Working with the Courts in Child Protection
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau. Jones, William G.|
|Year Published: 2006|
Glossary of Terms
Adjournment–the suspension of business or sessions, either for a fixed time, indefinitely, or until the opening of another term.
Adjudicatory Hearings–held by the juvenile and family court to determine whether a child has been maltreated or whether another legal basis exists for the State to intervene to protect the child.
Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)–signed into law November 1997 and designed to improve the safety of children, to promote adoption and other permanent homes for children who need them, and to support families. The law requires CPS agencies to provide more timely and focused assessment and intervention services to the children and families that are served within the CPS system.
CASA–court-appointed special advocates (usually volunteers) who serve to ensure that the needs and interests of a child in child protection judicial proceedings are fully protected.
Case Closure–the process of ending the relationship between the CPS worker and the family that often involves a mutual assessment of progress. Optimally, cases are closed when families have achieved their goals and the risk of maltreatment has been reduced or eliminated.
Case Plan–the casework document that outlines the outcomes, goals, and tasks necessary to be achieved in order to reduce the risk of maltreatment.
Case Planning–the stage of the CPS case process where the CPS caseworker develops a case plan with the family members.
Caseworker Competency–demonstrated professional behaviors based on the knowledge, skills, personal qualities, and values a person holds.
Central Registry–a centralized database containing information on all substantiated/founded reports of child maltreatment in a selected area (typically a State).
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)–see Keeping Children and Families Safe Act.
Child Protective Services (CPS)–the designated social services agency (in most States) to receive reports, investigate, and provide intervention and treatment services to children and families in which child maltreatment has occurred. Frequently, this agency is located within larger public social service agencies, such as Departments of Social Services.
Civil Contempt–the willful failure to do something that a court has ordered, such as refusing to testify when the court has found that no privilege applies or refusing to pay child support when there are ample funds to do so. The usual sanction is incarceration for a term that lasts until the person in contempt complies with the court order.
Concurrent Planning–identifies alternative plans for permanent placement of a child by addressing both reunification and legal permanency with a new parent or caregiver if reunification efforts fail.
Consent Decree–a decree entered by a court that is determined by the parties' agreement; a settlement between the parties that is subject to judicial approval and supervision.
Continuance–an adjournment of a case from one day to another or to a later hour of the same day.
Criminal Contempt–an act that obstructs justice or attacks the integrity of the court that is punishable by fine or imprisonment or both. Criminal contempt may be indirect or direct. Indirect contempt is contempt occurring outside the courtroom, such as a willful violation of a court's order. Direct contempt is disruptive or disrespectful behavior that occurs in the presence of the judge, such as uttering an epithet when the judge announces an unfavorable decision.
Cross-examination–questioning of a witness by attorneys other than the one who called the person as a witness.
Cultural Competence–a set of attitudes, behaviors, and policies that integrates knowledge about groups of people into practices and standards to enhance the quality of services to all cultural groups being served.
Declaratory Judgment–a court decision which simply declares the rights of the parties or expresses the opinion of the court on a question of law without ordering anything to be done.
Delinquency–the commitment of an offense by a youth of what would be a crime if he or she were an adult.
Dependent Child–as used in statues providing for the care of dependent, neglected, and delinquent children, the term means dependent upon the public support; any child under the age of 18 who is destitute, or whose home by reason of neglect by the parents is an unfit place for such child, or whose father, mother, guardian, or custodian does not properly provide for such a child.
Differential Response–an area of CPS reform that offers greater flexibility in responding to allegations of abuse and neglect. Also referred to as "dual track" or "multi-track" response, it permits CPS agencies to respond differentially to children's needs for safety, the degree of risk present, and the family's needs for services and support. See "dual track."
Discovery–pretrial process that allows each party to obtain information relevant to the case from the other parties.
Depositions–transcribed oral examinations under oath.
Dispositional Hearings–held by the juvenile and family court to determine the legal resolution of cases after adjudication, such as whether placement of the child in out of home care is necessary, and what services the children and family will need to reduce the risk and to address the effects of maltreatment.
Dual Track–term reflecting new CPS response systems that typically combine a nonadversarial service-based assessment track for cases where children are not at immediate risk with a traditional CPS investigative track for cases where children are unsafe or at greater risk for maltreatment. See "differential response."
Duces Tecum–a type of subpoena or court order that requires a person to produce for the court specified documents or records.
Due Process–The principle that every person has the protection of a day in court, representation by an attorney, and the benefit of procedures that are speedy, fair, and impartial.
Evaluation of Family Progress–the stage of the CPS case process where the CPS caseworker measures changes in family behaviors and conditions (risk factors), monitors risk elimination or reduction, assesses strengths, and determines case closure.
Exculpatory–evidence or testimony that exonerates or clears the defendant.
Ex Parte–on behalf of or involving only one party to a legal matter and in the absence of and usually without notice to the other party.
Expert Testimony–opinion testimony about a subject that is outside the judge's or jury's knowledge or experience, provided by a witness with established expertise on that subject.
Family Assessment–the stage of the child protection process when the CPS caseworker, community treatment provider, and the family reach a mutual understanding regarding the behaviors and conditions that must change to reduce or eliminate the risk of maltreatment, the most critical treatment needs that must be addressed, and the strengths on which to build.
Family Drug Court–a drug court that deals with cases involving parental rights in which an adult is the litigant (i.e., any party to a lawsuit, which means plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, respondent, cross-complainant and cross-defendant, but not a witness or attorney); the case comes before the court through either a criminal or civil proceeding; and the case arises out of the substance abuse of a parent.
Family Group Conferencing–a family meeting model used by CPS agencies to optimize family strengths in the planning process. This model brings the family, extended family, and others important in the family's life (e.g., friends, clergy, neighbors) together to make decisions regarding how best to ensure safety of the family members.
Family Unity Model–a family meeting model used by CPS agencies to optimize family strengths in the planning process. This model is similar to the Family Group Conferencing model.
Full Disclosure–information provided to the family regarding the steps in the CPS intervention process, the requirements of CPS, the expectations of the family, the consequences if the family does not fulfill the expectations, and the rights of the parents to ensure that the family completely understands the process.
Guardian ad Litem–a lawyer or layperson who represents a child in juvenile or family court. Usually this person considers the "best interest" of the child and may perform a variety of roles, including those of independent investigator, advocate, advisor, and guardian for the child. A layperson who serves in this role is sometimes known as a court-appointed special advocate or CASA.
Hearsay–an out-of-court statement made by someone other than the witness that is offered for the truth of that statement.
Home Visitation Programs–prevention programs that offer a variety of family-focused services to pregnant mothers and families with new babies. Activities frequently encompass structured visits to the family's home and may address positive parenting practices, nonviolent discipline techniques, child development, maternal and child health, available services, and advocacy.
Immunity–established in all child abuse laws to protect reporters from civil law suits and criminal prosecution resulting from filing a report of child abuse and neglect.
Initial Assessment or Investigation–the stage of the CPS case process where the CPS caseworker determines the validity of the child maltreatment report, assesses the risk of maltreatment, determines if the child is safe, develops a safety plan if needed to assure the child's protection, and determines services needed.
Injunction–an equitable remedy in the form of a court order compelling a party to do or refrain from doing a specified act.
Intake–the stage of the CPS case process where the CPS caseworker screens and accepts reports of child maltreatment.
Interview Protocol–a structured format to ensure that all family members are seen in a planned strategy, that community providers collaborate, and that information gathering is thorough.
Jurisdiction–the power or right to exercise authority.
Juvenile and Family Courts–established in most States to resolve conflict and to otherwise intervene in the lives of families in a manner that promotes the best interest of children. These courts specialize in areas such as child maltreatment, domestic violence, juvenile delinquency, divorce, child custody, and child support.
Juvenile Drug Court–a drug court that focuses on juvenile delinquency matters and status offenses that involve juveniles who are substance abusers.
Keeping Children and Families Safe Act–The Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-36) included the reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in its Title I, Sec. 111. CAPTA provides minimum standards for defining child physical abuse and neglect and sexual abuse that States must incorporate into their statutory definitions in order to receive Federal funds. CAPTA defines child abuse and neglect as "at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm."
Kinship Care–formal child placement by the juvenile court and child welfare agency in the home of a child's relative.
Liaison–the designation of a person within an organization who has responsibility for facilitating communication, collaboration, and coordination between agencies involved in the child protection system.
Litigant–a party to a lawsuit.
Mandated Reporter–individuals required by State statutes to report suspected child abuse and neglect to the proper authorities (usually CPS or law enforcement agencies). Mandated reporters typically include professionals, such as educators and other school personnel, health care and mental health professionals, social workers, childcare providers, and law enforcement officers. Some States identify all citizens as mandated reporters.
Multidisciplinary Team–established between agencies and professionals within the child protection system to discuss cases of child abuse and neglect and to aid in decisions at various stages of the CPS case process. These teams also may be designated by different names, including child protection teams, interdisciplinary teams, or case consultation teams.
Neglect–the failure to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision, or proper weather protection (heat or coats). Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling, special educational needs, or allowing excessive truancies. Psychological neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love, chronic inattention to the child, exposure to spouse abuse, or drug and alcohol abuse.
Out of Home Care–childcare, foster care, or residential care provided by persons, organizations, and institutions to children who are placed outside their families, usually under the jurisdiction of juvenile or family court.
Overrule–to set aside the authority of a former decision; the act of court in rejecting a motion or objection made by a party to a lawsuit.
Parens Patriae Doctrine–originating in feudal England, a doctrine that vests in the State a right of guardianship of minors. This concept has gradually evolved into the principle that the community, in addition to the parent, has a strong interest in the care and nurturing of children. Schools, juvenile courts, and social service agencies all derive their authority from the State's power to protect children who are unable to protect themselves.
Parent or Caretaker–person responsible for the care of the child.
Petitions–a document containing allegations of child abuse or neglect that is typically filed by the CPS attorney in juvenile court.
Physical Abuse–the inflicting of a nonaccidental physical injury upon a child. This may include, burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating, or otherwise harming a child. It may, however, have been the result of over-discipline or physical punishment that is inappropriate to the child's age.
Preponderance of the Evidence–the burden of proof for civil cases in most States, including child maltreatment proceedings. The attorney for CPS or other petitioner must show by a preponderance of evidence that the abuse or neglect happened. This standard means that the evidence is more credible than the evidence presented by the defendant party.
Primary Prevention–activities geared to a sample of the general population to prevent child abuse and neglect from occurring. Also referred to as "universal prevention."
Protective Factors–strengths and resources that appear to mediate or serve as a "buffer" against risk factors that contribute to vulnerability to maltreatment or against the negative effects of maltreatment experiences.
Protocol–an interagency agreement that delineates joint roles and responsibilities by establishing criteria and procedures for working together on cases of child abuse and neglect.
Psychological Maltreatment–a pattern of caregiver behavior or extreme incidents that convey to children that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value to meeting another's needs. This can include parents or caretakers using extreme or bizarre forms of punishment or threatening or terrorizing a child. The term "psychological maltreatment" is also known as emotional abuse or neglect, verbal abuse, or mental abuse.
Putative Father–the alleged or supposed male parent; the person alleged to have fathered a child whose parentage is at issue.
Respondent–an answering party in a proceeding in juvenile or family court.
Response Time–a determination made by CPS and law enforcement regarding the immediacy of the response needed to a report of child abuse or neglect.
Review Hearings–held by the juvenile and family court to review dispositions (usually every 6 months) and to determine the need to maintain placement in out of home care or court jurisdiction of a child.
Risk–the likelihood that a child will be maltreated in the future.
Risk Assessment–to assess and measure the likelihood that a child will be maltreated in the future, frequently through the use of checklists, matrices, scales, and other methods of measurement.
Risk Factors–behaviors and conditions present in the child, parent, or family that likely will contribute to child maltreatment occurring in the future.
Safety–absence of an imminent or immediate threat of moderate-to-serious harm to the child.
Safety Assessment–a part of the CPS case process in which available information is analyzed to identify whether a child is in immediate danger of moderate or serious harm.
Safety Plan–a casework document developed when it is determined that the child is in imminent or potential risk of serious harm. In the safety plan, the caseworker targets the factors that are causing or contributing to the risk of imminent serious harm to the child, and identifies, along with the family, the interventions that will control the safety factors and ensure the child's protection.
Secondary Prevention–activities targeted to prevent breakdowns and dysfunctions among families who have been identified as at risk for abuse and neglect.
Service or Constructive Service–the act of delivering to, or informing someone of, a writ, summons, or other notice as prescribed by law.
Service Agreement–the casework document developed between the CPS caseworker and the family that outlines the tasks necessary to achieve goals and outcomes necessary for risk reduction.
Service Provision–the stage of the CPS casework process when CPS and other service providers deliver specific services geared toward the reduction of risk of maltreatment.
Sexual Abuse–inappropriate adolescent or adult sexual behavior with a child. It includes fondling a child's genitals, making the child fondle the adult's genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, sexual exploitation, or exposure to pornography. To be considered child abuse, these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of a child (for example a baby-sitter, a parent, or a daycare provider) or related to the child. If a stranger commits these acts, it would be considered sexual assault and handled solely by the police and criminal courts.
Status Offender–a juvenile under the jurisdiction of the court because of acts that would not be criminal if committed by an adult, but that indicate that the child is beyond parental control.
Status Offenses –transgressions of children that would not be crimes if they were legal age; primarily involve running away and truancy. The age for bringing such charges varies from State to State.
Substantiated–an investigation disposition concluding that the allegation of maltreatment or risk of maltreatment was supported or founded, as defined by State law or State policy. A CPS determination means that credible evidence exists that child abuse or neglect has occurred.
Suspended Sentence–a sentence that the defendant will not have to serve if he or she complies with the conditions of probation.
Sustain–to allow or uphold as valid.
Termination of Parental Rights Hearing–a legal proceeding to free a child from a parent's legal custody so that others can adopt the child. The legal basis for termination of parental rights differs from State to State, but most States consider the failure of the parent to support or communicate with the child for a specified period, parental failure to improve home conditions, extreme or repeated neglect or abuse, parental incapacity to care for the child, and/or extreme deterioration of the parent-child relationship. In making this finding, the court is determining that the parents will not be able to provide adequate care for the child in the future by using a standard of clear and convincing evidence. This burden of proof is higher than preponderance of the evidence, which is used in civil abuse or neglect cases where termination is not sought.
Tertiary Prevention–treatment efforts geared to address situations where child maltreatment has already occurred, with the goals of preventing child maltreatment from occurring in the future and of avoiding the harmful effects of child maltreatment.
Transactional Immunity–a broader form of use immunity that bars prosecution of a witness for any event or transaction described in the witness's compelled testimony, regardless of the source of the evidence against that person.
Treatment–the stage of the child protection case process when specific services are provided by CPS and other providers to reduce the risk of maltreatment, support families in meeting case goals, and address the effects of maltreatment.
Universal Prevention–activities and services directed at the general public with the goal of stopping the occurrence of maltreatment before it starts. Also referred to as "primary prevention."
Unsubstantiated (not substantiated)–an investigation disposition that determines that there is not sufficient evidence under State law or policy to conclude that the child has been maltreated or is at risk of maltreatment. A CPS determination means that credible evidence does not exist that child abuse or neglect has occurred.
Use Immunity–bars the use of a witness's compelled testimony and statements from being used directly or indirectly against that person in a subsequent trial.
Voir Dire–the inquiry of prospective jurors to determine if the jurors are fit for jury duty in a given case.
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