Glossary: C

Certification Hearing

A court hearing to determine whether a juvenile case should be transferred to adult criminal court in order to try the youth as an adult. Judges making this determination generally consider the nature and seriousness of the offense, the record and previous history of the minor, and the likelihood that the juvenile justice system will reform or rehabilitate the youth. Youth transferred to criminal court are said to be “certified” as adults. Compare with “Decertification.”

Child Permanency Plan (CPP)

A mandatory plan that describes how a youth will leave the child welfare system and return safely to family or find a new family setting. Federal law has established the following hierarchy for permanency goals: returning home, adoption, placement with a legal guardian, placement with a fit and willing relative, and Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement (APPLA). The CPP will list the permanency plan for the child as well as the goals for the family and specific services needed to achieve the permanency plan. The CPP must contain other elements that are required by federal and state law regarding the child’s needs related to areas such as education, health care, and contact with families and the services that must be provided to address any identified needs or problems. By the time a youth is 16, the CPP should also include an Independent Living Plan. Regardless of age, no child should be discharged from the system until he or she has achieved permanency. The CPP must be reviewed and updated at least every 6 months and should be reviewed by the court. The youth and members of the family should be provided the opportunity to give input into the CPP.

Child Welfare Caseworker

An individual who is employed by the county child welfare agency or a private provider of child welfare services and is assigned to work with a child and his/her family to address issues preventing the child from living safely in the home or to arrange or provide services that will move the child toward placement with relatives or a family that can provide a safe and nurturing home. Children and families involved in the child welfare system are assigned caseworkers. If the child is placed in substitute care or under the supervision of the court, the child welfare caseworker will have many case management and other responsibilities that are outlined in federal and state law, such as requirements for visits with the child, planning meetings, and court reviews.

Child Welfare System

The government system responsible for taking care of children who are abused or neglected or whose parents are unable to care for them. Pennsylvania has a state-run, county-administered child welfare system. The state agency that oversees the provision of child welfare services is called the Office of Children, Youth, and Families and is located within the Department of Public Welfare. Each county has a child welfare agency. Some counties provide child welfare services directly to children while others contract with private providers to provide services directly to children.

Collateral Consequences

The negative results of a juvenile adjudication that compound a punishment directly imposed by the court. Juvenile records and system involvement, for example, may limit a youth’s opportunities to obtain education, health care, housing, and employment. See also “Sex Offender Registration.”

Community-based Program

Treatment, services, and/or supervision provided to youth as part of a diversion program or as a condition of probation. The individualized plans utilize services in the youth’s community, rather than in detention or in a secure confinement setting.

Competency

A youth’s ability to stand trial, measured by his or her capacity to understand juvenile court proceedings, to consult meaningfully with a lawyer, and to assist in his or her own defense. Evaluation of a youth’s competency is particularly important where a youth is very young, immature, or suffers from a mental health disorder or intellectual disability.

Conditions of Confinement

The quality of living in a particular juvenile detention or secure confinement facility, determined by its physical environment (cleanliness, temperature, light, plumbing, etc.), safety (the absence or prevalence of assaults, sexual abuse, and harmful practices, such as use of excessive force or isolation), and access to health care, education, programming, and visitation.

Consent and Confidentiality

The laws and regulations that govern the age at which youth can legally accept or refuse medical, mental health, or substance abuse treatment, as well as the laws and regulations that govern who can access and share a youth’s treatment records.

Counsel

A lawyer or team of lawyers who represent a client. Counsel for a juvenile may be privately retained or appointed by the court.

Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

An individual appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the child. The CASA looks into all aspects of the child’s life and his or her situation and needs in the child welfare system. The CASA provides reports to the court on the status of the child as well as recommendations. CASAs are volunteers and need not be lawyers. Find out more about the CASA program here.

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

A provision in the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution describing a type of penalty a court may not impose on an individual convicted of a crime. The phrase “cruel and unusual punishment” has been interpreted as sanctions that are barbaric, rarely and arbitrarily imposed, and/or disproportionate either to the gravity of the offense or to the culpability of the offender. While this amendment does not apply directly to youth who are adjudicated delinquent, it does apply to youth who are convicted and sentenced as adults. The United States Supreme Court has found, for example, that the death penalty in all cases and a life-without-parole sentence in non-homicide cases constitute cruel and unusual punishment for offenders under the age of 18.

Culpability

Blameworthiness. Nearly all crimes are defined both by the particularity of the harmful behavior and how much blame one can assign to the offender. Culpability applies to children and adolescents in two ways. First, juveniles may be found to be not blameworthy for their actions due to youth, immaturity, a mental health disorder, or an intellectual disability. Second, the United States Supreme Court recognizes that, as a class of offenders, juveniles are not as culpable for their actions as adults and therefore cannot be subjected to the most severe punishments reserved for the worst criminal offenders.

Cyber-bullying

Children’s use of information and communication technologies such as text messages, emails, and social media like Facebook and Twitter to engage in harassment, threats, intimidation, and/or other verbal and emotional abuse. Like other forms of bullying, cyber-bullying often involves an imbalance of power and may be persistently directed toward a particular victim or target. Similar behavior between adults is generally referred to as cyber-harassment or cyber-stalking.