LEGAL TERMS DEFINED
Adjudicatory hearing: Held by the
juvenile and/or family court to
determine if there is enough evidence
to prove that a child was abused,
neglected, or abandoned or whether
another legal basis exists for the state to
intervene to protect the child. Also
referred to as a “fact-finding hearing.”
Adoption: When one adopts a child,
they have all the rights and
responsibilities of a biological parent.
The birth parents no longer have any
Best interests of the child: The
debate the court has when deciding
what type of services, actions, and
orders will best serve a child.
Case Permanency Plan: The
casework document that outlines the
outcomes, goals, and tasks necessary to
ensure the safe return of the child.
Child Protective Services (CPS): The
social services agency designated to
receive reports, conduct investigations
and assessments, and provide
intervention and treatment services to
children and families in which child
maltreatment is reported to have
Court-Appointed Special Advocate
(CASA): A person, usually a volunteer
appointed by the court, who works to
ensure that the needs and interests of a
child are fully protected.
Custody: When one is responsible for
supporting and providing care for the
child. In certain states, a child's parents
may still retain some of their rights —
even if another has physical custody. A
parent can voluntarily relinquish custody
of a child to another through a written
legal agreement, or it can be formally
ordered by the court.
De Facto Custodian: A de facto custodian is a grandparent or other caregiver other then a biological parent who has been the primary caregiver and financial supporter of a child for at least the minimum time required under the statute. A grandparent or other caregiver of a child who qualifies as a de facto custodian has the legal right to be heard by a Kentucky court in a custody case. Without de facto custodian status, a grandparent can not seek custody of a grandchild without first proving that the biological parents are unfit to serve as parents.
Dispositional hearing: Hearings to determine what needs to happen with the child and the family while the case in is discussion (ex. where the child will live, who will have legal custody, and what services are needed to reduce the risk and to address the effects of maltreatment.
Due process: The principle that every
person is entitled to a fair and unbiased
Fictive kin: People not related by birth
or marriage who have an emotionally
significant relationship with an individual.
Foster care: A substitute care for
children placed away from their parents
or guardians and for whom the state
agency has placement and care
Guardian ad litem (GAL): A lawyer appointed by the court who represents a child in any case involving child abuse. Usually this person considers the best interests of the child and may perform a variety of roles, including those of independent investigator,advocate, advisor, and guardian for the child.
Guardianship: When one has the duty
to care for a child if the child is taken
away from their parent (or other legal
guardian) by the courts. In some states,
when someone takes guardianship of a
child, a parent loses all their rights. The
terms "custody" and "guardianship" can
be mean different things in different
states, so it is important to get the
correct information for where you live.
Informal Kinship Care: Children who live with relatives or close family friends who have varying types of custody depending on arrangements made within those families.
Kinship Care: Children who were placed with relatives or close family friends as a result of an investigation and removal- custody of the child is maintained by the relative or the Department of Community Based Services.
Legal guardian: An adult to whom the
court has given parental responsibility
and authority for a child. Appointment
as guardian requires the filing of a
petition and approval by the court and
can be done without terminating the
parental rights of the child’s parents.
Mediation: A voluntary process that allows the parties involved to agree on a permanency decision in the best interests of the child with the help of a trained, neutral, third party. Mediation generally avoids confrontational court hearings.
Protective custody: A form of custody
required to remove a child from his or
her home and place in out-of-home
care. Law enforcement may place a
child in protective custody based on an
independent determination that the
child’s health, safety, and/or welfare is
jeopardized. A child can also be placed
in protective custody by court order.
Putative father: Legal term for a man
who is not married to the child’s mother
and who is alleged or claims to be the
biological father of a child.
Relative Foster Care: Children placed with relatives who have become certified as foster parents- custody of the child is maintained by the Department of Community Based Services.
Relinquishment: The voluntary
termination or release of all parental
rights and duties that legally frees a child
to be adopted. This is sometimes referred
to as a “surrender,” or as making an
adoption plan for one’s child.
Review hearing: Held by the juvenile or family court to review case progress
(usually every 6 months) and to determine the need for continued court oversight.
Safety plan: A casework document developed when it is determined that a child is at risk of serious harm. In the safety plan, the 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 the safety factors and assure the child’s protection.
Service agreement: The casework document developed between the
caseworker and the family that outlines the tasks necessary to achieve case goals
and outcomes. A service agreement may also be known as a case plan.
Termination of Parental Rights (TPR): The voluntary or involuntary relinquishment of parental legal rights for the care, custody, and control of a child.