Foster care and guardianship are both designed to provide safe and healthy care to children if separation from the birth parent is either voluntary or involuntarily necessary. While adoption permanently severs the legal tie between birth parent and child, guardianship and foster care can allow some level of shared responsibility and parental rights.? There are, however, many differences between the two.
Foster Care is part of a State-funded social program that provides temporary care for a child who cannot live with his or her own family. A child may enter foster care for a number of reasons including neglect, abuse, or a family crisis.? A child with extreme behavioral issues may also enter foster care to supplement parents? efforts and protect the child from endangering him or herself.
A foster home is a temporary solution intended to provide affection, stability and consistency to help a child grow and restore psychological wellbeing.? ?Foster care is not meant to be permanent, so children typically continue to visit their own families until they may be reunited.? While the child is out of the home, services are provided to help facilitate a healthy reunion.
If circumstances prevent a reunion with a child?s birth parents, Social Services will look to family members and other persons in the child?s life to see if a permanent home can be found.? If another suitable opportunity does not exist, a foster family may choose to seek permanence either by adoption or legal guardianship.
Guardianship, as opposed to foster care, is a more permanent solution and is typically used for cases involving relative caregivers.? Kinship care is usually preferred over foster care so that a child is able to maintain relationships with extended family in a safe and familiar environment. If a reunion with birth parents is ruled out, a guardian assumes legal and financial duty until the child reaches the age of 18.? A guardian is assigned primary parental rights and responsibilities for the child?s care, protection and education.? In some cases a probate court may extend guardianship beyond 18 years of age depending on the needs of the child.
A legal guardian has rightful control and can make decisions on behalf of the child, but the child will also maintain a legal connection with his or her birth parents.? Birth parents may retain rights to visitation, access to information, and notice of accidents or serious illness; however, as long as legal guardianship is in effect, the rights of the birth parents are secondary and subject to limitations.
A guardianship arrangement may be temporary or permanent depending on the circumstances of the birth parents. Birth parents may request that a guardianship order be vacated and the child be returned to their care. If reunification with a parent is not possible, a legal guardian may choose to adopt the child.
Two Types of Guardianship
There are two types of guardianship situations: subsidized and standby.? Subsidized guardianship may be an option if a family is unexpectedly needed to care for a child (usually when kinship care is possible in lieu of foster care).? Subsidized guardianship provides financial assistance determined by household income of the guardian and the needs of the child.
Standby guardianship, on the other hand, is a planned custody arrangement.? In the event that a birth parent can no longer care for a child, either for physical or mental health reasons, a standby guardian will assume responsibility for a child?s care without interference by the State.? Standby guardianship is often set in place if a parent is diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Any situation involving the separation of a child from a parent can get extremely complicated.? If you or someone you know needs help, we highly encourage you to seek expert legal counsel regarding details on foster care, guardianship and/or adoption. ?Sherer Law Firm is experienced and dedicated to protecting families and looking out for the best interests of children.? Please contact us today for more information on these topics.