Helpful Terminology

Allegation: This is what is included in your petition that states what the investigating social worker discovered and what makes the social worker believe your children are not currently safe in your care. Allegations can be found “substantiated” (true), “inconclusive” (not enough evidence to be found true or false), or “unfounded” (false).

Bypass: This is a term used when the judge and social services choose not to offer you reunification services. This is only done in special circumstances which are called “bypass provisions”. These bypass provisions are detailed below. It is important to note that just because a bypass provision is present, does not automatically mean that you won’t be offered reunification services, it just means that you might not be offered reunification services.

The following are reasons that bypass might happen/”bypass provisions”:
  • Social services cannot find the whereabouts of the parents and has worked hard to find them.
  • The parent has a mental disability that makes them unable to utilize reunification services.
  • The child (or a sibling of the child) was previously a dependent (in foster care) because of physical or sexual abuse, was returned to the parent, and has once again been removed because of more physical or sexual abuse.
  • The parent caused the death of another child through abuse or neglect.
  • The child is under five years old and conduct of the parent resulted in severe physical abuse.
  • The child is a dependent because of severe physical harm or sexual abuse to the child, a sibling or half-sibling of the child, and the court finds that reunification services would not be beneficial to the child.
  • The parent was already denied reunification services for a sibling because of re-abuse of the sibling, severe physical abuse of the sibling when less than five years old, or severe physical or sexual abuse of the sibling.
  • The child was conceived as a result of incest or continuous sexual abuse of a child. This bypass provision is only for the perpetrating parent, not the parent who was the victim.
  • The court found that the child was willfully abandoned and the abandonment created serious danger to the child, or if the child was willfully surrendered under the safe-haven/safe-surrender statute.
  • The court has terminated reunification services for a sibling and the parent has not addressed the issues which led to sibling’s removal.
  • The court has terminated parental rights for a sibling and the parent has not addressed the issues which led to sibling’s removal.
  • The parent was convicted of a violent felony.
  • The parent has a history of chronic drug or alcohol use and has resisted prior court-ordered treatment in the last three years or failed or refused to comply with a treatment case plan at least two times before.
  • The parent waives (denies) reunification services.
  • The parent abducted the child or a sibling from placement and refused to say where the child was and/or refused to return the child.
  • The parent has been required to register as a sex offender.
  • The parent participated in, or allowed, the sexual exploitation of the child.

Confidentiality: This means “secret” or “private”. However, your confidentiality with your lawyer is different than it is with other professionals. It is important to ask for an explanation of what confidentiality means with each professional you work with so that you are fully aware of what of your information they can and cannot share with others.

Dependency: This is essentially another word for “foster care”.

Dependent: This is the term for when a child is no longer in their parents care, but is in the care of the courts. The child is then called a “dependent”.

Detention Hearing: This is the first (also called “initial”) hearing that is held after a dependency petition is filed. This hearing happens within 24 hours of a petition being filed if your child was put into protective custody (removed from your care).

Disposition/Dispositional: Also called “Dispo”. This is a court hearing that is held after the “Jurisdiction” hearing if the judge found the allegations about you to be true. Disposition is the part of the case where the judge will decide what you should do to make things better for your family and your child. This is called the reunification plan.

Guardianship: This is when someone other than the child’s parent is appointed by the court to be the legal guardian of a minor (child under the age of 18). This is sometimes considered as an alternative to the child going into foster care, where instead someone other than the parent obtains guardianship of the child while the parent addresses the issue(s) that led to the family becoming system involved.

Hearing: This is what each court meeting is called. There are different types of hearings.

ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act): This was an Act passed in 1978 to protect Indian (Native American) families. If your child(ren) are Indian/Native American, be sure to tell your social worker right away so that your tribe can be involved in your case.

Jurisdiction: Also called “Juris”. This is a court hearing that is held after the “Detention” hearing. It is held within 30 calendar days after a petition being filed if your child was not removed and 15 calendar days if your child was removed. At the jurisdiction hearing the judge will decide whether the allegations in the petition are true and whether to dismiss or not dismiss your case. If the judge decides not to dismiss your case, you will next have a “Dispositional” hearing.

Kinship Care: This is the term for family members that are caring for your children while you address the issues that led to your children being in care.

NREFM (Non-Relative Extended Family Member): This is a term usually used for someone that is currently caring for your child who is “like family” to you and your child(ren), but not actually biologically related.

Petition: This is a report that the investigating social worker fills out and gives to the court to explain why they believe your child(ren) are not currently safe being in your care. The court reviews this report and then either agrees or disagrees with it. The petition is accepted or rejected by the Judge in the “Detention” hearing, also called the “Initial” hearing.

Resource Family: This is a newer term for “foster parents” or “foster family”.

Reunification: This is the term used for returning your children to you permanently.

Reunification Services: These are services given to you with the intent address the issues that led to your children being in care. These services are given to you so that you can take advantage of them, address the issues that led to your children being in care, and get them back into your care permanently.

Review Hearing: This is a type of hearing that is held every 6 months as long as your child is in care. The purpose is to review your progress in addressing the issues that led to your child being in care.