Definition of Terms

Terms Used in Juvenile Court
Like a trial; the hearing in which a judge listens to testimony and declares if the alleged charges are true.

Written statement of facts; the person who signs the affidavit swears an oath that the information given is true.

A charge or claim made against someone.

A complaint to a higher court asking to overturn the decision made by a lower court.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)
A specially trained community member who is selected by the judge to advocate for the best interests of the child.

Case Plan
The list of steps that all parties must take before a child returns to the parents’ home; it is very important that parents follow the case plan and complete every requirement of the plan; case plans are reviewed at least every 6 months.

Case Manager
The person employed by DFACS to monitor the progress that a family is making on their case plan; the case manager can assist in providing services to the family and arranging visitation with the children.

Child Abuse
When a parent or caretaker intentionally injures a child; when a parent or caretaker intentionally neglects or exploits a child; any sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.

Citizen Review Panel
A group of trained community members who review the progress a family is making on their case plan and report those findings to the judge.

A formal charge or allegation made against another person.

CPS (Child Protective Services)
The section of DFACS that responds to initial complaints of possible abuse of deprivation.

Person who has been given physical custody of a child and is required to provide for that child’s needs and safety.

Juvenile actions or conduct in violation of criminal law and, in some contexts, status offenders.

Juvenile who has been adjudicated by a judicial officer of a juvenile court as having committed a delinquent act.

Dependent Child
  • (1) A child who is not receiving proper parental care; this includes a child who is not getting proper food, is not going to school, or is not receiving proper medical care;
  • (2) A child who has been illegally adopted;
  • (3) A child who has been abandoned;
  • (4) A child who does not have a parent or guardian.

DFACS (Division of Family And Children Services)
A state agency under the Department of Human Resources that provides child protection services and case management services families.

Hearing after the adjudication to determine where a child will live while the parents complete the case plan.

Foster Care
State licensed temporary home, group home or shelter where a child may reside during court proceedings and while the parents work on the terms of the case plan.

Person, other than the parent, who has legal responsibility for a child.

A trial or proceeding before a judge.

The power of a court to hear a case.

Legal Father
A man who has a legal right to be included in the upbringing and care of a child; a legal father is one of the following:
  • 1 A man who is married to the mother at the time a child was conceived or born;
  • 2 A man who is not married to the mother, but acknowledges paternity and legitimates the child through a court action;
  • 3 A biological father who acknowledges paternity and marries the mother.
Note: Naming a man as the biological father on a birth certificate, merely determining paternity through a blood test or ordering him to pay child support does not make him a legal father.

The process in which a man acknowledges paternity and establishes a legal father-child relationship.

Mandated Reporter
A person required by law to report suspicion of a child abuse; this includes doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, childcare providers, and others.

A plan in which custody will not return to the parents; in some cases, non-reunification plans may precede a termination of parental rights action.

Either the petitioner or the respondent in a lawsuit. The parties to a deprivation case are DFACS, parents and the child advocate.

Permanency Hearing
A hearing after the disposition to determine what the permanent plan for the child is going to be; Federal law mandates that this hearing must take place no later than 1 YEAR after the day a child is taken into custody.

A legal document that sets forth the reasons the court should get involved in a matter and asks the court to take a certain action.

Party that is making the claim of abuse or deprivation against the parents.

Putative Father
Man who is alleged to be the biological father of a child; putative fathers have no legal rights to the child, but can establish those rights by legitimating the child.

Person against whom allegations or charges are brought.

SAAG (Special Assistant Attorney General)
The lawyer who represents DFACS.

Status Offense
Act that is declared by statute to be an offense but only when committed by a juvenile. It can be adjudicated only by a juvenile court.

A legal document requiring a person to come to court; if you get a subpoena, you must come to court.

A legal document notifying you of a court case and telling you when to come to court.

TPR (Termination of Parental Rights)
Legal and permanent severance of the parent-child relationship; if parental rights are terminated, the child may become eligible for adoption.