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June 2020   |   Archive   |   National Adoption Month   

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Making Informed Decisions of Kinship Adoption or Guardianship

Unexpected instability and crisis can impact parents’ ability to provide adequate care for their children, and relatives or fictive kin rise to the occasion to open their homes and hearts to help their family in times of need. In the United States, the foster care system has increasingly relied on grandparents and other extended family members to care for children, which is known as kinship care. Research has shown that in kinship care is generally better for children than nonrelative foster care. Children in kinship foster care experience fewer placement changes, more stability, better behavioral and mental health outcomes while preserving their cultural identity and traditions.

It is crucial that professionals receive continuous training that builds understanding and empathy as they meet the evolving needs of kinship and grandfamilies. Professionals should educate and inform birth parents, kinship caregivers, and the children (if appropriate) of their permanency options permanency—whether it is through adoption or guardianship.

Adoption is the most permanent of the relationships and turns the grandparent or extended family member into the parent in the eyes of the law. This can cause an additional layer of complexity in how the family relates to each other.

Guardianship, however, does not sever the birth parents’ rights and responsibilities and does not make the guardian the legal and permanent parent of the child, which can prevent some complications. It allows parents to retain certain rights, including the right to consent to adoption, and they can still visit with the child—unless the judge granting guardianship has limited that right due to the best interests of the child.

Both options have differential intricacies legally, financially, and emotionally, but, more importantly, the impact of the decision can have a lifelong effect.

To help children and families in the decision-making process, below are some practical tips in explaining adoption and guardianship:

  • Discuss adoption and guardianship with kinship/grandfamilies from the beginning of each case and often.
  • Inform about both the legal and financial ramifications of each option in accordance with the state laws and policies.
  • If the state offers a guardianship assistance program, ensure guardians are aware of the steps they need to do to qualify.
  • Share legal resources so families can seek private legal counsel and let them know they may have legal and related expenses up to $2000 reimbursed. Also, encourage kinship foster parents and children to ask their lawyer and judge questions if they are not clear on the guardianship or adoption order or any legal terms.

The following resources provide in-depth information on kinship adoption and guardianship to empower families to make their very own decision.

3 Resources on Kinship Adoption and Guardianship

Adoption and Guardianship for
Children in Kinship
Foster Care


By Generations United
and Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption


Adoption vs
Guardianship for
Children in Kinship
Foster Care: Making Informed Decisions [Webinar]

By Generations United

8 Crucial Tips for
Kinship Adoption


Creating a Family



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