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.
unaccompanied child (UC)
A child who has no lawful immigration status in the United States, has not attained 18 years of age, and has no parent or legal guardian in the United States available to provide care and physical custody. (Office of Refugee Resettlement)
unaccompanied refugee minors (URMs)
Children who are separated from both parents and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible to do so, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In resettlement terms, URMs are children under age 18 who are resettled alone in the United States without a parent or relative able to care for them. (Adapted from Office of Refugee Resettlement)
Populations sharing a particular characteristic, as well as geographic communities, that have been systematically denied a full opportunity to participate in aspects of economic, social, and civic life. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families)
unsubstantiated (not substantiated)
An investigation disposition that determines that there is not sufficient or credible evidence under State law or policy to conclude that the child has been maltreated or is at serious risk of maltreatment. (Children’s Bureau)
U.S. authorized entity (in intercountry adoption)
An agency or person that is accredited or temporarily accredited or approved by an accrediting entity, or a supervised provider acting under the supervision and responsibility of an accredited agency or temporarily accredited agency or approved person. (Adapted from U.S. Department of State)
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)
Federal agency within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that must approve all intercountry adoptions. USCIS determines whether a particular child meets the definition of a Hague Convention-adopted person, conducts background and criminal checks on all household members, (including fingerprint checks of all household members aged 18 and older), approves the adoption home study, and issues a Certificate of Citizenship. (Adapted from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)