A person who assists, defends, pleads or prosecutes another.


Stop to support or to look after someone.


Conduct that encompasses cruel or violent treatment of a person, especially regularly or repeatedly.  Abuse can also generally refer to mistreatment or violent treatment of a person. Treating someone with cruelty or violence over time.


The New York City Administration for Children's Services, also known as ACS, is the city government agency responsible for child welfare, juvenile justice, and early care and education services in New York City.  For more information on this agency and the services it provides, see the Pregnancy and Parenting Chapter.

Adopted or Adoption

A legal process that allows someone to become the parent of a child, even though the parent and child are not related by blood.

Adoptive Parent and Adoptive Family

An adoptive parent is a person who adopts a child of other biological parents as his or her own child. This is a permanent legal arrangement granted by a court, and the adoptive parent will have all of the rights and responsibilities of the child’s biological parents.


A person 18 years or older.

Birth Certificate

A certificate issued by the relevant county containing a person's full name, the date and place of birth, name of your parents, your weight and length at birth.

Birth Control

Methods or devices used to prevent pregnancy.  Planning, provision, and use of birth control are called family planning.  Birth control is also known as contraception.  For more information see the Pregnancy and Parenting Chapter.


A family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child.


Foster care caseworkers work for the government and work with the state and the courts to place abused, neglected or abandoned children into foster homes to prepare them to return home or move to a permanent placement.

Certificate of Birth

A certificate issued by the relevant county containing a person's full name, and the date and place of birth.

Child Abuse

Physical maltreatment or sexual molestation of a child.

Child Protective Agency

The government agency that responds to reports of child abuse or neglect. In New York City, the agency that handles these issues is the Administration for Children's Services (ACS).

Child Protective Services

CPS is a subsection of the Office of Children and Family Services.  It is responsible for looking into whether children have been abused or neglectedFor more information see the section on Parental Rights and Custody in the Pregnancy and Parenting chapter.

Court Ruling

Decision of the court.

Credit History / Credit Score

A credit history is a record of a borrower's (i.e. someone who 'borrows' money, typically through a loan, credit cards, or other finance arrangements) repayment of debts in the past.  A credit score is a number given to a borrower, which indicates how well they have repaid their past debts. A credit score is based on a credit report (which is a record of the borrower's credit history, taken from a number of sources, including banks, credit card companies, collection agencies, and governments).


You are being held in the care or control of the police or another authority. The protective care or guardianship of someone.  A person who has legal custody has the right to make decisions for the child, such as where the child lives. Custody can be shared or rest fully with one person.

Department of Social Services

A government department that sits within the US Department of Health & Human Services. For further information on local services, please click here.


A person who relies on another, usually a family member, for financial support.

Destitute Child

A person under the age of 18 who is in a state of need or suffering due to a lack of sufficient food, clothing, shelter, or medical care; and does not have a responsive parent, care taker or legal guardian.

Destitute Migrant

Someone who has arrived in the US to live, work, study, visit or join family but has found themselves in a situation where they are homeless and do not have enough money to buy basic food or shelter.

Discharge Grant

A certain amount of money given to you once you leave foster care.  The money is given to you so that you can have some financial support as you transition from foster care to community living.


Under federal and New York State law, discrimination occurs when you are treated differently in a way that causes an adverse impact to you, based on your: race, gender, age, disability, religion, national origin, political, affiliation or belief, genetics, arrest and conviction record, marital status, genetic, predisposition and carrier status, veteran status, sexual orientation, or retaliation.


The selection of a person or persons for office by a public vote (for example, Presidents, Governors, Members of Congress, and Mayors are all decided by elections).


This is when a child becomes legally independent of their parents or other guardians for legal purposes. If you become emancipated, your parents or legal guardians no longer have a legal responsibility to care for you. New York does not have a law that allows emancipation.


Removal of a conviction in your record. This is also called expungement of record.

False reporting

When a person reports to a law enforcement agency that a crime has occurred against them but the story is made-up.

Family Assistance Program

FA provides cash assistance to needy families that include a minor child living with a parent. FA operates under Temporary Assistance to Needy Families guidelines.  For more information see the Pregnancy and Parenting Chapter.

Family Court

The Family Court of the State of New York was created as a specialized court to handle cases involving children and families. Family Court judges hear a range of legal issues, including child abuse and neglect (child protection), adoption, child custody and visitation, domestic violence, guardianship, juvenile delinquency, paternity, persons in need of supervision (PINS), and child support.


Felonies are crimes that have punishments in excess of twelve months jail time.


An unborn baby.

Financial Aid

A type of monetary support whether by grant, scholarship, loan or something else. You can find more details here.

Food Stamps

Food Stamps is the former name of a program now known as SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Foster Care

A system in which a minor (i.e. someone under the age of 18 years old) is placed into the home of someone approved by the government to care for that minor (often referred to as a "foster parent").  The placement is normally arranged through the government or a social service agency.

Foster Child

A "foster child" is a child who has been placed in the care and custody of an authorized child-care agency for either short-term or long-term care. This care is often with a "foster family," who may or may not be related to the child. The agency has physical custody of the child, but the parent continues to have legal rights to the child.

Foster Care Agency

A non-government agency that assists in placing a child in need of foster care with a foster parent. Outside of New York City, the Department of Social services arranges placement and other services with authorized agencies.  In New York City, the ACS works with authorized agencies. A list of authorized agencies per New York County can be found here by selecting a County and searching for “foster care agencies”.

Foster Family

The foster family is the family of the foster parent.

Foster Parent and Foster Family

A foster parent is person who takes care of a child temporarily without legally adopting the child.

GED Program

A program preparing you to take the GED exam.  If you pass the GED exam, you will obtain the equivalent of a high school degree.

Green Card

A permit that allows some from a foreign country to live and work permanently in the United States.

Guardian Ad Litem (GAL)

A guardian appointed by the court to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of you.

Home Finder

A person who recruits appropriate families who are willing to provide foster care for children.

Housing Court

New York City Housing Court specifically handles proceedings involving housing issues. Some courts also offer resource centers. For more information, you can visit the New York City Housing Courts website.


Formerly called the GED, the high school equivalency test is now called the Test Assessing Secondary Completion. The test is used to check that those that take the test have knowledge in key areas that is at the same standard and level as that of graduating high school seniors. The test has five subtests (Reading, Writing, Mathematics, Science, and Social Studies).  It takes approximately eight and a half hours to complete, and is usually administered over two days.

Human Resources Administration (HRA)

More information can be found here.


A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country


Shots (vaccines) given to children to protect them against certain diseases.


Money received during a period of time in exchange for providing a good or a service.  A household's total gross monthly income before taxes and withholdings are subtracted. Benefits from other assistance programs such as Unemployment Insurance Benefits, public assistance payments, Social Security or SSI benefits count as income.


A court’s power to decide your case.

Juvenile Criminal Record

A document for people under 18 containing the crimes of this person.

Juvenile Delinquency

The habitual committing of criminal acts or offenses by a young person of the age between 7 and 16.


A person who will can give you legal advice and represent you in court.

Legal Guardian

A person who has the legal authority and duty to care for another person. Your parents are usually your legal guardians. However, a court may assign a foster care agency or certain people as your guardians.


Act of remaining in a certain place for no apparent reason.


The cruel or violent treatment of a person.


A program funded by the federal government and states to provide medical care to low-income individuals and families.  Medicaid covers US citizens and eligible immigrants.  In most cases, these services are provided at no cost to families who qualify under Medicaid guidelines.  Medicaid pays for a full set of services for children, including preventive care, immunizations, screening and treatment of health conditions, doctor and hospital visits, and vision and dental care.

Mentally Ill

A term to describe a person suffering from an illness that affects their mental health.

Mentally Incompetent

Mental incompetence is where a person is unable to make or carry out important decisions about their life or their best interests.


A minor is a person under the age of 18.

Molestation or to Molest

The sexual attack on or abuse of a person, especially a child.


Fail to care for properly. Parents will be found to have neglected their children, for example, if they leave their child unattended or are not paying enough attention to them so as to put them in danger of hurting themselves.

Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS)

State agency providing services for children and families, certifying programs.


Paternity is the legal status of being a father. "Establishing paternity" means to legally decide who the child’s father is. When paternity is established, the father joins the mother in taking legal responsibility for the child. This means that the father, like the mother, must provide financial support for the child and make sure that the child is well cared for.

Permanent Resident

A person who has been granted lawful permanent residence in the United States and who has been issued a green card.

Person in Need of Supervision (PINS)

A child under the age of 18 who does not attend school, or behaves in a way that is dangerous or out of control, or often disobeys his or her parents, guardians or other authorities, may be found to be a Person in Need of Supervision. A family court judge determines whether a child is a Person in Need of Supervision. The judge can place the child into a foster group home or a social service facility for up to 18 months or send the child home under the supervision of a probation officer.

Physical Force

Power, violence, or pressure directed against a person by means of a physical act.

Power of Attorney

When you give power to someone else to represent you to do something.

Prenatal Care

Prenatal care is the care you receive from a health care provider, such as a doctor or midwife, during pregnancy.


A proceeding can be either legal or administrative and usually requires that you present yourself to an official or judge for review and decision regarding the facts or circumstances of a given situation.  A proceeding may relate to parenting, public benefits, child custody issues, etc.

Public Assistance

Financial assistance given to low-income individuals or families. It is usually given in the form of cash or vouchers.

Public Benefits

Benefits administered by the federal government that sometimes require certain qualifications, such as age or income.  Examples include Food Stamps, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and State Child Health Insurance Program.

Rehabilitative Services

This term refers generally to services provided by professionals to assist in healing of family relationships after instances of abuse or neglect, either emotionally or physically.  Often, a social worker may recommend such services to promote healing between people and to promote growth in the family so that instances of abuse or neglect do not happen again.  These services can take many forms and can include at-home visits to give feedback on parenting, one-on-one counseling to discuss weaknesses and strengths of a particular parent, and family discussions led by a social worker or other professional.


A person connected to another person by blood or by marriage. Examples include a parent, grandparent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle or cousin.

Restraining Order

An order from the court not to approach for example your family.


Prevent access to your record.

Section 8 Housing

Now called "Housing Choice Voucher," this program provides housing assistance to low income individuals and families using a voucher in the private rental market.

Security Deposit

Money you have to pay before renting and the owner will transfer the money to his account if you do not respect the terms of the contract. If you do respect the terms of the contract, at the end of the lease, you will get back your money.

Selective Service

Registering with Selective Service means that your name will be on a list that the military will use if it needs to quickly add more personnel in a national emergency (and this is very rare). Registering with Selective Service does not mean that you are joining the military.

Social Worker

Foster care social workers usually may work for a child welfare organization. The social worker may help to locate and train foster families and determine whether foster parents are doing a good job taking care of the foster child. Most foster care social workers can expect to serve as liaisons between families, children, schools, and social service agencies.

Solitary Confinement

The isolation of a person in a separate, enclosed area.

SSI Benefits

SSI stands for "Supplemental Security Income." SSI benefits are given by the federal government to disabled adults and children who have low incomes.

State ward

A person who receives protection, a house and other necessities from the government.

Status of Forces Agreement

An agreement made between two (or more) countries, that sets out the legal position of one country's military when it is deployed within another country (under 'friendly' circumstances, i.e. the countries in question are not at war).  These agreements usually describe how the authorities of a visiting force may control members of their force, and the application of local laws or the authority of local officials to the visiting force.  The United States concludes several of these agreements as it has military forces stationed around the world in several countries (such as, for example, the United Kingdom, Germany, and South Korea).


To start legal proceedings against someone.


Surrender of parental rights is when you voluntarily give up your parental rights. If you surrender your parental rights, you will no longer have any legal rights over your birth or adopted child. Usually you cannot voluntarily give up your parental rights unless someone else agrees to adopt your child.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)

A form of public assistance that provides temporary cash and medical help for eligible families.  In some cases, TANF may also provide assistance to individuals such as teen parents or persons acting in the place of a parent who are in need of financial support.


A formal spoken (or sometimes written) statement given in a court of law.  Usually, a judge will require that you promise to tell the truth when speaking in court.


Illegally entering into another’s person property.

Trial Discharge

A period (sometimes six months) where you are technically in the custody of the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), but can live on your own in the community. It is a “test run” to make sure that you can find housing and live independently.

Undocumented Immigrant

A person born outside of the U.S. who does not have a legal right to be or remain in the U.S.  For more information on immigration, visit the Immigration and Undocumented Youth chapter of this handbook.


Fees you have to pay for necessary things like electricity, water, and heat


Going from place to place without a home, job or financial means to live.


Something that is put into a passport to show that the holder of the passport is allowed to enter, leave, or stay for a certain period of time (i.e. not permanently) in a country.

Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

The New York State WIC Program provides free nutritious foods, breastfeeding support, nutrition education, and referrals to other health and social services for pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children under five.  For more information on this program, visit the Pregnancy and Parenting Chapter.