Quick Reference for Legal Terms

NCJFCJ President Judge Peggy Walker, depicts a call to action for the legal community to make sure our law and policy are aligned with information for building the capabilities of caregivers and strengthening the communities that together form the environment of relationships essential to children’s lifelong learning, health, and behavior.


2016 Legislative Updates 

Selected Glossary of Common Child Advocacy Terms

View Entire Note Book: Trial Notebook for Child Welfare Attorneys in

Georgia’s Juvenile Court Dependence Cases

Intent to forgo parental duties or relinquish parental claims evidenced by

6 months failure to

  • meaningfully communicate
  • maintain regular visitation
  • leave child with another person without support
  • participate in court-ordered reunification case plan
  • respond to child protective proceeding

3 months

  • leaving child without means to identify parent and
  • parent identity cannot be determined despite diligent search

Absence from home for period of time that creates substantial risk of serious harm to the
Any other conduct indicating intent to forgo or relinquish parental rights.

Part of the CAPTA legislation, a federally funded state program that provides and coordinates assessments and rehabilitative services to developmentally delayed or disabled children ages 0 to 3 years at no cost to the parents. Requires every child 0 to 3 years who is found by the juvenile court to be “dependent” to receive a developmental assessment and rehabilitative services as needed.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)–community members who are specially trained and appointed by the court as officers of the court to represent the best interests of the child in dependency proceedings; sometimes referred to as a lay guardian. §§ 15 -11-103, 104, 105, 106.

CHILD, § 15-11-2(10)
Any individual who is
• Under the age of 18 years
• Under the age of 17 years when alleged to have committed a delinquent act
• Under the age of 22 years and in the care of DFCS
• Under the age of 23 years and eligible for and receiving independent living services through DFCS
• Under the age of 21 years who committed an act of delinquency before reaching the age of 17 years and who has been placed under the supervision of the court or on probation to the court for the purposes of enforcing orders of the court.

CHINS (Child in Needs of Services), § 15-11-2(11)
A child adjudicated to be in need of care, guidance, counseling, structure, supervision, treatment, or rehabilitation and who is adjudicated to be:
o Truant
o Habitually disobedient / ungovernable
o Runaway
o A child who wanders or loiters the streets of city, highway or any public place between midnight and 5:00 A.M.
o A child who disobeys court ordered supervision
o A child who patronizes bar where alcoholic beverages sold or who possesses alcoholic beverages
o A delinquent child who is adjudicated to be in need of supervision but not treatment or rehabilitation
o Formerly UNRULY

COMPLAINT, § 15-11-2(14)
Initial document setting out the circumstances that resulted in a child being brought before the court.

The section of DFCS which receives initial calls alleging child abuse and neglect and which is responsible for investigating the initial complaints (often heard as “CPS worker”), also referred to as an “Intake” or “Investigations Unit.” CPS unit also provides “ongoing services” to families where the child remains in the home. These cases are often referred to as Family Preservation Services cases, or FSP.

These youth are simultaneously involved with or under the jurisdiction of both child welfare and juvenile justice (Department of Family and Children Services and Department of Juvenile Justice). These youth may move or “crossover” from the child welfare system to the juvenile justice system or vice versa or these are youth who have a history of abuse or neglect and are also involved with the juvenile justice system.

• An act designated as a crime by the laws of this state, or by the laws of another state if the act occurred in that state, under federal laws, or by local ordinance, and the act is not an unruly offense or a juvenile traffic offense as defined in § 15-11-630.
• The act of disobeying the terms of supervision contained in a court order which has been directed to a child who has been adjudged to have committed a delinquent act.
• Failing to appear as required by a citation issued with regard to a violation of § 3-3-23, (offenses involving alcoholic beverages and persons under age 21).

Child who has committed a delinquent act and is in need of treatment or rehabilitation.

DEPENDENT CHILD, § 15 -11-2(22)
A child who
• has been abused or neglected and is in need of the protection of the court.
• has been placed for care or adoption in violation of law.
• is without his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian.

Juvenile court proceedings held when there are allegations of abuse or neglect of a child.

Same meaning as § 37-1-1(8), a severe, chronic disability of an individual that
• Is attributable to a significant intellectual disability, or any combination of a significant intellectual disability and physical impairments;
• Is manifested before the individual attains age 22;
• Is likely to continue indefinitely;
• Results in substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activities: self-care; receptive and expressive language; learning; mobility; self-direction; and capacity for independent living; and
• Reflects the person’s need for a combination and sequence of special, interdisciplinary, or generic services, individualized supports, or other forms of assistance which are of lifelong or extended duration and are individually planned and coordinated.

DFCS (Department of Family and Children Services)
The department of DHS charged with delivering child protective services, family rehabilitation services, and other related services.

Department of Human Services.

DJJ (Department of Juvenile Justice)
The state agency charged with providing for the needs of children who are adjudicated delinquent. In the disposition stage of a delinquency, juveniles are “committed to the custody” of DJJ, and DJJ then has responsibility for placing the child. DJJ placement options include Youth Development Campuses, community treatment facilities, group homes, therapeutic residential placements, boot camps, community schools, a wilderness program, court-based programs, and others.

EMANCIPATION, § 15 -11-2(29) and §§15-11-720 to 728
Termination of the rights of a parent to the custody, control, services and earnings of a child. Emancipation does not terminate the legal parent-child relationship.

EMOTIONAL ABUSE, § 15 -11-2(30)
Acts or omissions by caretaker of child that cause any mental injury to such child’s intellectual or psychological capacity as evidenced by an observable and significant impairment in such child’s ability to function within a child’s normal range of performance and behavior or that create a substantial risk of impairment, if the impairment or substantial risk of impairment is diagnosed and confirmed by a licensed mental health professional or physician qualified to render such diagnosis.

Services to prevent removal of the child from the home or to return the child back to the home (formerly ongoing Child Protection Services).

FOSTER CARE, § 15 -11-2(34)
Temporary residential care provided to a juvenile pursuant to a court order from a dependency proceeding; can include care by a non-biological foster family, group care, residential care, or institutional care.

GUARDIAN AD LITEM (GAL), §§ 15 -11-2(35), 15-11-104, 105 and 106
Officer of the court who is appointed to represent the best interest of the child in abuse and neglect proceedings, custody proceedings, and sometimes in delinquency or unruly proceedings. May be an attorney or layperson. Often referred to as “G.A.L.”

GUARDIANSHIP, §§ 15 -11-2(36), 15-11-240 to 244
Term describing the legal status of a custodian of a juvenile which confers certain rights and responsibilities, including the requirement to provide for the child’s physical, spiritual, and mental needs and the ability to register the child for school, obtain medical care, and provide legal consent when needed. May be granted by probate court or juvenile court. The guardian caregiver may be eligible for financial subsidy from DFCS.

IEP (Individualized Educational Program)
Written plan required to be developed for every child who is provided special education and related services. The plan is required by federal and state law and is developed by the school district and the child’s parent or guardian. The IEP must describe all services needed by the child and the services that will be provided to meet the individualized educational needs of the child in the least restrictive environment.

DFCS training for foster parents and adoptive parents (formerly MAPP training).

DFCS program for older teens in DFCS custody. County ILP coordinator assists teens with housing, school, and job arrangements, and teaches life skills. It is a transitional program for teens in non-traditional foster care settings who are becoming adults. Each foster child 14 and older must have a Written Transitional Living Plan (WTLP).

INDIGENT PERSON, § 15-11-2(38)
A person who, at the time of requesting an attorney, is unable without undue financial hardship to provide for full payment of an attorney and all other necessary expenses for representation, or a child who is a party to a dependency proceeding. To determine indigence in a delinquency proceeding, the court shall follow the standards set forth in Chapter 12 of Title 17.

KINSHIP GUARDIANSHIP – Kinship Navigator Program
A program or service “to assist kinship caregivers in learning about, finding, and using programs and services to meet the needs of the children they are raising and their own needs, and to promote effective partnerships among public and private agencies to ensure kinship caregiver families.”

The legal process by which a child born out of wedlock is “put on equal footing” with a child born within a legal marriage. Establishes a legally recognized parent-child relationship between a father and child. If pending dependency action, may be filed in juvenile court.

MAPP (Model Approach to Partnerships in Parenting)
DFCS training program for foster parents, now called IMPACT training.

NEGLECT, § 15 -11-2(48)
A. The failure to provide proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for a child’s physical, mental, or emotional health or morals;
B. The failure to provide a child with adequate supervision necessary for such child’s well-being; or
C. The abandonment of a child by his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian.

A civil pleading filed to initiate a matter in juvenile court; the petition sets forth the grounds for the court to take jurisdiction and the reasons the court should intervene.

PRENATAL ABUSE, § 15 -11-2(56)
Exposure to chronic or severe use of alcohol or the unlawful use of any controlled substance, which results in:
• Symptoms of withdrawal in a newborn or the presence of a controlled substance or a metabolite in a newborn’s body, blood, urine, or meconium that is not the result of medical treatment, or
• Medically diagnosed and harmful effects in a newborn’s physical appearance or functioning.

Network of community based family support services; list of services and description of these services can be found at www.pssfnet.com. PSSF is a subpart of Title IV-B of the Social Security Act and provides federal funding to state child welfare agencies and eligible Indian tribes for family support, family preservation, time-limited family reunification, and adoption promotion and support.

Person alleged to have fathered a child whose parentage is at issue.

The registry established and maintained pursuant to §19-11-9, §15 -11-2(60).

SEXUAL ABUSE, § 15 -11-2(69)
Caregiver or other person responsible for the care of a child employing, using, persuading, inducing, enticing, or coercing any child to engage in any act which involves: sexual intercourse, (genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal), same or opposite sex; bestiality, masturbation; lewd exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person; flagellation or torture by or upon a person who is nude; being fettered, bound, or otherwise physically restrained on the part of a person who is nude; physical contact in an act of apparent sexual stimulation or gratification with any person’s clothed or unclothed genitals, pubic area, or buttocks or with a female’s clothed or unclothed breasts; defecation or urination for the purpose of sexual stimulation; penetration of the vagina or rectum by any object except when done as part of a recognized medical procedure by a licensed health care professional.

Conduct by a caregiver who allows, permits, encourages, or requires a child to engage in: prostitution or sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual or print medium depicting such conduct.

A child who is charged with or adjudicated of an offense which would not be a crime if it were committed by an adult; in other words, an act which is only an offense because of the perpetrator’s status as a child. Such offenses shall include, but are not limited to, truancy, running away from home, incorrigibility, and unruly behavior. See CHINS.

TPR (Termination of Parental Rights)
Legal proceeding resulting in the permanent severance of the parent-child relationship.

Delinquency prevention program provided in some juvenile courts to prevent juveniles adjudicated unruly on the basis of truancy from progressing to delinquency offenses. Juveniles in TIP are paired with volunteer attorneys who represent the juvenile and act as a mentor for the juvenile.

UNRULY CHILD See “Child in Need of Services” (CHINS).

Plan developed for children in the custody of DFCS who are fourteen (14) years and older. Plan outlines steps and goals specific to the child and in conjunction with the Independent Living Program (ILP).


PCA GA Pamplet on Legal Rights of Fathers in Georgia