Federal, state, provincial, territorial, and tribal governments have a responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all children and youth who have been in the care of the government through the public foster care system. As a result, all foster children and youth in the guardianship of a public agency who are placed with permanent guardians should be eligible for subsidized guardianship. In a majority of cases, guardians are related to the child or youth, but foster parents and others with a strong connection to the child or youth or his birth family may also become permanent, legal guardians.
Policy and Practice Recommendations
- States, provinces, territories, and tribes should offer permanent legal guardianship as a permanency option for foster children and youth for whom reunification has been ruled out. States, provinces, territories, and tribes should set eligibility criteria for guardianship including:
- The state, province, territory, or tribe has responsibility for the child or youth, and the child or youth has been removed from his or her home.
- A court has determined that reunification is not feasible and that guardianship is the best permanency option for this particular child or youth.
- A strong attachment exists between the child or youth and a potential guardian who is committed to caring for the child permanently.
- Before a decision to pursue guardianship is made, a social worker should explain to the potential permanent family the differences between adoption and guardianship as permanency options. The family and the worker should carefully consider the legal distinctions between guardianship and adoption (including that guardianship ends legally at age 18), and should determine together which option is best for this particular child and family.
- Foster children and youth who are placed in permanent guardianships should be eligible for at least the same level of support and benefits (including any therapeutic or specialized rates) they would have received in family foster care.
- Guardianship assistance benefits should be adjusted as the child’s age or needs change.
- In the United States, guardianship assistance should be a Title IV-E reimbursable expense, reimbursed at the same rate as foster care and adoption assistance.
- Children and youth who are receiving guardianship assistance should maintain their eligibility for future adoption assistance benefits, including Title IV-E adoption assistance in the U.S. should there come a time that adoption becomes the preferred permanency option for a particular child or youth.