Children Youth and Families Acronyms and Definitions

Acronyms List


ASFA = Adoption and Safe Families Act

CASA = Court Appointed Special Advocates

CP = Concurrent Planning

CPP = Child Permanency Plan

CPS = Child Protective Services

CYF= Children Youth and Families

CYS= Children Youth Services

FGDM = Family Group Decision Making

FSP = Family Service Plan

GAL = Guardian Ad Litem

GPS = General Protective Services

ICWA = Indian Child Welfare Act

IDD= Intellectual Developmental Disabilities

IEP = Individual Education Plan

IL = Independent Living

ISP = Individual Service Plan

OCFC = Office for Children and Families in the Court

OCYF = Office of Children, Youth and Families

PLC = Permanent Legal Custodians

SWAN = Statewide Adoption Network

TPR = Termination of Parental Rights 


Definitions and Terminology


CASA:  Court-Appointed Special Advocate



  • The Caseworker sets up planning meetings, and checks in with the service providers working with your family. 
  • The Caseworker must make sure you and your families are getting the services you need. 
  • Your Caseworker must tell your progress, or lack of progress, to the court. 
  • Your Caseworker should meet with you regularly. (Westmoreland County Parent Handbook 2011)


ChildLine/Abuse Registry:  Statewide list of all cases of child abuse that are under investigation, indicated, or founded.                                                                         (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Child Abuse Report: the written report of a child’s alleged abuse.

  • DCYF can decide that child abuse is indicated (i.e., likely that it occurred), or
  • DCYF can decide that a report is unfounded (i.e., abuse cannot be proven).
  • If at least one incident was proven to a court’s satisfaction, the case is founded.


Child Permanency Plan (CPP): A plan developed for children, youth and families by county child welfare agencies. (Allegheny County Parent Handbook

  The Child Permanency Plan (CPP):

  • lists the goals for the child and child’s family (usually either going home to the biological parent(s),
  • being placed for adoption or being placed with a relative), as well as the services that must be provided to achieve the goals. 
  • In some counties, this plan is called the Family Service Plan (FSP).  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


Child Protective Services (CPS):  Services provided to children reported as abused and neglected as required by the Child Protective Service (CPS) Law.      (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Child Welfare System:  the child welfare system is

  • the government system that is responsible for taking care of children who are abused or neglected, or whose parents are not able to take care of them.
  •   In Pennsylvania, the state child welfare agency is called the Office of Children, Youth, and Families.
  •   Each county has a child welfare agency.  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


Concurrent Planning:  A process of

  • Working towards one legal permanency goal (typically reunification) while at the same time
  • Establishing and working on an alternative permanency goal in case the primary goal cannot be accomplished in a timely manner. 
  • It is a back-up plan to move children/youth more quickly to a safe and stable permanent family. 
  • It is not a fast track to adoption, but to permanency.  (Office of Children, Youth and Families Bulletin – Concurrent Planning Policy and Implementation))


County Child Welfare Agency: 

  • The county child welfare agency is the agency that is responsible for providing care and assistance to children when their families are not
  • Able to care for them, they are abused, or they are neglected. 
  • In most counties, it is known as the county children and youth agency
  • (In Philadelphia, this called the Department of Human Services (DHS)).  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


Court Order: a legally-binding document stating a Judge’s instructions or directions. (All court orders must be followed by all parties.)


Family Finding:  Family finding involves a process of

  • Searching for, identifying and engaging the relatives - or even close family friends –
  • Of children who have been removed from their homes and placed into foster care or
  • Whose immediate families are receiving services from the county's children and youth agency. 
  • Involving extended family as part of a child's support system is better for the child, in part because we know children are best cared for within their families and communities.  (PA Partnerships for Children)


Family Group Decision Making (FGDM):  A planning process that brings together the child’s parents, extended family members and others with an interest to ensure a child’s safety.  (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Family Service Plan (FSP):  A plan for the CYF client that identifies problems and how to solve them. 

  • It states the amount of time allowed for successful completion and the service programs to be put in place for the family.(Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)
  • A plan where the family sets goals for dealing with the problems that brought them into the system. 
  • The plan also lists what the county agency is going to do to help the family achieve the goals that are set.  (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


Foster Care / Out of Home Placement:  A child’s temporary home and care by a trained caretaker.  (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011) 


Foster/Resource Parents:  Foster/resource parents are people who have been trained to care for children removed from their homes.                                                    (West Moreland County Parent Handbook 2011)


Founded:  There has been a court decision that the child has been abused.  (Child Abuse Prevention Primer, Commonwealth of PA)


Grievance:  A grievance is another name for a complaint. 

  • If you are having problems with your county agency or private provider agency, they will have policies that instruct you how to file a grievance. 
  • If you do not know the agency’s procedure, ask your case worker or contact their supervisor or if needed, contact your lawyer.                                             (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


Guardian Ad Litem (GAL):  A lawyer who is appointed to represent the child/youth in dependency court. 

  • The GAL must tell the judge what the child/youth want and also what he or she thinks is in the best interest of the child/youth. 
  • If the child/youth came into the system because of truancy or governability, the GAL should only tell the court what it is the child/youth want and should act in a traditional lawyer’s role. (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


General Protective Services (GPS):  The majority of reports that come to the attention of the children and youth agency involve non- serious injury or neglect. 

These cases are treated by the agency as general protective services (GPS).   GPS cases can include

  • inadequate shelter,
  • truancy,
  • inappropriate discipline,
  • hygiene issues,
  • abandonment or
  • other problems that threaten a child’s opportunity for healthy growth and development.   (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Indicated:  The children and youth agency found that abuse occurred based on medical evidence, the investigation or admission by the perpetrator.                        (Child Abuse Prevention Primer, Commonwealth of PA)


Individual Education Plan (IEP):  Education plan for youth with special needs.   

  • The Education Law Center is an organization that does a lot of work with schools and special education programs. 
  • If you have a child that has special needs you can go to the website 
  • They have a lot of information on how to navigate the educational needs of your child.  (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Judges/Masters:  The Judges/Masters from court will be making decisions during court hearings about your child and family. 

  • Not every hearing will be in front of a Judge, it may be heard by a Master. 
  • Masters can do most of the things Judges can do with the Judges’ permission. 
  • If you have any questions, ask your lawyer.  (West Moreland County Parent Handbook 2011)


Kinship Care / Kinship Placement:  A child’s temporary home with a relative or friend of the family.  (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Medical Assistance:  State-funded medical insurance.  (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Out-of-home Placement:  A temporary home for a child who, for safety reasons, must live away from parent(s).  (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Permanency:  The law requires that every child have a permanent home. 

  • CYF must establish a permanent home. 
  • The child may return to the birth family or, a Judge may decide that the child live with relatives or adoptive parents.                                                            (Allegheny County Parent Handbook 10/2011)


Reasonable Efforts: 

  • Child welfare agencies must make their best effort to provide services that will help families remedy the conditions that brought the child and family into the child welfare system.(Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013).                                                              
  • Reasonable efforts to preserve or reunify families and achieve permanency for children.                                                                                                              (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau).


Service Providers:  These are the professionals providing services to you and your child.  They may include (but are not limited to)

  • a therapist,
  • mental health specialist,
  • drug or alcohol counselor,
  • in-home service provider,
  • child profile worker,
  • child prep worker and
  • supervised visitation staff.  (West Moreland County Parent Handbook 2011)


Solicitor: The attorney who represents the county children, youth and family agency at permanency review hearings.                                                                          This lawyer works with your county caseworker to make recommendations to the court about your case. (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


Substantiated:  Cases that have been indicated or founded. (Child Abuse Prevention Primer, Commonwealth of PA)


SWAN (Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network):  The Statewide Adoption and Permanency Network (SWAN) is a partnership among the

  • Department of Public Welfare (DPW),
  • the Pennsylvania Adoption Exchange,
  • public and private adoption agencies,
  • organizations,
  • advocates,
  • judges,
  • the legal community, and
  • foster and adoptive parents.    The network is administered by DPW through a prime contractor.

The SWAN program serves children in the custody of county children and youth agencies.                                                                                                                         The design of the network is to support the work of county agencies in expediting permanency services.(


Termination of Parental Rights (TPR): 

  • Before a youth can be adopted, the county children, youth and family agency must ask the court to terminate the rights of the biological parents.                    
  • If the court terminates the parents’ rights, the child can be adopted.                                                                                                                

 A parent whose rights have been terminated does not have a right to

  • any information regarding the child,
  • a right to make decisions about the youth’s education or
  • medical treatment, or
  • a right to visit the youth. (Know Your Rights, Juvenile Law System)


Unfounded:  Cases where there is a lack of evidence that the child was abused or it was determined that the child was not abused.                                                      (An unfounded status does not always mean that the incident did not occur.                                                                                                                                                  For example, the child may have received an injury from being struck as alleged, but the injury did not meet the definition of serious physical injury.                                       (Child Abuse Prevention Primer, Commonwealth of PA)