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 differences in the percentage of children of a certain racial or ethnic group in the country as compared to the percentage of the children of the same group in the child welfare system. Also see overrepresentation. (Adapted from Casey-CSSP Alliance for Racial Equity in the Child Welfare System)
Efforts made by State social services agencies to provide the assistance and services needed to preserve and reunify families.
recurrence of child abuse and neglect
A substantiated report of child abuse or neglect following a prior substantiation that involved the same child victim or family.
An individual who is located outside of the United Sates; is of special humanitarian concern to the United States; demonstrates that they were persecuted or fear persecution due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group; is not firmly resettled in another country; and is admissible to the United States. (United Sates Citizenship and Immigration Services)
relative adoption (See kinship adoption.)
relative care (See kinship care.)
Voluntary termination or release of all parental rights and duties that legally frees a child to be adopted. This is sometimes referred to as a surrender or as making an adoption plan for one's child.
Public or private agencies who work with children whose specific needs are best addressed in a structured environment.
Services designed for children who need a more structured environment than generally offered in the child's home or in family foster care. They are delivered in a diverse array of settings, with the purpose of providing physical safety and security; maximizing children's growth, development, and potential; supporting and promoting permanency and families' involvement in meeting children's individual needs; and helping children move toward leading productive, satisfying, and independent lives.
residential treatment facility
Structured, 24-hour facility that provides a range of therapeutic, educational, recreational, and support services for children by a professional, interdisciplinary team.
The ability to adapt well to adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or even significant sources of stress. Parental resilience is considered a protective factor in child abuse and neglect prevention. Resilience in children enables them to thrive, mature, and increase competence in the midst of adverse circumstances. Resilience can be fostered and developed in children as it involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that can be learned over time and is impacted by positive and healthy relationships with parents, caregivers, and other adults. (Adapted from the American Psychological Association)
Includes foster/adoptive parents, foster parents, and relative or kinship caregivers. (Adapted from the Annie E. Casey Foundation)
respite care services
Beneficial activities involving temporary care of the child(ren) to provide relief to the caretaker. It may involve care of the children outside of the caretaker's own home for a brief period of time, such as overnight or for a weekend. Not considered by the State to be foster care or other placement. (Children's Bureau)
The time between the log-in of a call to the State agency alleging child maltreatment and the face-to-face contact with the alleged victim, when appropriate, or contact with another person who can provide information. (Children's Bureau)
reunification (See family reunification.)
A meeting between birth relatives and an adopted person. Also see search.
A tool that allows adopted persons and birth parents who do not know each other's identity to register the fact that they are searching for each other. If both parties' names are on the same registry, a "match" is made and the organization can inform the parties or arrange a meeting. Most registries are passive, which means both parties must have independently registered in order for a match to be made. The organization will not search for the missing party. By contrast, an active registry will actively search for birth relatives and usually involves a fee. Both types of registries are operated by private and State organizations. An "access veto" may be filed by one party to the adoption to veto contact and/or the release of identifying information to those searching. Also see search.
An opportunity to evaluate the progress that has been made toward completing the case plan and any court orders and to revise the plan as needed. (Children's Bureau)
In child welfare, the likelihood that a child will be maltreated in the future.
Collection and analysis of information to determine the degree to which key factors that increase the likelihood of future maltreatment to a child or adolescent are present in a family situation
Characteristics at the biological, psychological, family, community, or cultural level that precede and are associated with a higher likelihood of negative outcomes. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)