Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option - Alabama

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Definitions

Citation: Ann. Code § 38-12-32

The following terms shall have the following meanings:

  • A 'caregiver' is an individual age 21 or older, other than a child's parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian, who is an approved foster parent and a relative of the child and who has been providing care and support for the child while the child has been residing in the caregiver's home for at least the last 6 consecutive months while in the legal custody of the Department of Human Resources, a designated official for a child-placing agency, or a successor guardian.
  • A 'kinship guardian' is a caregiver who is willing to assume care of a child because of the incapacity of a parent, legal guardian, legal custodian, or other dependency reason, with the intent to raise the child to adulthood, and who is appointed the kinship guardian of the child by a juvenile court. A kinship guardian shall be responsible for the care and protection of the child and also for providing for the health, education, and maintenance of the child.
  • A 'relative' is an individual who is legally related to the child by blood, marriage, or adoption within the fourth degree of kinship, including only a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, grandparent, great-grandparent, great-aunt, great-uncle, great-great-grandparent, niece, nephew, grandniece, grandnephew, or a stepparent.

Purpose of Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Code § 38-12-31

The legislature finds and declares that:

  • An increasing number of relatives, including grandparents, are willing to provide care to related children on a long-term basis to prevent the children from remaining in foster care with unrelated caregivers, yet are either unable or unwilling to seek termination of the legal relationships between the parent and the child, particularly when it is the relative's own child or sibling who is the parent.
  • It is in the public interest to create a new type of legal guardianship that addresses the needs of children in the legal custody of the department and to establish long-term legal relationships with relatives and to place children out of the foster care system.

The purposes of kinship guardianships include the following:

  • Establish procedures to effect a legal relationship between a child in the legal custody of the department and a kinship guardian and to terminate legal custody with the department
  • Provide a child in the legal custody of the department with a stable and consistent long-term relationship with a kinship guardian when the parents, legal guardians, or legal custodians of the child are not willing or able to do so
  • Establish a permanent placement alternative to a child remaining in the legal custody of the department under court supervision when the child cannot be reunited with the parent, and other persons are not interested in pursuing adoption
  • Establish a new legal relationship that is permanent during the minority of the child and not subject to modification or revocation merely for a material change in circumstances that has occurred since the order granting the kinship guardianship was entered

A Guardian's Rights and Responsibilities

Citation: Ann. Code § 38-12-4

The department and the kinship foster parent shall develop an individualized service plan for the foster care of the child. The plan shall be periodically reviewed and updated. If the plan includes the use of an approved child care center or family child care home, the department shall pay for child care arrangements, according to established rates.

The kinship foster parent shall cooperate with any activities specified in the individualized service plan for the foster child, such as counseling, therapy, court sessions, or visits with the foster child's parents or other family members.

Qualifying the Guardian

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 38-12-2; 38-12-3; 38-12-4

The department shall establish standards for becoming a kinship foster parent as follows:

  • A relative shall be an individual who is legally related to the child by blood, marriage, or adoption within the fourth degree of kinship, including only a brother, sister, uncle, aunt, first cousin, grandparent, great-grandparent, great-aunt, great-uncle, great-great-grandparent, niece, nephew, grandniece, grandnephew, or a stepparent.
  • The kinship foster parent shall be age 21 or older, unless the department provides otherwise by rule to carry out the provisions of this chapter.
  • The department may waive standards for kinship foster care as provided by department rule and as permitted by other State and Federal law.

A person may become a kinship foster parent only upon the completion of an investigation to determine whether there is a State or Federal record of criminal history for the prospective kinship foster parent or any other adult residing in the prospective foster parent's home.

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation shall conduct the investigation and shall make the results of the investigation available to the department in accordance with this section.

The department shall determine whether the person is able to care effectively for the foster child by the following methods:

  • Reviewing personal and professional references
  • Observing during a home visit the kinship foster parent with household members
  • Interviewing the kinship foster parent

Procedures for Establishing Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 38-12-2; 38-12-4; 12-15-315

When a child has been removed from his or her home and is in the care, custody, or guardianship of the department, the department shall attempt to place the child with a relative for kinship foster care. If the relative is approved by the department to provide foster care services, in accordance with rules and regulations adopted by the department, and a placement with the relative is made, the relative may receive payment for the full foster care rate only as provided by Federal law for the care of the child. The relative also may receive any other benefits that might be available to foster parents, whether in money or in services. Foster care payments shall cease upon the effective date of the kinship subsidy payments or as provided by the department.

The appointment of the kinship guardian is made by the juvenile court.

At the permanency hearing the court shall determine the permanency plan for the child. The plan may include permanent placement with a kinship guardian pursuant to a written request filed by the department for the appointment of an individual as a kinship guardian.

Contents of a Guardianship Order

Citation: Ann. Code § 12-15-315

The request for appointment of a kinship guardian shall contain the following:

  • Granting kinship guardianship to the relative caregiver is in the best interests of the child.
  • Granting a kinship guardianship of the child to the relative caregiver will provide the child with a safe and permanent home.
  • The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative caregiver and the relative caregiver demonstrates a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child.
  • The relative caregiver has been approved as a foster parent by the department and has completed criminal history and child abuse and neglect central registry clearances.
  • The child has been in the care of the relative caregiver for no less than 6 consecutive months.
  • A child who is age 14 or older has been consulted as to his or her position regarding the prospective kinship guardianship and, if the child is age 18 or older, he or she has consented to the kinship guardianship.

If the permanency plan for a child is placement with a kinship guardian, the service plan must contain the following:

  • The steps that the department has taken to determine that it is not appropriate for the child to be returned home or adopted
  • The reasons for any separation of siblings during placement
  • The reasons why a permanent placement with a fit and willing relative caregiver through a kinship guardianship arrangement is in the best interests of the child
  • The ways in which the child meets the eligibility requirements for the kinship guardianship program
  • The efforts the department has made to discuss adoption by the relative foster parent as a more permanent alternative to a kinship guardianship, and why the relative foster parent has chosen not to pursue adoption
  • The efforts made by the department to discuss kinship guardianship with the parent, legal guardian, or legal custodian of the child, or why the efforts were not made

Modification/Revocation of Guardianship

This issue is not addressed in the statutes and regulations reviewed.

Kinship Guardianship Assistance

Citation: Ann. Code § 38-12-34

The department may provide subsidies for an eligible child placed in kinship guardianship by a court or by a federally recognized Native American Indian Tribe, if the child would not be placed in a kinship guardianship without the assistance of the program.

A child is eligible for a kinship guardianship subsidy if the department determines the following:

  • The child has been removed from the custody of his or her parent or parents, legal guardian, or legal custodian as a result of a judicial determination to the effect that continuation in the custody of the parent or parents, legal guardian, or legal custodian would be contrary to the welfare of the child.
  • The department is responsible for the placement and care of the child.
  • Being returned home or being adopted are not appropriate permanent placement options for the child.
  • Permanent placement with a kinship guardian is in the child's best interests.
  • The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the prospective kinship guardian and the kinship guardian has a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child.
  • The child has received foster care maintenance payments while residing for at least 6 consecutive months in the home of the prospective kinship guardian.
  • With respect to a child who is at least age 14, the child has been consulted regarding the kinship guardianship.
  • If required for Federal funding participation, the kinship guardian is qualified pursuant to a means-based test and any other requirements.
  • If required for Federal funding participation, the necessary degree of relationship exists between the prospective kinship guardian and the child.

Links to Agency Policies

Kinship guardianship is not addressed in the regulations and agency policies reviewed.