The foster care system can be a challenging and heartbreaking way for a child to grow up. Every day, young people age out of the system – that is, they grow up to the age of majority and are then left to function on their own without a family to support them, nurture them or care for them.
In 2008, a new federal law was passed, called The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (Fostering Connections Act). The FCA gives all states the option to use Federal Title IV-E of the Social Security Act to finance guardianship assistance programs (GAPs), also referred to as subsidized guardianship, which can enable grandparents or other relatives to provide permanent homes for their grandchildren who had been in the foster care system. (Guardianship provides legal supervision for minors whose parents have passed away, or who are unable or unwilling to care for them.)
Parents can appoint relatives or closely bonded family friends to be guardians for their children in the even that some unfortunate tragedy were to end their lives before their children reached adulthood. If both parents should pass away unexpectedly without having appointed a legal guardian for their children, the court will act in the best interest of the child to find the most suitable guardian for the child, taking into consideration the relationship the child may have formed.
How is legal guardianship of a minor different from adoption?
The parents who adopt a child are given all of the rights and responsibilities that the birth parents once had. Adoption is a legal, permanent, lifelong relationship.
A permanent guardian is appointed by the court with the legal responsibility to care for and supervise the child. The guardian has physical, and legal custody of the child while keeping the birth parents’ legal rights intact. In some cases, the birth parents must prove to the court that they have the ability to care for their children properly, and that it is in the best interest of the child that the permanent guardianship be vacated.
A permanent guardian is financially responsible for the child whether or not they receive a subsidy from the state. If the birth parents are still alive and their parental rights have not been terminated, they have a responsibility to contribute to the financial support of the child.
What are the benefits of permanent guardianship for the child?
Subsidized permanent guardianship was created in order to meet the needs of children who had been living in DCS custody, but are now living with caregivers who can give them a safe and stable environment in which to grow up, and where reunification with birth parents is not possible or inappropriate. The child will be placed in the relative caregiver’s home for six months. The caregiver must be approved as a DCS resource parent during the six months that the child is living in their home.
At the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates, we understand Tennessee’s guardianship law. We can help you understand your rights and obligations as a guardian. Please contact our office for more information.