Glossary: P

Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA)

An independent Pennsylvania state agency that distributes state grants and financial assistance for higher education programs.

Permanency Plan

Another term for a Child Permanency Plan.

Permanency Review Hearings

Under federal law, these court reviews must occur at least once every six months. At this hearing, the court reviews the permanency goals of the child and the progress made to achieve the goals. At these hearings, the court also reviews the child’s status with respect to education, health, and the transition to adulthood, if the youth is an adolescent. Youth can and should be present at these hearings in order to tell the judge about their thoughts on goals and placement satisfaction.

PLC is a permanency arrangement specific to Pennsylvania. In this arrangement, permanent legal custody of a child is given to a foster parent, relative, or someone else committed to the child. The custodian must be committed to caring for the child until he or she reaches adulthood. If placed with a permanent legal custodian, a youth’s case is discharged from the child welfare system—no caseworker is assigned to the family and no case management services or court review occurs. Unlike with adoption, the rights of a child’s biological parents do not need to be terminated for PLC to be granted. PLC can come with a financial subsidy. At this time, the subsidy terminates when the child reaches age 18.


A delinquency petition informs a juvenile judge of the allegations against a youth and asks the judge to hold a formal hearing to determine if the youth did what he is accused of doing.


The new residence assigned to youth in the foster care system who cannot return home. Youth are entitled to be placed in the most family-like setting available, including placement with a relative, a foster family, or an adoptive family, or sent to a group home or institution. As they age, youth may also be placed in a transitional living placement or a Supervised Independent Living placement.


A youth’s formal response before a judge of “guilty” or “not guilty” to a delinquency or criminal charge. (In some states other words are substituted for “guilty”/“not guilty,” such as “admitted”/“denied” or “true”/“not true.”) Before accepting a plea of “guilty” (or “admitted” or “true”), the judge must ensure that the youth understands the charges against him, and must personally inform the youth of his rights (to have the state prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, to confront the witnesses against him, etc.) and the potential consequences of waiving those rights.

Post-Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA)

This is a voluntary legal agreement that is allowed by PA law and is between a child’s adoptive parent or parents and a child’s biological relatives that includes details about the type of contact after an adoption is finalized.  Contact can come in different forms, including in person visits.  A youth who is age 12 or older must consent to the PACA. 

Post-Permanency Services

These are services that can be provided to you and your family after you reach permanency like adoption, guardianship, or placement with a relative.  These services are meant to support you and your family so things stay strong and stable. 

Pre-disposition Report

The assessment a local probation office submits to a judge identifying the risks, needs, and recommended disposition or treatment for a youth adjudicated delinquent. The pre-disposition report is not the final word; at the disposition hearing, the youth and his attorney may offer other evidence weighing in favor of a different result.

Private Attorney

a) A lawyer who is not a public defender, but who is appointed by the court to represent an individual otherwise unable to afford one; or b) An attorney hired by an individual or his/her family.

Private Provider Agency

An organization or business that provides placement and services to youth and families involved with the child welfare system. County child welfare agencies often establish contracts with private agencies that offer family foster care for youth, group care, or supervised independent living. Private agency staff typically work with youth day to day, offering more direct supervision than a county child welfare agency.

Pro se

A Latin phrase meaning “for yourself.” When youth choose to present a case in court without the help of a private attorney or public defender, they are represented pro se.

Probable Cause

A reasonable ground to suspect that a person has committed or is committing a crime (or delinquent offense) or that a place contains specific items connected with crime. A judge requires probable cause in order to issue an arrest warrant or a search warrant. Similarly, a police officer must have probable cause to conduct an arrest or a search without a warrant.


A disposition involving the supervision of a delinquent youth in the community rather than in a secure confinement facility. “Probation” is both the name of the legal status that somewhat limits the youth’s freedom, and the name of the local agency providing supervision and other services. When a youth is placed on probation, s/he must comply with any conditions specified in the judge’s order, including submission to routine drug tests, payment of restitution to a particular victim or to a crime victims’ fund, participation in treatment or educational programs, and/or completion of community service.

Probation Revocation

When a youth violates the court-ordered conditions of his probation or commits another offense, the judge can revoke his probation and assign him a different disposition, such as confinement in a juvenile facility. Because a youth may be locked up when his probation is revoked, the youth is entitled to a hearing with formal due process rights (right to an attorney, right to cross-examine witnesses, etc.).


A lawyer who represents the state or federal government in criminal and juvenile proceedings. In a juvenile proceeding (as in an adult criminal proceedings), the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused youth committed the delinquent act in order for the youth to be adjudicated delinquent.

Public Benefits

Benefits from the government that help pay for things like food, housing, and other basic living expenses. Individuals usually have to be very low income to qualify for public benefits.

Public Defender

A lawyer or staff of lawyers whose duty it is to represent indigent defendants, including youth charged with delinquent acts. Typically, public defenders’ offices are funded by the local, state, or federal government.