The failure of a parent to provide adequately for the financial support for a child and an unjustified failure to maintain, or attempt to maintain, contact or a parental relationship with the child. Abandonment is judged over a period of time which varies in different states, but the time period to prove legal abandonment is usually between 6 months and one year.

The use or treatment of someone or something that is seen as harmful. Abuse of a person can be physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, or a combination of any or all of those. Abuse of a substance may involve alcohol or drugs.

Aging Out:
When a youth emancipates or leaves foster care because they turn a certain age, such as 18 or 21 (depending on the laws of the state they live in). Aging out usually results in loss of support from the State for things such as foster care payments, housing, living costs and health services.

The creation of a new, permanent relationship between an adoptive parent and a child. Once this happens, there is no legal difference between a child who is adopted and a child who is born into a family. Adoption can happen at any time, from baby to teenager (or even beyond). Adoption can be by a relative, foster parent, or a completely new family. An adoptive family might be a single parent, a couple, or a family with kids.

A trial before a judge or hearing officer for a determination as to whether the child is indeed dependent on court supervision.

Biological/Birth Parent:
The person(s) who gave birth, or fathered the child.

Dependent Child:
A child who has been placed in the legal custody of either the state or the county foster care system by the courts, usually due to the abandonment, abuse or neglect of the child by a parent’s or other caregiver.

Family Service Plan:
A plan that the foster care agency, along with the youth and family, makes and updates regularly. It includes the services provided to the youth and family, and makes clear the expectations and progress made toward reaching the goals for the child or youth and the family.

Foster Care:
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.

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

Group Home:
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.

Life Book:
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.

Permanency Specialist/Caseworker:
Works with youth and their families to provide services and support, with the goal of permanent placement for the youth.