A-Z Glossary

Many adoption, foster care and child welfare vocabulary are subject to interpretation. This glossary identifies commonly held definitions for terminology that can be found in the field. It defines common acronyms and provides comprehensive definitions for a broad range of terms. The glossary will be updated as new terminology emerges in the field and as new legislation is enacted.

There are 36 names in this directory beginning with the letter S.
Absence of an imminent or immediate threat of moderate-to-serious harm to the child.
Safety Assessment
A part of the case process in which available information is analyzed to identify whether a child is in immediate danger of moderate or serious harm. Safety assessments are also utilized when a there are potential concerns regarding the suitability of a prospective adoptive family.
Safety Plan
A casework document developed when it is determined that the child is in imminent or potential 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.
Schizophrenia a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with everyday life and those around you and can manifest by a disintegration of personality and behavior expressed through delusions or hallucinations. Research shows that there is a hereditary factor.
An attempt, usually by birthparent, adopted person or adoptive parent (but sometimes by volunteers or paid consultants) to make a connection between the birth parent and the biological child.
Search and Consent Procedures
Procedures, sanctioned in state law, that authorize a public or private agency to assist a searching party to locate another party to the adoption to determine if the second party agrees to the release of identifying information or to meeting with the requesting party. If consent is provided, the disclosure of information may be authorized by a court. In some states counseling is required before information is received.
Section 504
A federal law that prohibits any agency that gets federal money from discriminating against a person on the basis of disability. Section 504 requires "reasonable accommodation" of a disability. Section 504 can be used to address special education issues that may not be covered by the IDEA. For example, such issues may include the length of your child’s school day, the accessibility of your child’s school building, services to parents with disabilities, or the educational treatment of children who have disabilities that are not listed in the IDEA, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Section 504 can also be used to get reasonable accommodation for a child who has a disability but who does not need special education. For example, a child who has diabetes may need medication or a snack during the day, or a child who uses a wheelchair may need help getting from one part of the school building to another or special transportation for school field trips. When these accommodations are placed in writing this is called a 504 Plan.
A seizure is a sudden disruption of the brain's normal electrical activity accompanied by altered consciousness and/or other neurological and behavioral manifestations. Epilepsy is a condition characterized by recurrent seizures, however there are many different seizure disorders. It is not uncommon for someone to experience at least one seizure sometime in their lifetime. This does not mean they have a seizure disorder. Most seizures are benign, but of course they can be dangerous and even be life-threatening. Undiagnosed seizures can lead to conditions that are more serious and more difficult to manage if left untreated.
Semi-Open Adoption
An adoption in which a child’s birth parents and pre-adoptive parents may exchange primarily non-identifying information. After the child is placed in the adoptive home, contact with the birth family may involve letters or pictures or other communications sent through the intermediary of the adoption agency or the attorney who assisted in the placement.
Sending Country
The country where the child resided prior to joining the adoptive family.
Sexual Abuse
The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or any simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct; or rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution or other form of sexual exploitation of children; or incest with children.
Sexual Abuse Symptomology
Indicators and behaviors that suggest that a child may have been sexually abused, including: excessive masturbation, sexual interaction with peers, sexual aggression towards younger and more naive children, seductive behavior and promiscuity.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia or sickle cell disease is a disorder of the blood caused by abnormal hemoglobin (which is an oxygen-carrying protein within the red blood cells). The abnormal hemoglobin causes distorted (sickled) red blood cells. The sickled red blood cells are fragile and prone to rupture. When the number of red blood cells decreases from rupture (hemolysis), anemia is the result. Thus the name: sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is one of the most common inherited blood disorders. The disease primarily affects Africans and African Americans however those of non-African descent may also inherit the disease.
Sickle Cell Trait
The condition in which a person has only one copy of the gene for sickle cell (and is called a sickle heterozygote) but does not have the disease known as sickle cell anemia. In order to actually have sickle cell anemia one must have two copies of the sickle cell gene. If two people with sickle cell trait have children together, each of their children has a 25 percent chance of having sickle cell disease. The trait is not the disease, it just means that the individual is a carrier of the gene for the disease and must be aware so when they choose to have a child they need to know if their partner also has the sickle cell trait.
Social Marketing
The use of marketing principles and techniques to influence a target audience to voluntarily accept, reject, modify or abandon a behavior for the benefit of individuals, groups or society as a whole.
Social Security Card
To claim an adopted child as a dependent for tax purposes, the child must have a social security number. If the child already has a number when he or she is adopted, the adoptive parents may either keep the same number or have a new number assigned. If the child is receiving Social Security benefits, Supplemental Security Income payments, or if the child has worked, the Social Security Administration will not assign a new number, but will update the child’s record. Adoptive parents will need to contact the Social Security Administration to be sure the number is registered correctly, reflecting them as the child’s parent.
Social Worker
A trained professional who counsels birth and adoptive parents regarding adoption and parenting. Also known as a caseworker
Special Needs
Refers to children who are physically, developmentally or emotionally disabled, or a sibling group and others who might remain in foster care should no adoptive family be available.
Special Needs Adoptions
Although states establish the criteria according to which children are classified as having special needs and, thus, are eligible for available benefits, the essential elements involved with state guidelines are derived from criteria set forth in the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (PL 96-266): There must exist a factor, such as minority membership, physical or psychological conditions, or membership in a sibling group, because of which the child could not be placed in an adoptive home without financial assistance.
Special Needs Children
he term Special Needs Children is out of date and should be known as Children with Special Needs. These are children who have emotional, physical or cognitive disabilities. Guidelines for classifying a child with special needs vary by state. Common special needs conditions and diagnoses include: serious medical conditions, emotional and behavioral disorders, history of abuse or neglect, medical or genetic risk due to familial mental illness or parental substance abuse.
Speech and Language Disorders
mpairments of speech or receptive language. Speech disorders usually involved difficulties with articulation, which can generally be improved or resolved with speech therapy, usually requiring treatment over months or years. Language disorders, on the other hand, often result in substantial learning problems, involving difficulty with language comprehension, expression, word-finding or speech discrimination. Treatment by a language therapist generally leads to improvement in functional communication skills, although treatment cannot be generally expected to eradicate the problem.
Speech Therapy
Focuses on receptive language, or the ability to understand words spoken, and expressive language, or the ability to use words to express oneself. It also deals with the mechanics of producing words, such as articulation, pitch, fluency, and volume. For children, it generally involves pursuing milestones that have been delayed. Some children only need help with language, others have the most problems with the mechanics of speech, and some need every kind of speech help there is. The professional in charge of a child’s speech therapy called a speech-language pathologist, speech therapist, or speech teacher will work to find fun activities to strengthen the child in areas of weakness. For mechanics, this might involve exercises to strengthen the tongue and lips, such as blowing on whistles or licking up Cheerios. For language, this might involve games to stimulate word retrieval, comprehension or conversation.
Spina Bifida
Spina bifida is part of a group of birth defects called neural tube defects. The neural tube is the embryonic structure that eventually develops into the baby's brain and spinal cord and the tissues that enclose them. The neural tube forms early in the pregnancy and is supposed to close by the 28th day after conception. In babies with spina bifida, a portion of the neural tube fails to develop or close properly, causing defects in the spinal cord and in the bones of the backbone. Depending upon when the diagnosis is made and the severity, surgery may be able to resolve the problem.
Acronym for Supplemental Security Income, a Federally funded needs-based disability program for adults and children which provides monthly cash benefits and, in most states, automatic Medicaid eligibility.
State Statutes
Are provisions enacted by State legislatures that regulate the way an issue is handled in that state. For the most part, adoption issues are subject to State laws and regulations, which may come either from state statutes or state case law (laws resulting from decisions of judges on court cases). State adoption statutes are included in the legal code of each state.
Sexually transmitted disease (STD), or sexually transmitted infection (STI), is generally acquired by sexual contact. The organisms that cause STD OR STI may pass from person to person in blood, semen, or vaginal and other bodily fluids. Some such infections can also be transmitted non-sexually, such as from mother to infant during pregnancy or childbirth, or through blood transfusions or shared needles. It's possible to contract sexually transmitted diseases from people who seem perfectly healthy — people who, in fact, aren't even aware of being infected. There are many different types of STD including Syphilis, Chlamydia, etc., that have different symptoms and treatment plans.
Stepparent Adoption
The adoption of a child by the new spouse of the biological parent.
Federal or state adoption benefits (also known as adoption assistance) designed to help offset the short- and long-term costs associated with adopting children who need special services. To be eligible for the Federal IV-E subsidy program, children must meet each of the following characteristics: a court has ordered that the child cannot or should not be returned to the birth family; the child has special needs, as determined by the state’s definition of special needs; a "reasonable effort" has been made to place the child without a subsidy; the child also must have been eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) at the time of the adoption, or the child’s birth family must have been receiving - or eligible to receive - Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Benefits available through subsidy programs vary by state, but commonly include: monthly cash payments - up to an amount that is $1 less than the foster care payment the state would have made if the child were still in basic family foster care medical assistance - through the federal program (and some state programs), Medicaid benefits social services - post-adoption services such as respite care, counseling, day care, etc.
An investigation disposition concluding that the allegation of maltreatment or risk of maltreatment was supported or founded by state law or state policy.
Substitute Care
Any kind of care sanctioned by the court of jurisdiction in which the child does not live with the birth parent.
Supervised Provider
A Supervised Provider is any agency, person, or other non-governmental entity, including any foreign entity, regardless of whether it is called a facilitator, agent, attorney, or by any other name, that is providing one or more adoption services in a Convention case under the supervision and responsibility of an accredited agency, temporarily accredited agency, or approved person that is acting as the primary provider in the case.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
A Federally funded needs-based disability program for adults and children which provides monthly cash benefits and, in most states, automatic Medicaid eligibility.
The legal document signed by the biological mother and father allowing their child to be placed for adoption. (Also referred to as a consent or relinquishment.)
Surrogate Mother
A woman who carries another woman’s child by pre-arrangement or by legal contract.
Often referred to as "the public child welfare system" or “the system.” Refers to the network of governmental organizations providing a range of child welfare services.
Systems of Care
A system of care is a process of partnering an array of service agencies and families, working together to provide individualized care and supports designed to help children and families achieve safety, stability and permanency in their home and community.

TOLL FREE: 1-866-691-3300