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The person(s) who gave birth, or fathered the child.

A person who has the responsibility to care for a young person in foster care.

(short for Court Appointed Special Advocate) An adult volunteer, assigned by the court to study and protect the best interests of a youth in a civil, criminal abuse or neglect case. The CASA and the youth should talk on an ongoing basis. The CASA is your voice in the courtroom.

Refers to individuals that are unrelated by either birth or marriage, who have an emotionally significant relationship with another individual that takes on the characteristics of a family relationship.

Placing a child in the temporary care of a family other than its own as the result of problems or challenges that are taking place within the birth family.

A home which is licensed by the state or an agency to take in children and youth who have been placed in foster care.

(short for Guardian Ad Litum) Minor children cannot make legal decisions for themselves, nor bind themselves legally to any contractual obligations. Therefore, in any legal proceeding where the legal interests of a child and the legal interests of its parents are considered to be adverse or in conflict with each other, a guardian ad litem will be appointed for a child by the court. This independent adult will act on behalf of the child in the legal proceeding, and make certain that the interests and legal rights of the child are given adequate consideration and are adequately protected in the process. The legal protective status of a guardian ad litem will exist only within the confines of the particular court case in which the appointment was made.

A home or facility where a number of unrelated young people live with house parents or rotating staff (caregivers). More specialized therapeutic or treatment group homes have specially-trained staff to assist children with emotional and behavioral difficulties. The make-up and staffing of the group home can be adapted to meet the unique needs of its residents.

A person who fulfills some of the custodial and parenting responsibilities of the legal parents of a child, although the court or biological parents of the child may continue to hold some jurisdiction and decisionmaking authority over the child. Guardians are subject to ongoing supervision by the court and do not have the same reciprocal rights of inheritance as birth or adoptive parents have with their children. The relationship between the guardian and child ends when it is terminated by the court, or when the child reaches the age of majority. Guardianship (see Legal Guardianship).

Refers to certain birth defects and impairments that may be suffered by a child as the result of heavy alcohol consumption by its mother during pregnancy. Symptoms may include significant learning and behavioral disorders (including ADHD), poor social judgment, and impulsive behaviors.

A program in most states that is designed to keep families together by providing support and intervention services to children and families in their home. The family is observed, evaluated and treated while they are still together, with a goal of avoiding foster care placement.

(Short for Education and Training Voucher) Provides Federal Chafee funds for young people from foster care to support their higher education. In most cases, funds can help pay for a Trade or Vocational school, housing, transportation, books, fees and other costs related to education. See also Chafee.

A physical or mental impairment which can limit a young person’s ability in the following areas: self care, language skills, learning, personal mobility, self-direction, potential for independent living and potential for economic self-sufficiency as an adult.

Short for Department of Human Services or Department of Health and Human Services, common titles for the agency that provides services for children and youth in foster care. See also Agency.

The decision about where the youth should live (such as in state custody), as well as what the parents, agency and the youth must do to change the current situation. Sometimes court hearings are continued and changed to another date for various reasons. For instance, someone may not show up, or everyone at court may feel it’s a good idea to delay the hearing.

Provides Federal Chafee funds for young people from foster care to support their higher education. In most cases, funds can help pay for a Trade or Vocational school, housing, transportation, books, fees and other costs related to education. See also Chafee.

A youth who is legally declared an adult (by a court) prior to age 18. A youth in foster care who emancipates is no longer a ward of the court (or in foster care).

Emotional abuse can be difficult to pin down because there may not be physical signs. Emotional abuse happens when yelling and anger go too far or when an individual is criticized, threatened, or dismissed until their self-esteem and feelings of self-worth are damaged. Emotional abuse can hurt and cause damage just as physical abuse does.

Problems that affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, analyze, or store information which can make it difficult for a student to learn as quickly as someone who isn’t affected by learning disabilities. A learning disability doesn’t have anything to do with a person’s intelligence.

Placement with a person who is charged with the legal responsibility for the care and management of the child. A legal guardian will be under the supervision of the court and will be required to appear in court to give periodic reports about the status of the child and its estate.

Since a child can have only one set of legal parents at a time, when the parental rights of a child’s biological parents are legally terminated, the child becomes legally “free” to be adopted by someone else who then becomes the legal parent.

Pages or a packet of information prepared with or for a child about his/her social background. It includes pictures and stories about people, events and places which are important to the child’s history and life.

Abilities that are helpful to a young person to possess or gain to ensure a successful transition to adulthood. These include skills and knowledge pertaining to employment, housing and home life, money management, health and self care, relationships, education, and daily living.

Physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse of a child or youth.

The successful performance of the mind, leading to productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity.