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Kinship Caregivers - Child in Need of Care/Guardianship
What is guardianship?
The word "guardian" is used frequently to refer to the person who has legal authority over a child. However, the only time someone is officially named a guardian in Louisiana is after a child has been found to be a Child in Need of Care. Once this determination is made, the court can order the placement of a child with a guardian. The guardian has the duty and authority to make decisions that have a permanent effect on the child.
When is guardianship used?
Guardianship is used when neither reunification with the parents nor adoption is in the best interest of the child. It is intended to be a permanent placement for the child.
How is it done?
The child must have been found to be a Child in Need of Care by the court. Then the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), the parent or the attorney for the child may make a request of the court asking that a guardian be appointed. The child must have lived with the guardian for at least 6 months. There will be a home study of you and your home followed by a hearing to determine if guardianship is in the best interest of the child.
How long does guardianship last?
When does the court order expire?
The order continues until the child turns 18 years old. It can only be changed by court order, if the guardian no longer wants to or can no longer be the guardian. It can also be change if the guardianship is no longer in the child's best interest.
Do I need an attorney?
Generally, you do not need an attorney. You may choose to get an attorney especially if you disagree with DCFS' plan for guardianship. DCFS will be represented by an attorney. The parents will be appointed an attorney. The child will be appointed an attorney whose job it is to represent the wishes of the child.
What are my duties as a guardian?
If you are granted guardianship, you have the same rights and responsibilities of legal custody, which includes:
- Having physical custody of the child;
- Protecting the child;
- Training and providing reasonable discipline for the child;
- Providing food and shelter;
- Enrolling and making educational decisions for the child;
- Making medical decisions for the child.
Also, you can consent to the child's marriage and enlistment in the armed forces. You may not consent to the adoption of the child.
Can I prevent the parents from visiting with the child?
The judgment granting you guardianship must address visitation. You and the parents must follow that court order.
Do the parents still have the obligation to support the child?
Yes, parents still have the obligation to support the child. The judgment may order the parents to pay support. A voluntary arrangement with the parents may be the best and least contentious way to provide needed support for the child. If this is not possible and there is no judgment of support, you should contact the local Support Enforcement Office for guidance on how to establish initial child support benefits, having established support payments transferred to you, or you may hire an attorney to file directly in your parish district or juvenile court.
Additionally, if you have been the child's certified foster parent for six months, the child may qualify for guardianship subsidy assistance which may include monthly financial assistance, medical coverage, and other supports. The subsidy has to be approved prior to the granting of guardianship by the court.
Can I apply for benefits for the child or have the benefits the child receives put in my name?
Yes, you should contact the specific agency providing benefits and find out what documents you will need. If DCFS was previously receiving benefits for the child, they may be able to provide you with documents to assist you in transferring to you as payee.
Is there any paperwork I have to provide the court?
No, the attorneys will provide the court with all the necessary paperwork. However, you should receive notice of the court date, and a copy of the order granting guardianship once signed by the judge.
Are there any court costs that I will have to pay?
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