Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

Cerebral Palsy

A non-hereditary condition which results from brain damage before, during, or after birth. Children with cerebral palsy lack muscle control in one or more parts of their bodies or may experience speech and language difficulties, depending on the area of the brain damaged. Individuals with cerebral palsy can possess very normal mental functions.


The approval process that takes place to ensure, insofar as possible, that adoptive or foster parents are suitable, dependable, and responsible.

Concurrent Planning

A process used in foster care case management by which child welfare staff work toward family reunification, and at the same time, develop an alternative permanency plan for the child (such as permanent placement with a relative, or adoption) should family reunification efforts fail. Concurrent planning is intended to reduce the time a child spends in foster care before a child is placed with a permanent family.

Conduct Disorder

A condition characterized by a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior which violates the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules. A child or teen with conduct disorder may:

  • display aggressive conduct (bully or threaten others, initiate fights, use weapons that could cause serious harm, force someone into sexual activity, be physically aggressive or cruel to people or animals);
  • engage in nonaggressive behaviors that result in property loss or damage;
  • engage in deceitfulness or theft (steal, or lie or break promises to obtain goods or to avoid debts or obligations);
  • persistently engage in serious violations of rules that lead to confrontations with parents, school suspensions or expulsion, problems in the workplace, or legal difficulties (staying out after dark without permission, running away from home, truancy, etc.).

Conduct disorder may lead to the development of Antisocial Personality Disorder during adulthood.


The principle of ethical practice which requires social workers and other professionals not to disclose information about a client without the client’s consent. The concern of the federal law called Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which regulates the ways in which an organization must keep medical information confidential and accessible only to authorized personnel.

Decree of Adoption

A legal order that finalizes an adoption

Dependent Child

A child who is in the custody of the county or State child welfare system

Developmental Disability

A severe, chronic impairment (with onset before age 22 and which is likely to continue indefinitely) which creates substantial functional limitations in three or more of the following areas of major life activity: Self care, language, learning, mobility, self-direction, potential for independent living and potential for economic self-sufficiency as an adult. The condition can be attributed to one or more mental or physical impairments which require specific and lifelong or extended care that is individually planned and coordinated.

Down Syndrome

A genetic disorder (caused by the presence of an extra chromosome), which results in physical and mental abnormalities. Physical characteristics include a flattened face, widely spaced and slanted eyes, smaller head size and lax joints. Mental retardation is also typical, though there are wide variations in mental ability, behavior, and developmental progress. Possible related health problems include poor resistance to infection, hearing loss, gastrointestinal problems, and heart defects.

Emotional Disturbance

Severe, pervasive or chronic emotional/affective condition which prevents a child from performing everyday tasks. This condition is characterized by an inability to build or maintain relationships, inappropriate behaviors or feelings under normal circumstances, a pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression, or a tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears related to personal or school problems. Children may require special classrooms and teachers trained to help children with these special needs. School systems may have varying levels and processes for educational planning.

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