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Terms Related to Foster Care

Terms and Acronyms

As a new foster care provider you will hear a number of terms you may not understand. Here is a list of some commonly used words/phrases/acronyms that are used within the child protection and court system:

CHIPS: This acronym stands for Child In need of Protection or Services. A CHIPS petition is how a child protection case is brought into court.

Court-Appointed Attorney: This is an attorney who the court appoints as a party in the CHIPS process. Children ages 10 years old and older in foster care may have a court-appointed attorney. MN Statutes, section 260C.163 subd. 3 

DANCO  (Domestic Abuse No Contact Order): This is an order of the courts in cases where domestic violence has occurred against at least one party and the alleged victim and alleged perpetrator are not to have contact due to concerns relating to abuse.

DOPA (Designation of Parental Authority): This can be signed by the biological parents to allow another caregiver to provide care for a child for up to one year unless the agreement is rescinded prior to that. This is completely voluntary.  The parents maintain custody of the child; they are just allowing another caregiver to provide care for the child. This allows the caregiver to enroll the child in school and take the child to the doctor.

GAL (Guardian ad Litem): This individual is a court-appointed independent party who represents the best interest of the child(ren) in foster care. This does not mean that they represent the child’s wishes because sometimes what the child wants is different than what the GAL recommends.  All children ages birth-17 get a GAL when involved in CHIPS Court.

ICWA (Indian Child Welfare Act):  Any child taken into custody who is eligible for membership in any Native American tribe or is a member of any Native American tribe is subject to this act, and the Tribe could intervene and take over the case as any time.

OFP (Order For Protection): This is an order that has been filed by one party against another party, usually due to safety concerns, in which the individual is asking the court to not allow contact between the two parties.

Protective Supervision: The court has intervened in a case and Child Protection is providing case management and services to the family, but the parents have custody of the children and the children reside in the home.

TPR (Termination of Parental Rights): This is a permanency order issued by the courts that means the parent(s), whose rights are terminated, no longer have physical or legal custody of the child. It is a permanent decision that cannot be reversed. This can be done on an involuntary or voluntary basis.

TPLPC sometimes referred to as TLC (Transfer of Permanent Legal and Physical Custody): This a permanency order done by the courts. This means physical and legal custody of a child is transferred to someone else.  This is a permanent decision unless the biological parent petitions the court to have the decision reversed.

Safety Network: A group of family, friends, neighbors who are committed to the child’s safety are involved in creating a safety plan to help ensure child safety. 

Signs of Safety: This is a  framework used in Stevens County as a way to better work with families by putting families in charge of coming up with their own plans to help keep children safe.

Special Needs: The definition according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:  “The individual requirements (as for education) of a person with a disadvantaged background or a mental, emotional, or physical disability or a high risk of developing one.” People tend to think of extreme cases involving disabilities, but most children who come into foster care are considered “special needs” in one way or another. Some are behind in school and/or they have a learning disability. Others might have some mental health issues such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), or an attachment disorder that impacts the way they process information or see the world.