- Consider your capabilities, legal obligations, and the child’s needs before taking guardianship.
- Obtain written consent from both parents or legal guardians of the child in question.
- Prepare financial records and detailed parenting plans to help the court determine the best possible outcome for the child in your care.
- Take advantage of available resources such as counseling or parenting classes to learn how best to care for your child.
When a child’s parents can no longer provide the necessary guardianship or care, they must obtain a new guardian. This can be due to various reasons, such as the death, incarceration, or incapacitation of t heir parents, abuse or neglect, poverty or homelessness, parental substance abuse disorder, or any other issues that could arise in a family.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in 2018, over 427,000 children were in foster care. Sixty-three percent of those children had been placed in foster care because they suffered from abuse or neglect at home. Another 20% were considered because their parents lacked financial stability and suffered from chronic mental illness or addiction issues.
On top of this alarming statistic, HHS also states that only 56% of those children were released back to their families within two years after entering foster care. Nearly half (44%) had no option but to remain in foster care until they reached adulthood or turned 18. Of this 44%, only 23% stayed with their biological family—meaning that the remaining 21% did not have another option but to transition out under state guardianship.
You might have a child in your care who needs a new guardian. If so, there are a few essential things that you’ll need to consider before taking guardianship.
Consider Guardianship Capabilities
Before you take on guardianship, it’s essential to consider your current and future capabilities. Guardians must be capable of providing the necessary financial, emotional, educational, physical, and any other type of support for the child. Consider whether you can give this kind of support long-term before taking on a new guardian role. Here are a few factors that can help you determine if you are capable of taking on guardianship:
Can you provide for the child’s needs (including food, housing, medical care, clothing, etc.)? Could other family members or friends contribute financially to the child’s care?
How much emotional support are you willing and able to provide to a child in need? Could you check whether you have adequate time to dedicate to the child’s physical and mental well-being?
Education and skills
What educational opportunities can you access? Can you support a child’s academic development, such as tutoring or homework help? Could you equip them with practical skills and knowledge if needed?
Will guardianship impact your other obligations, including work, school, children of your own, etc.? A new guardian role is a big commitment and could interfere with other essential duties.
Consider Legal Aspects
Before taking on a guardian role, you must understand the legal implications and processes involved. Guardianship is a legally binding process that requires certain documents and paperwork to be filed with the court.
You will need to apply with a family court, which can involve interviews, medical examinations, and home visits by social workers or other professionals. You must also be prepared to provide financial records and detailed parenting plans to help the court determine the best possible outcome for the child in your care.
You will also need to obtain permission from any existing guardians before becoming a new guardian—in most cases, this means obtaining written consent from both parents or legal guardians of the child in question. Once all documents have been reviewed and approved by all relevant parties, you can hire a probate litigation attorney to help you draft and complete the necessary paperwork.
Finally, guardianship requires an understanding of relevant state laws and regulations. Make sure to research and understand these before taking on the role of guardian to ensure that all legal requirements are met.
Be an Excellent Guardian
Of course, being a guardian means you will need to be an excellent caretaker. You’ll need to be prepared to provide the necessary resources and support to meet your new ward’s needs. Know their medical history, educational background, and other pertinent information. Take the time to understand their personality and preferences—this will help you develop a strong bond with them and build a healthy relationship based on trust and respect.
Finally, take advantage of available resources such as counseling or parenting classes to learn how best to care for your child. This can also help you better understand the emotional needs of yourself and the child in your care, which should always be addressed with compassion and understanding.
The role of guardian is an essential and rewarding responsibility that can positively impact a child’s life. Before taking guardianship, you must examine your capabilities, legal obligations, and the child’s needs. With the right resources and support, you can be an excellent guardian for the child in your care.