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Administration for Children and Families (ACF)

Within the federal Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), ACF is responsible for programs that promote the economic and social well-being of families, children, individuals, and communities. See ACF organizational chart.


Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF)

ACYF is a part of the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF). ACF is divided into: 1) the Family and Youth Services Bureau and Children’s Bureau, each of which is responsible for different issues involving children, youth, and families and 2) a cross-cutting unit responsible for research and evaluation. The United States and its territories are divided into 10 geographic regions, each having an office responsible for administering some of ACYF's programs in its region. The ACF Region 10 Office, based in Seattle, serves Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State.


Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS)

AFCARS is an automated system mandated by a 1986 amendment to Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to collect and facilitate the analysis of and reporting on foster care and adoption data. AFCARS collects case level information on: 1) all children in foster care for whom the child welfare agency has responsibility for placement, care, or supervision and 2) on children who are adopted under the auspices of the agency’s public child welfare agency. The data required by AFCARS is the same information that would normally be collected during the course of a caseworker’s assessment, planning, and provision of services, so that the collection of information solely for the purpose of meeting AFCARS requirements is not necessary. AFCARS data is used in many ways including: to respond to Congressional requests for current data on children in foster care or those who have been adopted; to create short and long-term budget projections; to target areas for greater general or technical assistance, discretionary service grants, research and evaluation, and regulatory change; and to determine and assess outcomes for children and families. See Administration for Children and Families trend data. Also see SACWIS.


Adoption and Safe Families Act (AFSA)

Signed into law November 1997, AFSA was designed to improve the safety of foster children, promote adoption and other permanent homes for foster children, expand family preservation and support services, and extend subsidies for families with adoptive children. Among its many provisions, AFSA requires individual states to provide legal assurances that the safety of the children will be of paramount concern and to initiate court proceedings to free a child for adoption once a child had been waiting in foster care for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months (unless a legal exception has been established). AFSA also clarifies what constitutes “reasonable efforts” to keep families together, noting that the “reasonable efforts” requirement does not apply in cases in which a court has found that the parent has subjected the child to "aggravated circumstances" as defined in state law (including but not limited to abandonment, chronic abuse, and sexual abuse).


Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 requires that public child welfare agencies make reasonable efforts to avoid unnecessary removals of children from their homes and to reunify children with their families. Additionally, this statute established adoption assistance to adoptive families.


Adoption Program

In Washington State, Children’s Administration’s (CA) adoption program is an out-of-home service focused exclusively on providing adoption services to children placed in state foster care and to families interested in adopting a child from foster care. CA focuses on placing children from foster care with approved adoptive families. Children are considered special needs and are often harder to place as a result of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and/or neglect or are part of a sibling group. Adoption Services include: adoptive family recruitment; completion of adoptive home studies to determine the fitness and suitability of a family for adoption by providing training; and pre-placement and post-placement services to the child and family. CA adheres to and implements the adoption policy of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978.

Adoption Support Program

In Washington State, the Adoption Support Program assists families adopting special needs children by providing ongoing financial and medical benefits to qualified children based on state and federal regulations.

Age Out

Also known as ‘age of majority’ or 'aging out,' age out refers to the termination of court jurisdiction over children residing in foster care. All states have established an age between 18 and 21, after which a foster care youth reaching that age is no longer eligible for any services or support. In Washington, youth may age out when they turn 18 if they are not eligible for the extended foster care program or do not elect to participate in the program. Otherwise, they age out when they are no longer eligible, leave the program, or turn 21. See Extended Foster Care Program in Washington State’s programs for youth aging out of foster care.



With reference to additional prevention and treatment, AOD is an acronym for ‘alcohol and other drugs.’


See Family Assessment, Investigative Assessment, and Risk Assessment.

At-Risk Youth

In Washington State, an at-risk youth is defined as a juvenile who: has been absent from home for at least 72 consecutive hours without consent of his/her parent; is beyond the control of his/her parent such that the child's behavior endangers the health, safety, or welfare of the child or any other person; or has a substance abuse problem for which there are no pending criminal charges related to the substance abuse.


Becca Bill

A 1995 Washington State law, called the Becca Bill, requires children from age eight to 17 to attend a public school, private school, or district-approved home school program. Children who are six or seven years old are not required to be enrolled in school, but if they are enrolled, they must attend full-time. Youths who are 16 or older may be excused from attending public school if they meet certain requirements. Schools must file a truancy petition with juvenile court when a child has more than five unexcused absences in a month or ten in a school year.



Behavioral Rehabilitation Services (BRS)

The 2012 Washington Children's Administration's BRS Handbook (link below) states that BRS is a temporary, intensive, wraparound out-of-home support and treatment program for youth with extreme, high level, service needs. Children's Administration contracts with community agencies for care and treatment for children and youth with serious emotional, behavioral or medical difficulties who cannot be adequately served in regular family foster homes. BRS is used to safely stabilize youth and assist in achieving a permanent plan or a less intensive service. The desired outcomes for Behavioral Rehabilitation Services are to increase the child’s: behavioral stability; school stability; placement stability; and potential to reach permanency. A wide array of services can be provided under a BRS contract, ranging from Short-Term/Emergent Care to longer term On-going Services. On-going services are expected to last only as long as needed with a goal for the child to transition on or before 12 months. These services can be provided in an array of settings including the child’s legal guardian or permanent resource home, a treatment foster home, or facility.

Biological Parents

The biological parents, as opposed to adoptive parents, caregivers, or guardians, are the person(s) who gave birth to, or fathered the child; also called birth parents, natural parents, or genetic parents.


Braam Settlement Agreement

The Braam vs. State of Washington State lawsuit was filed in 1998 on behalf of a class of foster children who had three or more placements while in foster care. The lawsuit alleged that the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) did not provide constitutionally required care to foster children. In 2004, a settlement agreement was reached and an independent five member panel of experts (the Braam Oversight Panel), in collaboration with DSHS/CA and with substantial input from the plaintiffs' attorney, was formed. In 2011, the DSHS/CA and the plaintiffs' attorneys agreed to continue to monitor the Children’s Administration’s performance on 21 outcomes, which include monthly visits, sibling placement, sibling visits, annual mental health and substance abuse screens, and others. CA issues data twice yearly on its performance in the 21 Outcomes in the Revised Settlement and Exit Agreement and the Braam Oversight Panel then determines if the Department is in full compliance.

CAMIS or Case and Management Information System

Washington State Children’s Administration’s foster care database prior to transition to FamLink in 2009 was called CAMIS.

Case Management

In Washington State, case management  means: 1) convening family meetings, developing, revising,, and monitoring implementation of any case plan or individual service and safety plan; 2) coordinating and monitoring services needed by the child and family, caseworker-child visits, and family visits;  and 3) the assumption of court-related duties, excluding legal representation, but including preparing court reports, attending judicial hearings and permanency hearings, and ensuring that the child is progressing toward permanency within state and federal mandates (including the Indian child welfare act).


Case Plan

As defined by Washington State Children’s Administration, a case plan is a written plan, developed by the caseworker with the family, of the anticipated activities related to the case, including service agreements.


The number of cases (children or families) assigned to an individual worker in a given time period is referred to as a caseload and reflects a ratio of cases to child welfare workers and may be measured for an individual worker, all workers assigned to a specific type of case, or all workers in a specified area (e.g., agency or region). Washington State’s Braam Settlement Agreement requires that 90% of the caseworkers have caseloads at or below 18 cases per caseworker. See Workload.


Child Abuse and Neglect (CA/N)

Washington State Administrative Code (WAC 388-15-009(1)) defines child abuse or neglect as the injury, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or injury of a child by any person under circumstances which cause harm to the child's health, welfare, or safety, or the negligent treatment or maltreatment of a child by a person responsible for or providing care to the child.” The Revised Code of Washington (RCW 26.44.020(14)) defines negligent treatment or maltreatment means “an act or a failure to act, or the cumulative effects of a pattern of conduct, behavior, or inaction, that evidences a serious disregard of consequences of such magnitude as to constitute a clear and present danger to a child's health, welfare, or safety, ….When considering whether a clear and present danger exists, evidence of a parent's substance abuse as a contributing factor to negligent treatment or maltreatment shall be given great weight. The fact that siblings share a bedroom is not, in and of itself, negligent treatment or maltreatment. Poverty, homelessness, or exposure to domestic violence [see RCW 26.50.010] that is perpetrated against someone other than the child does not constitute negligent treatment or maltreatment in and of itself.”


Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)

Originally enacted in 1974 and was most recently amended and reauthorized by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003, CAPTA was designed to support state child protective services systems through basic state grants; support child abuse prevention activities by funding discretionary grants to states and/or public or private agencies or organizations; and support innovation by funding research and demonstration project grants for preventing child maltreatment.


Child and Family Services Review (CFSR)

A series of 1994 amendments to the Social Security Act, CFSR authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to review state child and family service programs. Reviews had traditionally focused primarily on assessing compliance with procedural requirements. Post-CFRS, the focus has been on a state’s capacity to create positive outcomes for children and families in the three main areas of safety, permanency, and child and family well-being, and on the results achieved by the provision of appropriate services. Reviews also examine each state's infrastructure or 'system' that supports the delivery of child welfare services. Since 2000, all states have been assessed for substantial conformity with certain Federal requirements for child protective, foster care, adoption, family preservation and family support, and independent living services. The Children's Bureau, in DHHS, administers CFSR’s in partnership with state agencies and consultant reviewers. Each CFSR is a two-stage process consisting of a Statewide Assessment and an onsite review of child and family service outcomes and program systems. States determined not to have achieved substantial conformity in all the areas assessed have two years to develop and implement a Program Improvement Plan addressing the areas of nonconformity. Washington State’s 2010 final report was completed in October 2011.

Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS)

Both permanency planning and court-ordered services are provided by Children’s Administration’s CFWS to children and families to mitigate the risk of abuse or neglect so that children are able to safely return to their home of origin. CFWS oversees the health and well-being of children in out-of-home placements and provides ongoing assessments of child safety and risk factors. Children served by CFWS are dependents of the state (in-home services or out-of-home care) or legally free for adoption.

Child Health and Education Tracking (CHET) Screen

In Washington State, CHET identifies and organizes essential information regarding the physical health, development, connections, education, and emotional/behavioral health of all children less than 18 years of age in Children’s Administration custody. This information is recorded in a central database and a summary is shared with foster parents, relative caregivers, pre-adoptive parents, and caseworkers to use in placement decisions, case planning, and service delivery. Children in out-of-home care for 45 days or longer should have a completed and documented CHET Screen within 30 days of entering care.

Child Maltreatment

See Child Abuse and Neglect.

Child Protective Services (CPS)

Washington State, CPS provides 24 hour, seven days a week intake, screening and investigative services for reports of alleged child abuse and neglect. CPS investigators assess allegations of child abuse and neglect to determine the safety and protection needs of children. Law enforcement, courts, tribes, and community teams also provide an important component of the child protection system. When it appears that a child is in danger of being harmed or has already been seriously abused or neglected, CPS, with a police officer or court order putting the child in protective custody, places the child with a relative or in foster care. If the child is not returned to the parents or some other voluntary arrangement made within 72 hours, the matter must be reviewed by a court. If risk warrants ongoing placement, dependency petitions must be filed in court within 75 days.

Child Safety

In Washington State, providing for child safety is part of Children’s Administration’s core mission. Safety is the primary and essential focus that informs and guides all decisions made from intake to case closure.

Child Welfare System

The Child Welfare System receives and investigates reports of possible child abuse and neglect; provides supportive services to families to help ensure child safety; arranges for children to live with kin or with foster families; and arranges for family reunification, adoption, or other permanent family connections for children living in foster care/other out-of-home placements. The child welfare system provides services to some of the most vulnerable and troubled children and families.

Children's Administration (CA)

Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Children’s Administration (CA) is divided into three geographic regions managed by Washington State’s Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS) Regional Administrators. DCFS provides client services through its 46 field offices (plus the Office of Indian and Child Welfare) with nearly 2,500 direct service staff. Children and families become CA clients through four primary program areas: Child Protective Services (CPS), Family Voluntary Services (FVS), Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS), and Family Reconciliation Services (FRS). These programs are responsible for the investigation of child abuse and neglect complaints, child protection, family preservation, family reconciliation, foster care, group care, in-home services, independent living, and adoption services for children under the age of 18. CA also provides services to eligible older youths between 18 and 21 years of age with developmental needs or who are pursuing post-secondary education. CA uses both paid personnel and community-based, contracted service providers throughout the state. In 2010, more than three percent of Washington State residents used CA services.

Children’s Administration Technology Services (CATS)

CATS provides the Children’s Administration (CA) with information technology support and training, and develops and maintains its information systems.

Co-occurring Disorders

The term “co-occurring disorders” is used in reference to an individual having one or more substance abuse disorders and one or more psychiatric disorders at the same time. 'Dual diagnosis' is an older term for 'co-occurring disorders.’


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

In general, CBT is a form of treatment that focuses on examining the relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. In child welfare work, trauma-focused CBT is an evidence-based treatment approach shown to help children, adolescents, and their caretakers overcome trauma-related difficulties. It is designed to reduce negative emotional and behavioral responses following child sexual abuse and other traumatic events. Alternative for Families is an example of an evidence-supported CBT intervention that targets individual child and parent characteristics related to the abusive experience, and the family context in which coercion or aggression occurs.





In research and statistics, a cohort is a group of individuals who share a characteristic at some specific time and who are then followed forward in time, with data being collected at one or more intervals. The most common use of the term is to describe a birth cohort, in which all the group members are born within a specified time period.


Concurrent Planning

In child welfare, concurrent planning is an approach that seeks to eliminate delays in attaining permanent families for children in the out-of-home care. Concurrent planning attempts to consider all reasonable options for permanency at the earliest possible time following a child’s entry into out-of-home care. For example, reunification with the child’s family of origin may be pursued simultaneously with the consideration of an alternative permanency goal (e.g., adoption).


Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

Assigned by a court, CASA volunteers are responsible for studying and protecting the best interests of a child/youth in a dependency or termination proceeding. In Washington State, CASA volunteers investigate case facts, recommend a course of action to the court, facilitate the resolution of problems, and monitor progress towards establishing permanency for the child.



See Child Protective Services.

Crisis Nursery

See Emergency Respite Center.

Crisis Residential Centers (CRC)

In Washington State, CRCs provide temporary out-of-home shelter for youth ages 12 through 17 who run away from home, are in severe conflict with their parents, or foster youth in need of a crisis placement. CRCs are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Placement is limited to a maximum of five days, and services are focused on assessment of needs and family reunification.


See Protective Custody and DCFS custody.

Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)

Washington State’s social service agency for children, families, and adults in need is the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). Each year, DSHS serves more than 2.2 million children, families, and vulnerable adults who require protection, food assistance, financial aid, medical/behavioral health care, and other social services.


Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Integrated Client Database (ICDB)

The central, longitudinal, client database referred to as the Integrated Client Database (ICDB) is maintained by Washington State’s Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). It contains data representing more than 10 years of detailed service history, risks, costs, and outcomes. ICDB is used to: 1) support cost-benefit analysis, program evaluations, operational program decisions, geographical analyses, and in-depth research; and 2) strengthen service provision to children and families. The ICDB draws information from over 30 data systems across and outside of DSHS. It includes the following data for each client, by date: identifiers, service history and service cost across DSHS, demography, geography of residence and service, risk indicators, outcomes, birth and death records, medical diagnoses, medical costs, prescription drug use, alcohol and drug problems, mental illness indicators, homelessness, functional disability status, chronic health conditions, criminal justice encounters, incarcerations, employment status, and wages.


Also referred to as a ‘dependency proceeding,’ a ‘dependency action,' or a ‘dependency case,’a dependency is a temporary legal status of a child during which a parent may remedy his or her parenting deficiencies, or the court may order a different permanent plan than return home.  A dependent child is one who was abandoned, abused or neglected, or whose parents are incapable of adequately parenting such that the child is in danger of serious harm. If a child is removed from his or her parent’s care, a shelter care hearing must be held within 72 hours of the removal. If the court finds a child dependent, the court will decide where the child will be placed, what contact the child will have with parents and siblings, what services the parent must complete in order to remedy his or her parental deficiencies, and what permanent plan will be adopted for the child.


Diligent Search

A thorough search conducted by child welfare staff to locate a parent, relative, or other adult who could provide permanency or support for a child residing in foster care/out-of-home care is referred to as a ‘diligent search.’


Dispositional Hearing

After a child has been found dependent, a dispositional hearing is held by the juvenile and family court to determine the disposition of children. The child will either return home under agency supervision, or be placed in the custody of the state child welfare agency (legal custody) and then placed with a relative, with a suitable other person who has a relationship to the child, or in licensed foster care. The judge will also determine what services the children and parents should receive and will likely review the children’s case plan in which the agency has indicated which requirements the parents need to meet in order to have the children returned to their home.



See Racial Disproportionality and Disparity.

Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS)

In Washington State, Children’s Administration DCFS provides client services through 46 statewide offices in four primary areas: Child Protective Services (CPS), Family Voluntary Services (FVS), Child and Family Welfare Services (CFWS), and Family Reconciliation Services (FRS). DCFS also provides services and supports to families at the request of the family or as directed by the courts. The Office of Indian Child Welfare (ICW) independently collects data on tribal members who receive child protective services, foster care, dependency guardianship, termination of parental rights, and adoption proceedings.

Division of Licensed Resources (DLR)

DSHS’s Division of Licensed Resources (DLR) licenses, supports, and monitors foster homes/out-of-home care facilities for children, and conducts CPS investigations regarding allegations of child abuse and neglect to children in licensed, certified and DSHS-operated facilities. DLR also licenses child-placing agencies, and provides assistance to those agencies that certify private agency foster homes. Licensing staff are charged with ensuring the health, safety, and quality of care for children in high quality foster family homes, group care facilities, and child placing agencies.

Domestic Violence Services/Program

In Washington State, the Domestic Violence Program provides support for community-based shelters, emergency counseling and legal advocacy for children and families who have experienced domestic violence. A statewide toll-free hotline is available to link victims with services in their communities. Children’s Administration also sets minimum standards for domestic violence perpetrator treatment programs and certifies these programs.


See Department of Social and Health Services.

Education and Training Voucher Program

A 2001 amendment to the federal John Chafee Independence Act known as the Education and Training Voucher Program authorized funding to states for the provision of financial assistance to youth who have aged out of foster care and are attending post-secondary institutions. Youth who are eligible for this program may receive assistance with their cost of attendance up to $5,000 per year. Youth who are enrolled in this program before age 21 years may continue to receive this service until age 23 provided they are making satisfactory progress towards the completion of their program.


A youth who is legally declared an adult (by a court) prior to age 18 is referred to as being emancipated. Emancipation determinations are rarely based on age alone, but typically require a showing of a minimum level of self-sufficiency. This should be distinguished from emancipation from out-of-home care, which occurs when a foster youth turns 18 and leaves the foster care system by "aging out."



A youth who is legally declared an adult (by a court) prior to age 18 is referred to as being emancipated. Emancipation determinations are rarely based on age alone, but typically require a showing of a minimum level of self-sufficiency. This should be distinguished from emancipation from out-of-home care, which occurs when a foster youth turns 18 and leaves the foster care system by "aging out."


Emergency Respite Center

Commonly known as a crisis nursery, an emergency respite centers  provides emergency and crisis care for up to 72 hours to children who have been admitted by their parents or guardians to prevent abuse or neglect. Emergency respite centers may operate for up to 24 hours a day, and for up to seven days a week. They may provide care for children ages birth through 17, and for persons 18 through 20 with developmental disabilities who are admitted with a sibling or siblings through age 17.


Emergency Respite Center

Commonly known as a crisis nursery, an emergency respite centers  provides emergency and crisis care for up to 72 hours to children who have been admitted by their parents or guardians to prevent abuse or neglect. Emergency respite centers may operate for up to 24 hours a day, and for up to seven days a week. They may provide care for children ages birth through 17, and for persons 18 through 20 with developmental disabilities who are admitted with a sibling or siblings through age 17.


Evidence Based Practice or Intervention (EBP/EBI)

An intervention, program, or tool with empirical research supporting its efficacy and effectiveness is referred to as an Evidence Based Practice or Intervention (EBP/EBI). Efficacy refers to how well an intervention works to bring about change in a targeted area when tested under carefully controlled conditions. How well an intervention works in a real-world setting defines the essence of its effectiveness. In September 2012, HB 2536 required the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), in consultation with the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) and the University of Washington Evidence-Based Practice Institute (EBPI) to publish descriptive definitions and prepare an inventory of Evidence-Based Practices (EBPs), research-based practices, and promising practices for the prevention and intervention services of children and juveniles in child welfare, juvenile justice, and mental health. Specifically, the bill requires that by June 2013, DSHS, in collaboration with the Health Care Authority, complete a baseline assessment of the utilization of evidence-based and research-based practices in the areas of child welfare, juvenile rehabilitation, and mental health. See HB 2536 for more details. See Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s searchable National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).


Ex Parte

An action on behalf of or involving only one party to a legal matter and in the absence of and usually without notice to other parties is referred to as being ex parte. For example, an emergency removal of a child from an unsafe home situation may be done through an ex parte order.


Extended Foster Care Program

In Washington State, the Extended Foster Care Program provides eligible youth ongoing placement and foster care services from age 18 to age 21 for those wishing to pursue their High School Diploma, General Equivalency Diploma, College Degree, or Vocational Certification. Eligible youth electing to participate in the program will: 1) remain in placement and receive foster care services; 2) have an open dependency, with an attorney assigned and court reviews every six months; and 3) receive monthly visits by a public child welfare worker and continued visitation with siblings. Eligible youth who do not elect to participate in the Extended Foster Care program on their 18th birthday will have six months from their 18th birthday to re-enter foster care to participate in the program.

Family Assessment

The process of gathering information on a family to gain a greater understanding of how a family's strengths, needs, and resources affect child safety, well-being, and permanency is called a Family Assessment. The assessment is completed in partnership with the family to understand what everyday life challenges and individual caregiver behaviors contribute to child safety threats to be addressed in case planning.


Family Assessment Response (FAR)

In March 2012, SB 6555 was signed into Washington State law. It requires Children’s Administration (CA) to implement a differential response system (called Family Assessment Response in Washington) that provides an alternative pathway for accepted reports of low-to-moderate risk of child maltreatment. FAR is designed to provide a comprehensive assessment of child safety, risk of subsequent child abuse or neglect, and family strengths and needs. Reports of low-to-moderate risk where children are not in danger or the information being reported does not place children at high risk of maltreatment, will be directed to the FAR pathway. Families, in collaboration with CA’s caseworkers, will assess their needs and strengths and may accept services or concrete resources to address issues of child maltreatment. CA workers will continue to investigate reports of abuse or neglect, when children are determined to be unsafe. Serious physical abuse and sexual abuse intakes are not eligible for FAR. The FAR implementation plan was submitted to the legislature, as required in statute by December 31, 2012. Implementation of FAR will begin no later than December 1, 2013.


Family Preservation Services (FPS)

In Washington State, preservation services include FPS and Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS). Family Preservation Services are available to families whose children face substantial likelihood of being placed outside of the home or to reunify a child in out-of-home care with their family. Family Preservation Services are available to families within 48 hours of referral and are offered for a maximum of six months by a contracted service provider. IFPS are available through a contracted community agency when a family has a child who DSHS believes is at imminent risk of foster care placement. IFPS is a voluntary service that provides up to 20 hours of in-home therapist time each week, for approximately forty days.

Family Reconciliation Services (FRS)

In Washington State, FRS is a voluntary program serving runaway adolescents and youth in conflict with their families. The program targets adolescents between the ages of 12 through 17. FRS services are not long-term services; rather they are meant to resolve crisis situations and prevent unnecessary out-of-home placement. FRS services may include, but are not limited to: short-term family counseling; Crisis Residential Center (CRC) services; and referrals for substance abuse treatment, counseling, mental health services, short-term placements, and Family Assessments in conjunction with juvenile court services.

Family Reunification

In child welfare, family reunification (also reunification) refers to the process of returning children in temporary out-of-home care to their families of origin. Reunification is both the primary goal for children in out-of-home care as well as the most common outcome. Family engagement, individualized needs assessment and case planning, and delivery of cognitive-behavioral, multi-systemic, skills-focused services—among other interventions—are critical reunification strategies.


Family Setting

POC defines three types of out-of-home placement in a 'family setting': 1) state foster homes, 2) private foster homes, and 3) kin placement. State foster homes include: adoptive homes, court ordered unlicensed placements, family crisis residential centers, foster homes/receiving homes, and therapeutic foster homes. Private foster homes include foster care through a child placing agency. Kin placement includes: licensed foster homes (godparents, support networks, Tribal relatives, and other elative care. Non-family placements include: group homes; group care (staff residential); detention centers; group, secured, and regional crisis residential centers; juvenile rehabilitation centers; regional assessment centers; supervised independent living arrangements; and all other.

Family Team Decision-Making (FTDM)

One of four core strategies within the Annie E. Casey Foundation Family to Family (F2F) initiative, Family Team Decision-Making (FTDM) meetings bring together family members, relatives, and representatives from other support systems to consider placement decisions about children in state custody.

Family Voluntary Services (FVS)

In Washington State, FVS support families on a voluntary basis to help prevent chronic or serious problems that interfere with the family’s ability to protect or parent children. This program serves families where the children are safe to remain in the home while the family engages in services through a Voluntary Service Agreement (VSA) or for children who are temporarily placed in an out-of-home setting through a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA).

Family-Centered Practice Model

See Solution Based Casework


FamLink is the case management information system that Children’s Administration (CA) implemented in February 2009. FamLink replaced CAMIS, the case management system CA had used since the early 1990s.


See Family Assessment Response.

Federal Discharge Date

The foster care discharge date, i.e., the date that a child exits from foster care, is referred to as the Federal Discharge Date, and is recorded for those children who were removed from their homes and for whom there exists a removal date and information about foster care services.


Foster Care

Also referred to as a foster home, foster care is defined by the federal government as is a planned, goal-directed service for children who cannot live with their birth families for some period of time. Children in foster care may live with unrelated foster parents, with relatives, with families who plan to adopt them, or in group homes or residential treatment centers. Foster care is designed primarily as a temporary service that responds to crises in the lives of children and families. The general expectation is that children who enter care will either return to their parents as soon as possible, or will be provided with safe, stable and loving families through placement with relatives or adoption. Some children, however, remain in foster care for extended periods of time. See also out-of-home care. The term out-of-home care or foster care is often used interchangeably with foster care with a relative/kinship care or group/residential care.


Foster Care to 21

Foster Care to 21 will be phased out by June 2015, and is being replaced by Extended Foster Care.


The determination following an investigation by CPS that, based on available information, it is more likely than not that child abuse or neglect did occur. "Unfounded" means a determination that, more likely than not, child abuse or neglect did not occur, or that there is insufficient evidence for the department to determine whether the alleged child abuse or neglect did or did not occur.


Group Home

Also referred to as residential or congregate care, a group home is a licensed facility that provides out-of-home care for a group of children who have physical or behavioral needs that require the structure and services of residential or group settings. 


Guardian ad Litem (GAL)

A lawyer or lay person assigned by the court to represent a child in juvenile or family court is referred to as Guardian ad Litem (GAL). Usually, this person considers the best interest of the child and may perform a variety of roles, including those of independent investigator, advocate, advisor, and guardian for the child. A lay person who serves in this role is sometimes known as a court appointed special advocate or CASA.



Also referred to as legal guardianship, guardianship is established by court order and grants custody to someone who is not the child's parent. Caregivers can assume legal guardianship of a child in out-of-home care without termination of parental rights, as is required for an adoption. The guardian is granted full custody of the child with the right to make most decisions regarding the child’s health, education, and care until the child is 18 years old. Legal guardianship is more durable but more complex than transfer of custody to caregivers. Guardianship is most frequently used by relative caregivers who wish to provide a permanent home for the child and maintain relationships with extended family members. See also subsidized guardianship and Relative Guardianship Assistance (RGAP).


Independent Living Services (ILS)

The 1999 federal John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) requires states to identify youth who are likely to remain in foster care until age 18 and to provide those youth with a variety of Independent Living Services. Services include education, training, and support in the areas of educational stability and achievement, vocational training, career exploration, mentoring, employment placement and retention, daily living skills and skills in the avoidance of high risk behavior. In Washington State young adults in foster care can receive Independent Living Services to help prepare them for independence before they leave foster care due to having reached legal adulthood. Throughout the state, community-based agencies and federally recognized Tribes contract with DCFS to provide skills-based services in the areas of education, employment, housing, and life skills to youth 15 and older.



Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)

The ICWA is a federal and state law requiring specific protections to Indian children: who are removed from their homes; whose parents’ rights are being terminated; and who are being adopted. If a child is and Indian child under the law, the tribe has the right to intervene in proceedings or to request that the legal case is transferred to tribal court. 



Integrated Client Database (ICDB)

See Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) Integrated Client Database (ICDB).

Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS)

See Family Preservation Services (FPS).

Investigative Assessment

A document that contains: 1) a history of child abuse and neglect (CA/N) (prior to the current allegations); 2) a description of the most recent CA/N (including severity, frequency and effects on child); 3) a description of protective factors and family strengths; 4) the Structured Decision Making (SDM) risk assessment tool; 4) documentation regarding alcohol or controlled substances is a contributing factor to the alleged abuse or neglect; 5) a disposition (e.g., a description of DCFS case status); and 6) documentation of findings regarding alleged abuse or neglect is referred to as an Investigative Assessment.


John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP)

Authorized by Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (CFCIP) offers assistance to help older youth in care and former foster youth (age 18-21) acquire training and independent living skills so they can become self-sufficient. Funding is provided to states with approved plans and can be used for assisting youth with education, employment, financial management, housing, emotional support, and other activities.


Legal Guardianship

See Guardianship, Subsidized Guardianship, and Relative Guardianship Assistance Program (RGAP).

Legally Free

A child is legally free for adoption if the child has no legal parent, either because the parent has died or because parental rights have been terminated (through relinquishment or involuntary termination) by a court order.


Mandated Reporting

In Washington State, anyone who has reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered abuse or neglect can, in good faith, report. Mandated reporters are required by law to report concerns to the local Children’s Administration office, Child Abuse Hotline or law enforcement. A partial list of mandated reports includes: medical practitioners, professional school personnel, social services workers, coroners, medical examiners, licensed pathologists, registered pharmacists, licensed or certified child care providers, Department of Social and Health Services employees, Department of Early Learning employees, juvenile probation officers, law enforcement personnel, Department of Corrections, staff of responsible living skills programs, Guardians ad litem (GALs), and Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs).



The nation's major program for providing health and long-term care coverage to low-income people under Title XIX of the Social Security Act is known as Medicaid, and is a state-administered health insurance program that is jointly funded by the federal and state governments. Medicaid is an open-ended entitlement program, with states receiving federal reimbursement for the eligible claims they submit. The federal matching rate depends on the state's per capita income. Medicaid can also be used by states for certain services and activities related to child welfare, including targeted case management and rehabilitative services. States can also claim Medicaid dollars for transportation to and from providers, and administrative costs associated with these activities. Medicaid is a health care safety net for millions of low-income children. Medicaid provided health care to 40.4 million low-income people in 1998-2007 million children, 8.6 million adults in families, 4.1 million elderly, and 7 million individuals who were blind or disabled.



Defined by Washington State code as an act or a failure to act, or the cumulative effects of a pattern of conduct, behavior, or inaction that constitutes a clear and present danger to a child's health, welfare, or safety, Neglect is also referred to as negligent treatment or maltreatment When considering whether a clear and present danger exists, evidence of a parent's substance abuse as a contributing factor to negligent treatment or maltreatment must be given great weight. Poverty, homelessness, or exposure to domestic violence that is perpetrated against someone other than the child does not constitute negligent treatment or maltreatment in and of itself. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Child Welfare Gateway Information) defines neglect as the failure to provide for a child's basic needs. Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect can include not providing adequate food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision, or proper weather protection (from heat or cold). Educational neglect includes failure to provide appropriate schooling, failure to address special educational needs, or allowing excessive truancies. Psychological neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love, chronic inattention to the child, exposure to spousal, drug, or alcohol abuse.



In the POC Data Portal, ‘outcomes’ (results) refer to the permanency placements for children in out-of-home care (e.g., reunification, adoption).  In general, child welfare outcome measures relate to safety, permanency, and well-being. To meet requirements of Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA), the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regularly publishes a Report to Congress called Child Welfare Outcomes. The 2007-2010 report examined seven outcome areas: 1) recurrence of child abuse and/or neglect; 2) incidence of child abuse and/or neglect in foster care; 3) permanency placements for children in foster care; 4) time in foster care to reunification; 5) time in foster care to adoption; 6) the number of placement settings for a child; and 7) the number of placements of young children in group homes or institutions.


Physical Abuse

Defined by Washington State regulation as the non-accidental infliction of physical injury on or physical mistreatment of a child, physi­cal abuse may include, but is not limited to, such actions as: throwing, kicking, burning, or cutting a child; striking a child with a closed fist; shaking a child under age three; interfering with a child’s breathing; threatening a child with a deadly weapon; or doing any other act that is likely to cause bodily harm greater than transient pain or minor temporary marks or which is injurious to the child’s health, welfare, and safety.


Placement Setting

POC uses the University of Chicago, Chapin Hall placement definitions. The POC match to Children's Administration's placement setting terminology is as follows: 1) a 'shelter' placement setting includes group, secured, family, or regional crisis residential centers; 2) a 'foster' placement setting includes adoptive homes, foster homes/receiving homes, and therapeutic foster homes; 3) a 'group' placement setting includes group homes, group care (staff residential), detention centers, juvenile rehabilitation centers, supervised independent living arrangements, and short term detention; 4) a 'kin' placement setting includes relative placement, licensed foster homes (godparents, support networks, Tribal relatives, or relatives of specified degree or not) and relatives of specified degree (not receiving foster care payments); and 5) 'other' placement settings include court ordered unlicensed placements, regional assessment centers; hospitals, and all other (e.g., children on the run, birth/adoptive).

Placement Stability

The number of times a child in out-of-home placement changes their place of residence is a measure of placement stability. Because of the seriousness of long term consequences for children, placement stability within 12 months of entry into foster care was one of the three outcome measures established in the Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR).



Practice Model

In the field of public child welfare, a practice model defines how to effectively deliver services to children, youth, and families. The model includes: desired outcomes, principles, theory of change, evidence informed practice, process and quality of care, and service array. ‘Principles’ reference the obligation to behaviorally define and model the basic values of performance with regard to the services provided to children, youth, and families. ‘Theory of change’ refers to the underlying beliefs and assumptions that guide the delivery of services to produce change and improvement in the lives of children, youth, and families. ‘Evidence Informed Practice’ is the use of best practice standards and available research that includes measurable indicators that can be consistently monitored and evaluated. ‘Process and quality of care’ is the development and expansion the use of best practices to maximize individual functioning and promote community strength and stability. Finally, a ‘service array’, in terms of a practice model, is the provision those services necessary to meet the needs of the population being served. For Washington State’s dominant practice model, see Solution Based Casework.


Protective Custody

In an emergent situation (i.e., when a child is at risk of imminent risk or has already been seriously injured or neglected) a police officer can place a child in protective custody for no more than 72 hours. The policie officer transfers custody to CPS, which places the child either in a licensed foster home or with a relative.



The US Census provides detailed population data every 10 years (2000, 2010); therefore the years 2001-2009 and 2011 need to be 'filled in.' The Washington State Office of Financial Management (OFM) publishes official estimates for these non-Census years: 1) for all occupied housing units within each county, and 2) for population (e.g., for POC purposes, children) estimates for specific age groups within counties. For POC's Data Portal  Investigations & Assessment and In-Home Services Trend data, data is 'filled in" for the non-decennial years using data for households only. For POC's Data Portal Out-of-Home Care Trend data, to obtain the race/ethnicity, gender, and age of the population/children,100% census data from 2000 and 2010 is used as a base from which to develop equations that divide the OFM household and population estimates into the appropriate subpopulations (e.g., number of households with Hispanic children under 6 years in Spokane DCFS Office Group; number of male American Indian/Alaskan Native children under 5 years of age in King county).

Racial Disproportionality and Disparity

The overrepresentation of children of color in a system compared to their numbers in the general population is referred to as racial disproportionality. The term disparity is used when the observed differences in treatment are unnecessary, avoidable, unfair, or unjust. In 2007, the Washington State legislature required the formation of the Washington State Racial Disproportionality Advisory Committee to explore the root causes of and make recommendations for remediation of the racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare in Washington State. See the third annual report of the Advisory Committee (March 2012).



Reasonable Efforts

The federal government requires state agencies to demonstrate that reasonable efforts have been made to prevent or eliminate the need for removal of a child from his or her home and to make it possible for a child who has been placed in out-of-home care to be reunited with his or her family. Reasonable efforts must also be made to achieve permanent plans for the child in care.



See Family Reunification.


Originated in 1993, the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS) is a federal initiative designed to assist states in implementing a system that is expected to be a comprehensive automated case management tool that meets the needs of all child welfare staff involved in foster care and adoption assistance case management. SACWIS collects and manages information necessary to facilitate the delivery of child welfare support services, including family support and family preservation. In exchange for the additional funding provided to a state to implement a SACWIS, the state must agree that the SACWIS will be the sole case management automation tool used by the public and private caseworkers so that SACWIS holds a state's "official case record" - a complete, current, accurate, and unified case management history on all children and families served by the Title IV-B/IV-E state agency. SACWIS is required to support the reporting of data to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS) and the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) and to interface with a State's Title IV-A (TANF), Title XIX (Medicaid), and Title IV-D (Child Support) systems. Currently, most states are at some stage of SACWIS planning, development, implementation, or operation. Washington State is currently SACWIS compliant and its SACWIS is called FamLink.



Functioning as a “case management” system, SACWIS is the electronic case file for children and families served by a state’s child welfare programs. AFCARS are reports/data produced by SACWIS for the federal Administration of Families and Children. States (such as Washington State) that develop a SACWIS with federal funding must not collect the AFCARS data from a separate information system once the SACWIS is operation.


Safety Assessment

Used throughout the life of the case, a safety assessment identifies impending danger and determines whether a child is safe or unsafe. Assessments are based on comprehensive information gathered about the family.


Safety Plan

A casework document developed when it is determined that the child is in imminent or potential risk of serious harm is referred to as a safety plan. In the plan, the child welfare caseworker targets the factors that are causing or contributing to the risk of imminent serious harm to the child, and identifies, along with the family, the interventions that will control them and ensure the child's protection. In Washington State, the safety plan is a written agreement between a family and CA that identifies how safety threats to a child will be immediately controlled and managed. The safety plan is implemented and active as long as threats to child safety exist and caregiver protective capacities are insufficient to protect the child.


Secure Crisis Residential Centers (S-CRC)

In Washington State, S-CRCs provide twenty-four hour availability for short-term out-of-home placements of up to five days for runaways placed by law enforcement. These facilities were mandated by the "Becca Bill" legislation passed in 1995. The S-CRCs are either facility secure or staff secure, but otherwise operate as other CRCs, with an emphasis on assessment of needs and family reunification.


Sexual Abuse

Defined by DSHS as committing—or allowing to be committed—any sexual offense against a child as defined in the Washington State criminal code, sexual abuse is the intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the sexual or other intimate parts of a child or allowing, permitting, compelling, encouraging, aiding, or otherwise causing a child to engage in touching the sexual or other intimate parts of another for the purpose of gratifying the sexual desire of the person touching the child, the child, or a third party. In general, to be considered child abuse that CPS will investigate, these acts have to be committed by a person responsible for the care of a child (e.g., a daycare provider, a parent, or a licensed foster parent). If a person not responsible for the care of the child commits these acts, it may be considered sexual assault and would be investigated solely by the police.



Shelter Care Hearing

When a child is removed from her parent’s care, the court must hold a shelter care hearing within 72 hours, excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays. The primary purpose of the shelter care hearing is to determine whether the child can be immediately and safely returned home while the adjudication of the dependency is pending. The court will order removal from the parents’ care if it finds reasonable cause to believe that reasonable efforts were made to prevent removal and either the child has no parent to care for her or release of the child to the parent would present a serious threat of substantial harm to the child.



A brother or sister is a child’s sibling. The Children’s Administration is committed to keeping brothers and sisters placed into out-of-home care together whenever possible.


Social Impact Bonds (SIB)

Social Impact Bonds use private investments to implement or expand prevention and early intervention social programs that have a high likelihood of offsetting future public costs. New York, Massachusetts, and Minnesota have been early adopters of SIB investments to address prisoner recidivism, homelessness, and unemployment. The United Kingdom has been a leader in developing pilot SIB investment programs aimed at preventing/reducing out-of-home care for children. See the link to POC’s brief on SIBs and follow the link below for detailed information on the essential criteria to consider before considering a SIB investment.


Solution Based Casework (SBC)

A component of Washington State’s practice model, solution based casework (SBC)  is a family-centered practice model that identifies the safety threats to the child and builds on a family's strengths to alleviate the threat. Caseworkers are taught engagement skills, interviewing techniques, family life cycle development frameworks, and relapse prevention techniques. In their work with families, caseworkers: 1) quickly build a consensus with the family and service providers on what needs to happen to reduce threats, protect children, and set achievable goals; 2) help the family identify cycles of maltreatment and utilize relapse prevention techniques to prevent further maltreatment; 3) document and offer encouragement for improvements; 4) focus on every day challenges the family faces; 5) work with the family to document where specific risk factors and safety threats have or have not been managed. The three basic goals of SBC are: case plans specific to safety threats; respectful partnership; and focus on pragmatic everyday family life tasks. See Practice Model.


Solution Focused Management (SFM)

To support caseworkers in their use of Solution Based Casework (SBC), Children’s Administration trained all management staff in SFM. SFM helps CA managers support caseworkers implement SBC; it is a parallel process that reinforces the manager’s use of the same values, techniques, and language used by caseworkers with their clients. SFM involves: identifying solutions that are already working and amplifying them to promote positive changes; focusing on what’s possible rather than on the causes of problems; getting managers to stop doing what isn't working and look for opportunities to do things differently; encouraging managers to turn to the expertise and strengths within their team for solutions that work; and encouraging managers to apply solution focused principles and concepts in their management style, including language and questions derived from solution focused interviewing.


Structured Decision Making (SDM®)

Designed as a tool to assist CPS workers in making decisions regarding child safety and the risks associated with a child remaining in a home, the risk assessment portion of Structured Decision Making (SDM®) was implemented by Washington State in October 2007 following an intensive training and validation process.




Transitional Living Services (TLS)

The federal Chafee Foster Care Independence Program was amended in 2001 and directs states to deliver transitional living services to former foster care recipients between the ages of 18 and 20. In Washington State, CAs TLS services include assistance in accessing safe and stable housing, employment training, placement and retention services, and support toward the attainment of either a high school diploma or General Education Development certificate.


Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA)

Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA).  VPAs are time-limited plans for a short-term removal and placement in out-of-home care for a child (0-17) who cannot remain safely in the parents' or legal guardian's home. Children’s Administration limits the use of VPAs in order to support parents and encourage the provision of in-home services to keep children safely at home. VPAs up to seven days must be approved by a supervisor; VPAs beyond seven days, up to a maximum of 30 days, must be approved by the Regional Administrator. VPAs must be signed by both parents or by legal guardians of the child unless unable to locate other parent/legal guardian. VPAs for children under age 18 may only be approved in the following circumstances: 1) following a safety assessment, a determination that in-home safety plan cannot control the identified safety threats, and a Family Team Decision Meeting (FTDM) verification that a short term VPA is needed; 2) after business hours when a safety threat exist and the child has not placed in protective custody by law enforcement; 3) when a parent or legal guardian needs care for the child while the parent receives medical care/treatment and they have no one available to provide basic care for the child; or 4) when the other parent or legal guardian is out-of-state or out-of-country, and not immediately available to provide care for the child.



In the field of child welfare, the workload is the amount of work required to successfully manage assigned cases and bring them to resolution. Workload reflects the average time it takes a worker to do the work required for each assigned case and to complete other non-casework responsibilities. See also Caseload.