Foster Care Glossary

DCS and Court Terms Defined

Adjudication

The outcome of the Court’s process to determine the validity of allegations made in a petition or complaint. The process consists of the presentation of witnesses and evidence by oral testimony or written statements, and arguments by counsel or the parties. The court decides the case based on the proof presented by the parties and their arguments. For example, the court determines whether or not a child is dependent and neglected and then makes a disposition of the child either immediately or at a later date. (See Disposition Hearing).

Allegation

A charge or claim of fact in a report of child abuse or neglect or in a petition. It must be proven if the report or petition is to be found true. The abuse report lists specific events, injuries, or threats (such as cuts, bruises, welts, or medical neglect) referred to as the report allegations. The report also suggests the type of allegation (such as physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse as an introduction to the report’s specific allegations.

Child’s Attorney

The attorney appointed by the Court, or retained by the child or his/her family to represent the wishes of the child. The child’s attorney differs from the Guardian ad Litem in that the Guardian ad Litem represents the child’s best interests to the Court even if the child’s best interests differ from what the child wants.

Under most circumstances when a child is alleged to be unruly or delinquent, that child is entitled to an attorney prior to adjudication and disposition as long as that constitutional right is not waived. However, in a dependent, neglected or abused allegation, a Guardian ad Litem must be appointed by the Court or that child.

Caretaker

Person responsible for a child's care, whether that person is a parent, legal guardian, or an adult temporarily in a parent's role, as in institutional or out-of-home settings.

Classification Staffing

A meeting called for the purpose of discussing diagnostic data, identifying problems and strengths, formulating recommendations and deciding a youth's placement.

Custody

The control of actual physical care of the child and includes the right and responsibility to provide for the physical, mental and morale well-being of the child TCA 37-1-102 (b) (8).

Child Support

Court ordered or voluntary money payments made to or on behalf of a child by the parent(s) (legal or natural parent(s) who admit(s) paternity). Child support paid while a child is in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services may be used to reimburse the State for the child’s board payment and other costs of care in compliance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations.

Disposition Hearing

A juvenile Court hearing during which arguments are made as to what should be done with a child already adjudicated to have been abused, neglected, unruly, or delinquent. This hearing is often combined with the adjudicatory hearing, but it may be scheduled up to 15 days later if the child is in custody (or 90 days if the child is not in custody). Further evidence is presented at this time to determine if the child will be placed in foster care, will remain in foster care or some other placement, or will remain with the parents.

Early Periodic, Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment Services (EPSD&T)

A Medicaid entitlement program for children under the age of 21. In Tennessee, EPSD&T benefits are provided by TennCare, the State’s Medicaid agency. EPSD&T includes periodic screenings to provide preventive (early) health care for children and youth, as well as any medically necessary care even if the service is something that would not be covered for an adult on TennCare.

Ex Parte Review

A chance for a Judge to hear only one party’s side at that time. However, a Judge will set a later time for all parties to be included. While fairness and the law dictate that all sides get an equal hearing before a Judge, this isn’t always possible. For example, if parents who pose a risk to a child are threatening to flee, a Judge may hold an ex parte review to hear Family Service Workers’ concerns without alerting the people who are threatening to leave with the child.

Family Crisis Intervention Program (FCIP)

A brief intervention with families who have unruly children at risk for 14 state custody. The intervention is designed to help the family and child through the present crisis period so they can access less intrusive community services without requiring further Court intervention and/or custodial care from the Department of Children’s Services. TCA 37-1-168.

Foster Care Review Board (FCRB)

An advisory body appointed by the Juvenile Court Judge, which reviews the status of each neglected and dependent, and unruly child’s care in DCS custody at least once within the first 90 days of initial placement and within every six months thereafter.

Family Service Worker

A DCS employee responsible for providing case management services to children under the State’s supervision, in State custody, or at risk of State custody and their families.

Guardian

Parents are natural guardians of a child. The Court may appoint a guardian for a child whose parent(s) is (are) deceased. The Court may give guardianship to DCS following a termination of parental rights. DCS may, pursuant to TCA, act as guardian when there is no natural guardian or when a minor has been abandoned. The guardian of a child, if appointed by the Court or if acting under statute, has all the duties of a parent to provide for the child’s support, education, and medical care, subject only to the parent’s, if any, remaining rights.

Guardian ad Litem

The attorney appointed to represent the best interests of the child in Court proceedings. The Guardian Ad Litem’s role differs from that of an attorney for the child, in that the child’s attorney is bound to do what the child, his client, directs, while the Guardian Ad Litem must represent the child’s best interests to the Court, even if the child’s best interests differ from what the child wants. The Guardian Ad Litem represents the child in litigation only but is not responsible for the child’s care on a daily basis.

Group Home

A home operated by any person, agency, corporation, or institution or any group which receives 7 to 12 children under 17 years of age for full-time care outside their own homes in facilities owned or rented and operated by the organization.

Informed Consent

The agreement to treatment given after the patient, legal custodian, and/or legal guardian has received sufficient information about the risks and benefits of taking and not taking a prescribed or recommended treatment.

Interpreter

A person who translates orally for parties conversing in different languages.

Juvenile Court

A Court with jurisdiction under Tennessee statutes to hear and decide matters pertaining to children.

Permanency Planning

The process of intervention and decisive casework on the part of the case manager. Such intervention focuses on choosing the least restrictive permanent outcome for the child, i.e., return to parent, relative placement, adoption, independent living or permanent foster care, in a timely manner.

Petition

A formal written application to the Court requesting judicial action on a certain matter.

Reasonable Efforts

The department's obligation under state and federal law and as a part of sound casework practice, to attempt risk reduction services prior to removing children from their homes. If DCS must remove the child, the Court's disposition order must include documentation of the reasonable efforts that DCS exhausted in order to prevent foster care or to prove that services could not reasonably be expected to protect the child.

Referee

An attorney appointed by the Juvenile Court Judge to hear cases. A referee serves at the pleasure of the appointing Judge and has the same authority as the Juvenile Court Judge to issue any and all process. In the conduct of the proceedings, the referee has the powers of a trial Judge. Most findings made by a referee are appealable to the Juvenile Court Judge upon a motion by any party. For more specific information, see T.C.A. § 37-1-107. 

Resource Parent

DCS foster parents are called Resource Parents. Often, we refer to the Resource Home, where your child is living.

Restitution

A legal action serving to make good of, or give back an equivalent for some injury or deed.

Staffing

A team composed of at least three professional personnel and the youth who meet for the purpose of discussing diagnostic data, identifying problems and strengths, and formulating recommendations including the youth’s placement(s).