If you’ve looked into foster parenting or have had any interaction with Child Welfare agencies, you know learning foster care terms is like speaking a foreign language! There are some good lists out there- like this one from the Child Welfare Information Gateway. I wanted to boil the list down to the most common or terms I’ve been asked about. Here’s a list of relevant foster care terms and acronyms I’ve compiled to help make sense of the lingo.

Support spelled out in scrabble pieces

Foster Care Terms And Acronyms

  • Aging Out- This occurs when foster youth reach a certain age (18 or 21 depending on the state) without being adopted. In Colorado, this process can start as young as 16, but 18 when a youth would officially “age out”.
  • Agency (or private agency)- A private agency is an agency that maintains the licensure and approval for foster homes.
  • CASA- Court-Appointed Special Advocate: Similar to a GAL, but a CASA is typically a volunteer community member.
  • CPS- Child Protection Services: This is another term used for DCFS. This is the agency that investigates allegations of child abuse/ neglect
  • DCFS/ DCYFS/ DHS/ “The Department”: Division/ Department of Children (Youth) and Family Services. This is the department or division of the Child Welfare system that responds to reports of abuse/ neglect and places children in foster care. This department has different names depending on the state. As a social worker, my friends simply refer to DCFS as “the department,” but I’m not sure that’s common language.
  • GAL- Guardian ad Litem: This is the person who is looking out for the best interest of the child. Sometimes GALs are lawyers, and sometimes they are community members.
  • Group home- This is a home or facility where a number of foster children reside. Group homes can be religious, therapeutic, or have other speciality services.
  • Kinship care- When care is provided for a youth in foster care by someone either related or significantly close to the child (a coach, religious leader, mentor… etc.
  • Reunification- This happens when children return to live with their biological family.
  • ROI- Release of Information: This is not a foster care only term, but it is important in foster care. Much of the information about children in foster care is confidential and private. A ROI is often used between agencies (like a therapist and the school) to determine what information can be shared and by whom.
  • TPR- Termination of Parental Rights: This only happens when the department (CPS) decides that the biological parent is permanently unable to regain custody of their children. After the TPR process takes place, children are considered “legally free” to be adopted.

There’s a million foster care terms that could be added here- if you see any terminology or acronyms am I missing feel free to leave me a comment!