Glossary: S


Sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones.


Money from colleges, universities, community-based organizations, faith communities, or businesses to help pay for costs associated with higher education or training programs. 


A quick process used to identify youth who may require more in-depth evaluation to determine risks or needs related to problematic behavior, education, health, mental health, trauma, and/or drug use. See also “Assessment.”

Search and Seizure

The examination of a youth and/or his property by police or other government actors, and the forcible taking of his property or placing him under arrest. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees individuals the right against unreasonable search and seizure, which limits the power of police or other government actors in this capacity.

Secure Confinement

A detention or disposition placement in a locked facility in which the youth is not free to leave. Other out-of-home placements such as shelters, halfway houses, or treatment facilities are generally not considered secure confinement facilities.


Making a written or oral statement indicating involvement in a crime or vulnerability to prosecution. Youth in particular cannot be compelled by police, prosecutors, or other government actors to incriminate themselves, as guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Sex Offender Registration

The process in which a person convicted of a “sex offense”— sexual abuse or inappropriate sexual conduct—formally notifies the police of his/her place of residence during or after prison. The names and addresses of registered sex offenders are generally available to the public and depending on the state, there may be further restrictions on, for example, where the convicted offender may live and work. Some states require youth adjudicated delinquent for sex offenses in juvenile court to register their names and information even though most youth who exhibit inappropriate sexual behavior do not grow up to be adult sex offenders.


The practice of restraining youth with handcuffs, leg irons, and/or belly chains as a security measure in some courts and secure facilities. See also “Restraints.”

Sight and Sound Contact

Because of the risk that youth who are confined with adults may be physically or sexually abused or harassed, federal law requires youth who are held in adult jails and prisons to be separated from adults “by sight and sound.” This means generally that youth under the age of eighteen must be housed and transported in ways that prevent them from seeing, talking to, or being within earshot of adult detainees and prisoners.


The attorney who represents the county child welfare agency at permanency review hearings.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

This is a special immigration status for children and youth who were not born in the United States to adjust their status to a Lawful Permanent Resident.  Youth who have experienced abuse and neglect, including youth who are in the child welfare system, may be eligible for the status.    

Status Offense

Conduct that’s considered unlawful when committed by a minor (because of his/her childhood “status”), but isn’t criminal when committed by an adult. Common examples include running away from home, habitual disobedience to parents, truancy, and curfew violations.


This is usually an amount of money that is paid to you that you can use. For example, you may be in a Supervised Independent Living Program and get a weekly or monthly stipend to use to pay for some of your daily needs.  Your county’s IL program may also offer stipends when you complete certain tasks of benchmarks, like completing a class, getting a job or graduating.  Some stipends are for specific purposes—like buying books or a job uniform-- and some can be used for anything you want.

Strict Liability

A description of certain offenses for which an individual may be found guilty even if s/he didn’t knowingly or intentionally commit a crime. For example, a person may be guilty of statutory rape if he has sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent, even if he believed that the person was old enough to consent.

Substitute Care System

A legal arrangement in which youth live apart from their biological parents by virtue of court authorization or supervision. The substitute care system often provides the following types of placements: kinship and non-relative foster homes, group homes, institutions, and Supervised Independent Living placement. People often use the terms “foster care system” or “child welfare system” to describe the substitute care system, but it is important to remember that there are many kinds of placements available for children in substitute care other than foster care.

Sufficiency of the Evidence

As assessed by a higher court, in reviewing the decision of a trial court on appeal, whether there was adequate evidence for the judge or jury to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.

Summary Offense

A minor crime, such as a traffic violation, that can be prosecuted without a formal indictment. Summary offenses generally fall under the jurisdiction of criminal rather than juvenile courts.

Supervised Independent Living (SIL) Placement

A placement in which a youth 16 or older who is still in the care of a county child welfare agency lives in settings where they are allowed age-appropriate freedom and responsibility while also receiving the supervision and guidance of the child welfare agency or a service provider. SIL settings may include independent apartments in the community (scatter site), clustered apartments, dorm settings, and host homes, among other arrangements. SIL placements help youth gain experience in handling the responsibilities of the adult world while receiving support and instruction. Under the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, these placements are not eligible for federal reimbursement for youth who are in care and are between ages 18 and 21.

Suppression of Evidence

Information or proof that a trial judge must exclude or “suppress” from a prosecution’s case against a youth because it was illegally obtained, for example, by means of an unreasonable search or a coerced confession. When a youth believes that the evidence was obtained illegally, his/her attorney will request that the judge “suppress” the evidence.

Surrogate Parent

This is a term that is used for a person who takes the role of educational decision maker in special education matters.  The school system or court can appoint a surrogate parent.