Common Acronyms and Abbreviations





Attorney ad litem

An attorney who provides services for the purposes of a specific legal action only, including representation of a child, and who owes to their client the duties of undivided loyalty, confidentiality, and competent representation.


Administrative Closure

Administrative Closure occurs when DFPS intervention is unwarranted based on information that comes to light after the case is assigned for investigation.


Adoption Caseworker

The DFPS caseworker assigned once the case is transferred to the adoption unit.





A method of settling conflict outside of litigation, (e.g., mediation).


Adoption and

Foster Care

Analysis and Reporting System

An application that collects case-level information on all children in foster care for whom state child welfare agencies have responsibility for placement, care, or supervision, and on children who are adopted under the auspices of the state's public child welfare agency.



Judicial Region;


The state of Texas is divided into nine administrative judicial regions. Each region has a presiding judge who is appointed by the Governor to serve a four-year term.


Acknowledgement of Paternity

An acknowledgement of paternity is a legal document that allows parents who are not married to establish legal paternity. Both parents must sign an AOP, under penalty of perjury, that the man is the genetic father of the child. When an AOP is filed with Texas Vital Statistics, the genetic father becomes the child's legal father with all the rights and duties of a parent.


Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement

A permanent legal arrangement for a child designed to promote stability and permanency in a child's life; refers to permanent placements other than a reunification with a parent, adoption, or permanent managing conservatorship to a relative.


Adoption and

Safe Families Act

The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) was enacted by the United States Congress to improve the safety of children, promote adoption and other permanent homes for children who needed them, and support families. According to the Children's Bureau, ASFA also required child welfare agencies to provide more timely assessment and intervention services to children and families involved with child welfare. Additionally, ASFA paved the way for concurrent planning (simultaneously identifying and working on a secondary goal, such as guardianship, with a relative) by requiring that agencies make reasonable efforts to find permanent families for children in foster care should reunification fail. Finally, ASFA required a petition for termination to be filed if a child had been in care 15 out of 22 months.


Alternative Response

A type of service provided to some families who were the subject of an investigation of child abuse and neglect allegations without including a substantiation of the allegations or an entry of perpetrators into the Central Registry. Includes services and support to help families resolve safety issues and reduce future involvement with DFPS.


Admission, Review, and Dismissal

The process by which a student's parents and school staff meet at least annually to 1) decide whether a student has an eligible disability; 2) determine what special education and related services will be provided; and 3) develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP).


Bureau of Indian Affairs

The United States federal agency within the Department of the Interior which renders services to indigenous Americans in federally recognized Tribes (directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts) to approximately 1.9 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives.


Bureau of Vital Statistics/Vital Statistics Unit

The state agency responsible for maintaining legal records for birth, death, marriage, adoption, and paternity.


Child Advocacy Center

A safe, child-friendly, specially equipped facility that completes forensic interviews of children. CACs also provide additional services such as counseling and intervention services during the course of an investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases.


Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths

A tool developed by DFPS for children's services to support decision making, including level of care and service planning, to facilitate quality improvement initiatives, and to allow for the monitoring of outcomes.


Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act

A federal law that was originally enacted on January 31, 1974 (P.L. 93-247) and has been amended several times. According to the Children's Bureau, CAPTA provides federal funding and guidance to states in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities and also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations, including Indian Tribes and Tribal organizations, for demonstration programs and projects.


Court Appointed

Special Advocate; Website

A specially screened and trained volunteer, appointed by the court, who conducts an independent investigation of child abuse, neglect, or other dependency matters, and submits a formal report proffering advisory recommendations as to the best interests of a child. In some jurisdictions, volunteers without formal legal training, such as CASAs, are appointed to represent abused and neglected children and serve in the capacity of a Guardian ad litem (GAL).


Court of Continuing,

Exclusive Jurisdiction

Upon rendition of a final order in a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship (SAPCR), a court acquires continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over all subsequent matters regarding the child unless otherwise provided by the Family Code.


Texas Child Fatality Review Team; Webpage

A multidisciplinary, multi-agency group, mandated by state law which oversees and assists the work of local review teams in Texas, and works to develop a statewide understanding of the scope and magnitude of childhood mortality.


Child and Family

Services Review

A Federal-State collaborative effort designed to help ensure that quality services are provided to children and families through State child welfare systems.






The highest court of each State and territory participating in the Court Improvement Program (CIP) receives a grant from the Children's Bureau to complete a detailed self-assessment and develop and implement recommendations to enhance the court's role in achieving stable, permanent homes for children in foster care. In Texas, the Children's Commission is the recipient of CIP funds.


Circle of Support

A meeting held soon after a youth who has been removed from the home reaches age 16. Its primary purpose is to develop a transition plan for the youth and to connect youth to supportive and caring adults who can help the youth when the youth leaves foster care.


Court Ordered Services

A type of CPS case during which services are ordered by the court for the family, without DFPS having temporary managing conservatorship of the child. Depending on jurisdictional practice, this may also be referred to as a Motion to Participate (MTP), Order to Participate (OTP), or Participation case.


Community Based Care

A newer model of serving children and families through partnerships with private Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCCs) in designated catchment areas across the State. Often referred to as Privatization.


Child Placing Agency

An agency that is licensed by DFPS and required to conform to minimum standards. They verify and oversee non-agency foster placements.


Child Protection


A court that specializes in child welfare cases. As of July 2023, there are 30 CPCs in Texas which cover 148 counties total.


Child Protective Investigations; Website

A division of Texas DFPS that examines reports of child abuse or neglect and determines if there are any threats to the safety of the children in the home and whether parents are willing and able to adequately manage those threats to keep the children safe.


Child Protective

Services; Website

A division of Texas DFPS that provides services to children and families in their own homes; places children in foster care; provides services to help youth in foster care make the transition to adulthood; and places children in adoptive homes.


Child Plan of Service

The written plan that outlines the services to be provided, who is responsible for the completion of that service, and establishes goals for the child.


Child Protection Case Management System

The court case management system used by Child Protection Courts (CPCs).


Centralized Placement Unit

A unit at DFPS that reviews a child's information, tracks placement vacancies, and determines the least restrictive placement option that best meets the needs of child when a child is in the custody of DFPS.


Community Resource Coordination Group

A group that is a collaboration of local public and private agencies, organizations, and families which work together to meet the needs of individuals which no one agency can meet. According to HHS, CRCGs identify services gaps, break down barriers, and find ways to improve the health of their community.


Child Safety Check Alert List

This is an automated program operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety as part of the Texas Crime Information Center to assist DFPS in locating families that move before CPS begins or finishes an investigation or that move during the provision of services by CPS.


Conservatorship/ Conservatorship Unit; Website

The term used to define the legal care, custody, and control of a child given by court order. CVS also stands for the unit and type of caseworker who is involved with a child when the DFPS has custody of that child.


Child Welfare Board; Texas Council of CWBs Website

These Boards are developed and funded in some Texas counties to help meet needs of children and youth in foster care by using county funding to support DFPS' efforts.


Child Without Placement

CWOP is used to describe a child's status as not having a licensed placement (for example, residing in a location such as a hotel, while still being supervised by DFPS or an SSCC). Sometimes referred to as Child Watch.


Texas Department of Family and Protective Services; Website

The state agency charged with protecting children, adults who are elderly or have disabilities living at home or in state facilities, and licensing group day-care homes, day-care centers, and registered family homes.


Texas Department of Public Safety; Website

The state agency created to provide public safety services by enforcing laws, administering regulatory programs, managing records, educating the public, and managing emergencies, both directly and through interaction with other agencies.


Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

The guidebook used by mental health professionals in the diagnosis of many mental health conditions. The DSM is published by the American Psychiatric Association and has been revised multiple times since it was first introduced in 1952. The most recent edition is the fifth, or the DSM-5. It was published in 2013.


Texas Department of State Health

Services; Website

The state agency that promotes optimal health for individuals and communities while providing effective health, mental health, and substance abuse services to Texans.


Every Child Succeeds Act

A federal education law passed in December 2015. ESSA contains several educational stability provisions related to the education of children and youth in foster care that mirror the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. ESSA also requires designated points of contact in education and child welfare systems, assurances that schools will coordinate with child welfare to develop transportation plans for children in foster care, and beginning in December 2018, disaggregated data on children and youth in foster care will be included in the reporting requirements.


Family First Prevention Services Act

A federal law that was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act on February 9, 2018. This act reforms the federal child welfare financing streams (Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act) to provide services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system. The bill aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training. It also seeks to improve the well-being of children already in foster care by incentivizing states to reduce placement of children in congregate care.


Family-Based Safety Services; Website

A type of service provided to some families who were the subject of an investigation of child abuse and neglect allegations. Also known as Family Preservation, FBSS includes services to families to prevent removal of the child from the home.


Foster Care

Review Board

Panels of screened and trained volunteers, preferably appointed by juvenile or family courts, to regularly review cases of children in substitute placement such as foster care, examine efforts to identify a permanent placement for each child, and proffer advisory recommendations to the court.


Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act

According to the Children's Bureau, the 2008 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (P.L. 110–351) amended the Social Security Act to improve outcomes for children in foster care, connect and support relative caregivers, and offer incentives for adoption. Fostering Connections enhanced services for youth aging out of care and created new programs to help children and youth in or at risk of entering foster care to reconnect with family members.


Family Group Conference

A type of Family Group Decision Making. During an FGC, the child's family joins with relatives, friends, and community members to develop a plan for the child and family. These are generally held after a child is removed but may also be used before removal when the family receives FBSS.


Family Group Decision Making

FGDM is a collaborative approach to service planning and decision-making, which involves the child or youth and their family joining CPS staff to develop a service plan for the child.


Family Plan of Service

A plan designed to help parents access assistance from sources other than CPS and to develop the sufficient capacity to protect their children from abuse or neglect.


Family Strengths and Needs Assessment

A tool developed to identify and create collaborative agreements about what the Family Plan of Service should address and determines strengths that may help with child safety.


Family Team Meeting

A type of Family Group Decision Making that is generally held before a child is removed from the home, but also may be held during other stages of services, such as when a family receives FBSS or when a child is in DFPS conservatorship.


Guardian ad litem

A person appointed by a judge to represent the best interests of an allegedly abused or neglected child. In many counties the GAL is a CASA.


General Residential Operation

A residential child-care operation that provides childcare for 13 or more children or young adults.


Health and Human Services Commission

A state agency which oversees operations of the health and human services system.


Health, Social, Educational and Genetic History

The report that provides the child's information to prospective adoptive families.



Compact on the

Placement of


The federal law, originally enacted in 1960, provides a legal framework for the timely placement of children across state lines, the suitability of prospective families, and the provision of needed support services. The compact (1) applies to the interstate placement of children in the foster care system and children placed across state lines for adoption; (2) requires the development of time frames for completion of the approval process; (3) establishes clear rulemaking authority, (4) provides enforcement mechanisms; (5) clarifies state responsibility; and (6) ensures states' ability to purchase home studies from licensed agencies to expedite the process.


Indian Child

Welfare Act

The federal law, adopted by Congress in 1978, applies to child custody proceedings in state courts involving "Indian" children -- children of Native American ancestry.


Intellectual and Developmental Disability

A term used to describe differences that are usually present at birth and that uniquely affect the trajectory of the individual's physical, intellectual, and/or emotional development. Conditions can affect multiple body parts or systems. Intellectual disability is characterized by differences with both, intellectual functioning or intelligence and adaptive behavior. Developmental disability is a broader category of often lifelong challenges that can be intellectual, physical, or both.


Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

A federal law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.


Individualized Education Program

An IEP is a plan for each child who qualifies for special education and related services that is developed, reviewed, and revised by the ARD committee, of which parents are active members. It includes the student's present levels of academic achievement and functional performance, participation in state and district-wide assessments, transition services, annual goals, special factors, special education, related services, supplementary aids and services, extended school year services, and least restrictive educational setting.


Information Management

Protecting Adults

& Children in


According to DFPS, IMPACT is the main application DFPS uses to record case information about the children and adults the agency protects. DFPS uses IMPACT to document all stages of service of a case, including when someone reports abuse, neglect, or exploitation and when those cases are investigated.


Intensive Outpatient Treatment

An addiction treatment program that is designated for participants to receive intensive drug treatment while living at home.


Title IV-E

Title IV-E of the Social Security Act provides a federal funding stream to states for costs related to the provision of foster care, including costs related to legal representation of DFPS, parents, and children.


Joint Managing Conservatorship

A legal status that sets out shared rights and duties of a parent by two parties, ordinarily the parents, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions are awarded to one party. Tex. Fam. Code § 101.016. In DFPS cases, it is possible for a parent or a relative to share JMC of a child in the conservatorship of the Department.


Juvenile Probation Officer

Officers that provide supervision to some youth involved with juvenile justice system or dual status youth with child welfare and juvenile justice involvement.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning;


The Child Welfare Information Gateway webpage includes information about serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth, including resources for LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care and resources offering support and guidance for LGBTQ youth and their families.


Level of Care; Website

There are five service levels of care for children in the conservatorship of DFPS. Those service levels are basic, moderate, specialized, intense, and intense plus. 40 TAC §§ 700.2301-700.2367.


Local Permanency Specialist

DFPS changed the title for I See You staff to Local Permanency Specialist in 2017. The I See You worker for a child is officially called the Local Permanency Specialist (LPS); however, references to an I See You caseworker are still common. When a child who is in the conservatorship of DFPS is placed in an out-of-region placement, the region where the child is placed must provide the supervision and a portion of the case management services for the child. The Local Permanency Specialist provides these services, known as courtesy supervision. The CVS caseworker must request services and supervision by a LPS within seven days of the placement.


Memorandum of


An agreement between two parties in the form of a legal document. It is not fully binding in the way that a contract is, but it expresses an interest in performing a service or taking part in an activity.


Mediated Settlement Agreed

A form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) that settles the case via negotiation under the guidance of a qualified neutral third party. An MSA is binding on the parties if properly executed, and a court may only decline to enter the MSA if a specific exception applies. Tex. Fam. Code § 153.007(c)-(e); Tex. Fam. Code § 153.0071(e-1).


National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges;


The mission of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges is to provide all judges, courts, and related agencies involved with juvenile, family, and domestic violence cases with the knowledge and skills to improve the lives of the families and children who seek justice.


National Center for State Courts; Website

The mission of NCSC is to improve the administration of justice through leadership and service to state courts, and courts around the world.


Office of the

Attorney General; Website

The Texas state agency that serves as legal counsel to all boards and agencies of state government; issues legal opinions when requested by the Texas Governor, heads of state agencies, and other officials and agencies as provided by Texas statutes; sits as an ex-officio member of state committees and commissions; and defends challenges to state laws and suits against both state agencies and individual employees of the State.


Office of Court

Administration; Website

The mission of OCA is to provide resources and information for the efficient administration of the Judicial Branch of Texas.


Preparation for

Adult Living


A program within CPS to provide support and services to help youth prepare for independent adult living upon departure from DFPS' care and support. According to DFPS, PAL policy requires that youth 16 and older who are in substitute care and likely to remain in care until at least age 18, and who can qualify for services up to their 21st birthday receive services to prepare them for adult living. With funding availability, regions may serve any youth age 14 or older on whom Child Protective Services has an open case.


Permanency Conference

A Permanency Conference is held when it is not possible or appropriate to hold a Family Group Conference and is held for a child or youth in DFPS conservatorship for the purposes of developing or reviewing the child's or youth's permanency plan; developing or reviewing the family service plan; resolving barriers to achieving a permanent living arrangement, as appropriate; and developing and reviewing the transition plan for youth age 14 and 15. Family Group Decision Making strategies are used, to the extent possible and appropriate to the situation.


Parental Child Safety Placement;

A family-initiated, temporary, out-of-home placement made by a parent with a caregiver who is either related to the child or has a long-standing and significant relationship with the child or family that may occur when the family determines that a PCSP is more workable than having a supervision agreement for parent-child contact.


Permanent Joint



A legal term under Tex. Fam. Code § 101.016 used in child custody cases to indicate the long-term sharing of the rights and duties of a parent by two parties, ordinarily the parents, even if the exclusive right to make certain decisions may be awarded to one party.





Placement of a child in the permanent conservatorship of an entity or person, by court order, (e.g., Texas DFPS or relative) with no intention of returning the child to the parent's custody. PMC is a term used solely in the context of child welfare law and is used to designate a managing conservator other than a parent. The designation of a non-parent as sole or joint managing conservator may be used in lieu of the term PMC.


Qualified Residential Treatment Program

A childcare institution that has a treatment model as defined by the Family's First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). Both accreditation of the facility and court review of the placement are required to qualify for federal IV-E matching payments after a child's placement in a QRTP by the court.


Refusal to Assume Parental Responsibility

RAPR is characterized as the failure by the person responsible for a child's care, custody, or welfare to permit the child to return to the child's home without arranging for the necessary care for the child after the child has been absent from the home for any reason.


Retirement, Survivors, and Disability Insurance

A federally funded program managed by the Social Security Administration. This program is for people who do not or cannot work anymore, and their spouse and dependents. To be eligible for RSDI payments, the person must have worked a minimum number of years (typical ten, but this can change on a case-by-case basis) and been paid Federal Insurance Contribution Act taxes during these years.


Ruled Out

One of the possible dispositions given in a DFPS investigation of child abuse and neglect. For an investigation to be designated as Ruled Out, the information gathered during the investigation supports a reasonable conclusion that: 1) the alleged abuse did not occur; 2) the alleged perpetrator is 9 years old or younger; or 3) the alleged abuse or neglect did occur but there is sufficient evidence to reasonably conclude that the named alleged perpetrator is not responsible.


Reason to Believe

One of the possible dispositions given in a DFPS investigation of child abuse and neglect. For an investigation to be designated as Reason to Believe, the information gathered during the investigation supports a reasonable conclusion that the alleged abuse or neglect did occur and that the alleged perpetrator is responsible for it.





According to Texas HHS, an RTC provides therapeutic, residential care for children and adolescents to address needs such as mental illness, substance use or other behavioral health problems. Children and adolescents live in an RTC for a short period of time as they work to meet their treatment goals.



Automated Child

Welfare Information System

The comprehensive automated case management tool that meets the needs of all staff (including social workers and their supervisors, whether employed by the State, county, or contracted private providers) involved in foster care and adoptions assistance case management. In Texas, the SACWIS system is called IMPACT.


Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship

Any lawsuit that affects the parent-child relationship, such as conservatorship of a child that has allegedly been abused or neglected by a parent or guardian.


Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

An immigration classification which allows immigrant children in the state child welfare system who cannot reunify with their parents due to abuse, abandonment, or neglect, and who meet certain other criteria, to obtain lawful permanent immigration status.


Sole Managing Conservator

An individual named by court order with the exclusive rights and duties of a parent to a child.


Regional Support



According to DFPS, CPS Service Program Administrators (SPAs) supervise program staff members who provide services and support to CPS staff and children and youth in substitute care. Their programs include, but are not limited to, education, developmental disabilities, and well-being.


Supplemental Security Income/Supplemental Security Disability Income

The program that provides monthly payments to adults and children with a disability or blindness who have income and resources below specific financial limits. The SSDI program pays benefits to the disabled person and certain family members of the disabled person, if the person is “insured” meaning they worked long enough, recently enough, and paid Social Security taxes on their earnings.


Single Source Continuum Contractor

A non-profit or governmental entity with child welfare as primary mission that contracts with DFPS to oversee delivery of services through the state's community-based care foster care program. Per the DFPS Handbook, the Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCC) are responsible for implementing the Community Based Care (CBC) model for foster care services in their designated catchment areas. The implementation of CBC in each catchment area occurs in stages with increased responsibility assigned to the SSCC at each stage, requiring DFPS to assess risk and readiness on an ongoing basis prior to moving to the next stage.


Trust-Based Relational Intervention

Developed by Texas Christian University's Institute of Child Development, TBRI employs evidence-based principles and practices to accelerate healing and speed to permanency for children in foster care.


Texas Crime Identification Center

TCIC provides immediate access 24/7 to law enforcement agencies throughout Texas to data regarding the stolen status of property and the wanted, missing, sex offender, or protective order status of persons.


Texas Education Agency; Website

The state agency dedicated to elementary and secondary education.


Texas Family


The laws and statutes that govern Texas family law are contained in the TFC, including laws related to child welfare.


Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; Website

The state agency with a mission is to provide leadership and coordination for Texas higher education and to promote access, affordability, quality, success, and cost efficiency through 60x30TX, resulting in a globally competitive workforce that positions Texas as an international leader.


Temporary Joint Managing Conservatorship

A legal status that occurs when temporary managing conservatorship is granted to DFPS and the parent(s) or other person in a SAPCR where the state agency is a party to the lawsuit.





The awarding of conservatorship of a child to Texas DFPS. This may include children remaining in their home with orders from the court for particular requirements to ensure the safety of the child, or the removal of a child from the family for safety and well-being purposes.


Transition Plan Meeting

According to DFPS, a Transition Plan Meeting is held soon after a youth who has been removed from the home reaches age 14. A TPM tends to be a shorter and more DFPS-driven conference with fewer participants than a Circle of Support. A TPM is used as an alternative to the Circle of Support when youth do not desire one, or a Circle of Support cannot be convened.


Texas Rules of

Civil Procedure

The TRCP govern all civil lawsuits filed in Texas. They are designed to “obtain a just, fair, equitable and impartial adjudication of the rights of litigants under established principles of substantive law” and to provide for efficient disposition of cases.


Unable to Complete

For an investigation to be designated as UTC, the information gathered during the investigation supports a reasonable conclusion that the caseworker could not gather enough information because the caseworker could not locate a principal, or a principal was uncooperative.


Unable to Determine

UTD is one of the possible dispositions given in a DFPS investigation of child abuse and neglect. For an investigation to be designated as UTD, the information gathered during the investigation supports a reasonable conclusion that the allegation does not meet the criteria for unable to complete, but: 1) the information gathered is not enough to determine whether the abuse or neglect occurred; or 2) there is enough information to determine that abuse or neglect occurred, but there is not enough information to determine if the alleged perpetrator is responsible.




A case determination of Abandonment


A case determination of Mental or Emotional Injury


A case determination of Medical Neglect


A case determination of Non-Support


A case determination of Neglectful Supervision


A case determination of Physical Abuse


A case determination of Physical Neglect


A case determination of Refusal to Assume Parental Responsibility


A case determination of Sexual Abuse


A case determination of Sex Trafficking