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Definitions to Common Residential Care Terms

Below are some of the words and phrases that are commonly used by houseparents and those in residential care.  There is tons of room for the list to grow and I will send a free printed copy of "The Diary of a Residential Childcare Worker" to anyone who's definition I use in future updates.

 Please use the Feedback Form to submit your word(s) and definition(s).  Please include a mailing address if you would like the free booklet.  Also if you think you have a better definition to the words already on the list, I would be glad to hear them.  Submitted definitions become the property of The Houseparent Network. Please do not submit copyrighted information.

Acting-Out: Exhibiting negative behavior. USE: "Johnny is really acting-out today."

Adjudicated: Convicted of a crime and declared a delinquent by a judge.  USE: Supervisor, "You are getting a new child today."  Worker, "Is he adjudicated?"

Adjudicated Delinquent: A youth that has been convicted of an adult crime (robbery, assault, drug possession, etc.)  A child cannot be declared a delinquent for things like skipping school or breaking curfew ordinances - those are status offenses.

At-risk: A youth that could be considered at-risk to entering the juvenile justice system.  An at-risk child could be from an abusive family, live in poverty area, live in a high crime or gang area, etc. USE: "We are getting new community services to help at-risk children."

B-Mod: Behavior Modification  USE: "The facility I work at is B-Mod."

Behavior Modification: A program or facility that focus' on helping children to exhibit more appropriate behavior.  A program may focus on specific negative behavior (Sexual acting out, drug abuse, violence, etc.) or as in the case of many community group homes negative behavior in general.

Birth Parents: The biological parents of a child.

Case Plan: A plan that records the needs of the youth and usually encompasses all areas of the youths life (placement, education, therapy, family, etc.)  It will include specific needs, actions for meeting those needs, and records the outcomes or progression toward meeting those needs. Case plans are usually put together by a Multidisciplinary Team or other groups which could include: Care staff, social workers, therapists, teachers, parents, etc.

CHINS: Child In Need of Services (Alternate: Child In Need of Supervision)  Youth that are found to be committing status offenses (Running away, breaking curfew, skipping school, etc.) in many places can be declared CHINS and placed in residential programs or receive other services to help them work on their issues.  Some jurisdictions will also refer to these youth as incorrigible. USE: Worker, "Is he adjudicated?"  Supervisor, "No, he's CHINS." 

Consequences: For every action or behavior there is a consequence. Either positive or negative, natural or imposed. In residential care it usually refers to an imposed consequence for negative behavior.  USE: "If you do not finish your chore properly you will receive consequences."

CPS: Child Protective Services - One of the many names for the government agency responsible for protecting youth and providing services to families and youth in care. These names are specific to the state, and other states may refer to the agency as: DHS, DYS, DFS, YFS, etc.

De-escalate: Techniques used to help a child calm down from a tantrum or other tense situation.  USE: "Johnny & George were yelling at each other and it appeared they were getting ready to fight, but I was able to de-escalate the situation be mediating for them."

DFS: Department of Family Services - One of the many names for the government agency responsible for protecting youth and providing services to families and youth in care.  These names are specific to the state, and other states may refer to the agency as: DHS, DYS, CPS, YFS, etc.

DHS: Department of Human Services - One of the many names for the government agency responsible for protecting youth and providing services to families and youth in care.  These names are specific to the state, and other states may refer to the agency as: CPS, DYS, DFS, YFS, etc.

DYS: Department of Youth Services - One of the many names for the government agency responsible for protecting youth and providing services to families and youth in care.  These names are specific to the state, and other states may refer to the agency as: DHS, CPS, DFS, YFS, etc.

Foster Care: In a nutshell-substitute parenting. Foster Care is care of a child in place of their birth parents. 

Guardian ad Litem: An individual appointed by the court to represent the interests of the youth. It is usually an attorney, but depending on the state there could be exceptions.

Group-HomeA group home is a facility that is usually in the community, though often times are set in the country.  Children live in the home usually with a married couple as houseparents, but it can be staffed by shift workers.  The group home can best be described as a cross between a traditional foster home and a residential treatment center, and children are often placed in a group home as a transition from a more secure placement to a foster home or birth home.  It is also often used as a place for youth to work on issues after being removed from an abusive situation before being placed in a traditional foster home.

Homeparent: A term used by some facilities to refer to the residential youth workers.  It can be interchanged with the terms: houseparent, youth worker, youth counselor, etc. depending on the facility.

Home-visit: A period of time when a youth can return to their birth or foster family away from the facility. The home-visit can last a few hours or several weeks and is usually part of the reunification process. USE: "Johnny is going on a home-visit today."

Honeymoon or Honeymoon Period: The period of time at the beginning of a placement where the youth are on their best behavior.  It can last anywhere from a day or two to several weeks though some youth never honeymoon.  USE:  "Johnny just kicked a hole in the wall, that sure was a short honeymoon." or "Johnny is doing really well, he is still in his honeymoon period."

Houseparent: A term used by some facilities to refer to the residential youth workers.  It can be interchanged with the terms: homeparent, youth worker, youth counselor, etc. depending on the facility.

Huffing: A slang term to describe the process of inhaling substances (gasoline, glue, paint, etc.) to get high or intoxicated. USE: "I caught Johnny huffing paint last night."

Incorrigible: A youth that is difficult or impossible to control or to correct their behavior. Examples would be youth that refuse to follow parents rules, are truant, or repeatedly breaks curfew.  Some states refer to incorrigible youth as CHINS. 

Independent Living: Being able to care for yourself as an adult.  Older children that are unable to be reunified with their family will many times be prepared for independent living.  They will be taught to rent an apartment, manage money, purchase groceries and prepare meals, etc.

Issues: Negative behavior that is identified as needing to be improved.  Behaviors can included: drug abuse, stealing, lying, self mutilation, etc.  USE: "Johnny's issues stealing, lying, and anger."

Least Restrictive Environment: When placing a child the judge will always try to place them in the least restrictive  placement which usually goes in the following order: Foster Family, Community Group Home or Children's Home, Residential Treatment Center, Detention Center.

Manipulate or Manipulative: Able to or attempts to influence others to their own advantage.  USE: "Johnny is very manipulative.  or Johnny tried to manipulate me to let him stay home from school."

MDT: Multidisciplinary Team or Multidisciplinary team meeting. USE: "Johnny has an MDT today at 3:00."

ModelingTeaching behavior by example.  USE: "When we deal with frustration, conflict, etc. appropriately we are modeling good behavior for the youth in our care."

Multidisciplinary Team: Group of individuals that meet and work together for the best interest's of the youth or child in placement or treatment.  The team may include:  The parents, Guardian ad Litem and representatives from the placement agency, schools, courts, therapists, social services, etc.

Orientation: Covering the rules, procedures and expectations of the program or facility with a new youth or staff member.  USE: "Have you completed Johnny's orientation yet?"

PDA: Public Displays of Affection - PDA includes hugging, kissing, holding hands, sitting on laps, etc. Most facilities do NOT allow PDA

PGA: Permanent Guardianship Agreement

PGO: Permanent Guardianship Order - Kids in care may refer to it as "Permanent Government Ownership"

Physically Restrained: Physically holding a child by one or more staff members to prevent them from hurting themselves or somebody else. There are several different techniques that can be used, however a facility will usually the techniques from a specific program that all staff members are trained and certified in. i.e. MANDT®, CPI®, etc. USE: "Johnny was pounding his head against the wall and had to be restrained."

Privileges: Anything the youth enjoys that they are allowed to do. USE: "Johnny as you complete the program and improve your behavior you will receive more privileges." or "If you don't do your chore properly you will lose some of your privileges."

Program: What a facility does to care for or treat youth.  USE: "Our program has an 80% success rate." or "Our program helps youth with their drug addiction."

Relief Staff: Term used by many facilities to refer to time off.  USE: "I'm going on relief today, hallelujah!!!"

Residential Care: A term to describe out of home in group care. Residential care can refer to any number of facilities and any number of treatment or care programs.

Residential Treatment: An intensive program usually designed to treat a specific behavior. Residential treatment includes programs for: drug addiction, sexual predators, etc.

Restrained: See Physically Restrained Above.

Restraint: Can refer to the procedure of physically restraining somebody.  It can also refer to a mechanical devise used to restrain somebody although mechanical restraints are almost never used anymore and are illegal to use in most states.

Reunite/Reunify: The process or goal of returning a youth to their biological or adoptive family. The goal of most residential placements is to reunify the family.

RTC: Residential Treatment Center. USE: "Johnny was sent to an RTC."

Seclusion: Time-out period away from the group usually in a designated place.  Few facilities use and few states allow locked seclusion rooms.

Self-mutilate: To inflict wounds on one's own body.  Self-mutilation can include many methods such as: cutting with knives and razors, eraser burns, cigarette burns, etc. 

Splitting Staff: Splitting staff in residential care is very similar to the game a child plays with their parents-If one doesn't give you the answer you want go to the other one and hope they don't communicate.

Status Offender: A status offense is usually anything that is illegal for a youth but not illegal for an adult i.e. truancy, tobacco use, curfew, etc.

Testing Boundaries: Intentionally breaking the rules to see what they can get away with.  In the same way that we know we won't get a ticket most of the time for driving 5 miles over the speed limit, we know that the boundary is not the actual speed limit.  Children will do the same thing with bedtimes, chores, etc. to see where the real boundary is that is testing boundaries.

Therapist: Somebody that counsels with you and guides you in changing a behavior.

Therapeutic: A condition that aids in the treatment of a condition or behavior.  USE: "Building relationships with youth is therapeutic, building barriers is not."

TGO: Temporary Guardianship Order

TPR: Termination of Parental Rights

Treatment Milieu: A place that the youth can feel safe and secure so that therapy may take place. We as workers should always try to provide such a place, physically and emotionally.

Troubled: Is often used to describe youth with severe behavioral or emotional issues. USE: "Johnny is one troubled youth." or "That kid is really troubled."

Youth Worker: A term used by some facilities to refer to the residential youth workers. It can be interchanged with the terms: homeparent, houseparent, youth counselor, etc. depending on the facility.

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