possible; (3) children have permanency and stability in their living situations; (4) the continuity of family relationships and connections is preserved for children; (5) families have enhanced capacity to provide for their children's needs; (6) children receive appropriate services to meet their educational needs; and (7) children receive adequate services to meet their physical and mental health needs. (American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law)
Also called foster care, including family foster care, kinship care, treatment foster care, and residential and group care. Out-of-home care encompasses the placements and services provided to children and families when children must be removed from their homes because of child safety concerns, as a result of serious parent-child conflict, or to treat serious physical or behavioral health conditions that cannot be addressed within the family. (See Out-of-Home Care)
Activities to bring services, resources, or information to people in their homes or usual environments.
Used interchangeably with the term "disproportionality" to refer to the proportion of ethnic or racial groups of children in child welfare compared to those groups in the general population.