Foster Care Terminology

A guide to common foster care terminology

What’s it all mean?

Foster care terminology can be confusing at times, especially when your’re just getting started! The following glossary contains common terms and phrases used in foster care.


If the parents’ rights are terminated, a child will be available for adoption. Foster parents are able to adopt foster children in some circumstances. Relatives are also able to adopt the children whose parents’ rights are permanently terminated.

Case Management Organization

A CMO contracts with the community-based care agency (CBC) to provide front-line services to children and families under state supervision.

Case Management

The ongoing follow-up and review of the safety and well-being of a child who has been removed from parents or caregivers. A child who is in out-of-home care will see a case manager at least once a month, and the case manager will work with the parents, the child and the child’s current caregivers to determine the best interests of the child.

Case Plan

The court document that all parents or caregivers of dependent children must follow. Case plans have goals for the parents and the child so that the parents can reunify with the child and safely care for the child.

Child Protection Team

Conducts forensic interviews and medical exams of children to determine if they have been abused or neglected.

Child Protection Investigation

These investigations are handled by DCF child protective investigators whenever an allegation of abuse, neglect or abandonment is made to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The investigations typically last up to 60 days.

Child Welfare Professional

An individual who is primarily responsible for case activities that has met the criteria for Florida Certification as a Child Protective Investigator, Case Manager or a Licensing Counselor.

Child Protective Investigator (CPI)

A child protective investigator checks into allegations of abuse, neglect and abandonment of children by their caregiver. The investigator will interview the child, caregivers, and other contacts to determine if a child is safe or not. If a child is not safe, the CPI can remove the child from the home.

Community-Based Care Lead Agency (CBC)

These private agencies contract with DCF to manage prevention, intervention, foster care and adoption services. There are 20 CBCs across the state.

Dependency Court

The court system in Florida that makes decisions regarding the best interests and welfare of children who must be removed from their home.

Dependency Child

A child who has been removed from their home and needs to be under state supervision. This child could live with a relative, non-relative or in foster care.

Fictive Kin

An individual who is unrelated to the child by either birth or marriage but has such a close, emotional relationship with the child that he or she may be considered part of the family (e.g. godparents, close family friends). Also known as a non-relative. There are approximately 1,200 children in care with relatives and non-relatives in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. 

Florida Abuse Hotline

Any person in Florida who suspects a child is being abused, neglected or abandoned by a caregiver, or who suspects a child has been a victim of any crime, must report that information to the Florida Abuse Hotline. The Hotline number is 1-800-962-2873.

Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF)

The state agency that manages services to families, including investigating child abuse, managing child welfare cases, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and providing federal benefits like Medicaid and food assistance.

Foster Care

Licensed foster care is made up of individuals or families who have requested to be able to take dependent children into their home. Foster homes are licensed and inspected regularly, and foster parents go through a rigorous interview process before being approved.

Foster Child

A foster child is a dependent child who is has been removed from their parent or guardian and is living in a licensed foster home.

Foster Parent

A foster parent has been through a rigorous interview process to determine if they can safely care for abused and neglected children in their home. Foster parents are paid a monthly stipend to help cover the costs of the needs of the child. There are various levels of foster parent license which allow for higher levels of care, as needed. The lowest level is Level II and the highest is Level V. 

Group Home

A group home is a home for several foster children that is licensed by the state. Group homes are run either by house parents, who live with the children, or by shift staff, who transfer in and out during every 24 hours.

Guardian ad Litem

A volunteer advocate for a dependent child in court. This advocate is represented by an attorney and speaks to the judge on behalf of the child they represent.

Home Study

All prospective foster parents must undergo a home study, which determines if the home has enough space and is safe for a foster child to live.

Independent Living

Program for teens in foster care that prepares them for adult life.

In-Home Care

Some children are under state supervision but are able to safely remain in their own homes with regular case management, also known as diversion. There are approximately 1,100 children in in-home care in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. 

Keys to Independence

This program will reimburse youth and caregivers for the costs associated with driver’s education, driver’s licenses and other costs related to getting a driver’s license as well as motor vehicle insurance.


The licensing process includes interviews with prospective foster parents, a home study and a review of financial records, among other things.


The federal program that funds health insurance for low-income families. Medicaid provides the health and dental care that is needed for children in foster care. See Healthcare guide for more information. 

Non-Relative Placement

A child who has been removed from their parent or guardian and placed with a family friend. Non-relatives are not eligible for additional funding. There are approximately 1,200 children in relative or non-relative care in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. 

Out-of-Home Care

This term includes all children who have been removed from their home and are living with a relative, non-relative or in foster care. There are approximately 600 kids in out of home care in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties. 

Permanent Guardianship

Many children will be placed in permanent guardianship, usually with appropriate relatives, if the parents’ rights have not been terminated but the child cannot safely return home.

Pre-Service Training

Between 20 and 30 hours of training is required to become a licensed foster parent. This training helps the foster parent understand the background of children who have been abused and neglected and learn ways to deal with their behaviors.

Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI)

A new training program whose goal is that each foster child in Florida have an engaged, involved, well-trained and qualified foster parent who will help the foster child on the path to success.

Relative Placement

A child who has been removed from their parent or guardian and placed with a relative. Relatives can get some funding to help with the child’s expenses obtaining a level I license. This is a streamlined process specifically for relatives. 


The process of returning a child who has been removed from the home to the parents or guardians and ensuring that the child will remain safe. The majority of children who are removed from their home have reunification as their case plan goal.

Post Education Secondary Support (PESS)

PESS is a stipend for those up to age 23 who have aged out of foster care and are going to college or other post-high school studies.  The stipend ($1,256/mo) covers school expenses and some of their living expenses.

Shelter Hearing

A hearing held within 24 hours of a child’s removal for the judge to approve the removal and the placement.

Social Worker

In Florida means that an individual has earned a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) after successfully completing four years of college. An individual with a Master’s degree in social work (MSW) has completed a graduate program and is eligible to pursue licensure. There are two levels of licensing in Florida, both of which require an MSW degree: Certified Master Social Worker (CMSW) and Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW).

Termination of Parental Rights

This is a court decision made if the parents have committed an egregious act against a child or refuse to complete the case plan to show they will be able to safely care for their child.

To find more foster care terminology, check out our Foster Care Guides or the Blog

Learn More About Foster Care

The following guides can help get you up to speed on several important aspects of foster care in Orlando.


Learn about financial support available for foster parents.


Learn about healthcare topics such as doctors visits and insurance.

The Legal System

Learn about family court, hearings, and child custody.

Caseworkers and Visits

Learn about the different types of caseworkers, home visits, and parent visits.

New Placements

Learn about what to ask when receiving a new placement and the first week in care

School and Daycare

Learn more about education, school, and daycare.

Adoption and Permanency

Learn about foster care, adoption, and foster-to-adopt.

Foster Care Policies

Learn about policies like travel and babysitters