Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option - Connecticut

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Definitions

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 17a-126; 17a-114; 45a-604; Code of Regs. § 17a-126-2

As used in this section, the term 'caregiver' means any of the following:

  • A fictive kin caregiver, as defined in § 17a-114, who is licensed or approved to provide foster care and who is caring for a child
  • A relative caregiver, which means a person who is age 21 or older; related to a child by birth, adoption, or marriage; and is licensed or approved to provide foster care
  • A person who is a licensed or approved foster care provider and is caring for a child because the parent of the child has died or become otherwise unable to care for the child for reasons that make reunification with the parent and adoption not viable options within the foreseeable future

A 'fictive kin caregiver' is a person who is age 21 or older and who is unrelated to a child by birth, adoption, or marriage but who has an emotionally significant relationship with the child or the child's family amounting to a familial relationship.

'Permanent guardianship' means a guardianship that is intended to endure until the minor reaches the age of majority without termination of the parental rights of the minor's parents.

In regulation: The term 'guardian' means one who has the authority and obligations of 'guardianship,' as defined below. The term 'subsidized guardian' means a person to whom legal guardianship has been awarded and who otherwise qualifies for a subsidy under §§ 17a-126-1 through 17a-126-23, inclusive, of the regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.

Purpose of Guardianship

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

A Guardian's Rights and Responsibilities

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 45a-604

The term 'guardianship' means guardianship of the person of a minor, which includes the following:

  • The obligation of care or control
  • The authority to make major decisions affecting the child's education and welfare, including, but not limited to, consent determinations regarding marriage; enlistment in the armed forces; and major medical, psychiatric, or surgical treatment

Qualifying the Guardian

Citation: Code of Regs. § 17a-126-3

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) shall determine through an assessment that the relative caregiver is capable of providing appropriate care for the child without the continued provision of services by DCF. In addition to the requirements for relative certification set forth in regulation, the assessment shall include the following:

  • The health of persons living in the home does not present a hazard to the child.
  • The caregiver is physically, intellectually, and emotionally capable of providing care, guidance, and supervision of the child, including:
    • Ensuring that the child receives needed medical care
    • Providing for the child's physical needs
    • Promoting the social, intellectual, emotional, and physical development of the child
    • Ensuring adequate opportunity for cultural and educational activities
    • Ensuring the child's participation in an approved education program, including regular school attendance

Before petitioning for the transfer of guardianship from DCF to a relative caregiver, DCF shall secure and evaluate information necessary to determine if a transfer of guardianship is in the child's best interests. The child shall be interviewed and the opinion of the child regarding the proposed transfer of guardianship shall be taken into consideration.

Approval as a guardian shall be denied if any member of the household of the relative caregiver:

  • Has been convicted of any of the following:
    • Injury or risk of injury to a minor
    • Impairing the morals of a minor
    • A violent crime against a person
    • The possession, use, or sale of controlled substances within the past 5 years
    • Illegal use of a firearm
  • Has ever had an allegation of child abuse or neglect substantiated
  • Has had a minor removed from their care because of child abuse or neglect
  • Has failed a drug screen

Procedures for Establishing Guardianship

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 45a-616a; 45a-617

Effective October 1, 2018: The court shall issue an order for permanent legal guardianship if the court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the permanent legal guardianship is in the best interests of the child and that the following have been proven by clear and convincing evidence:

  • One of the statutory grounds for termination of parental rights exists or the parents have voluntarily consented to the appointment of a permanent guardian.
  • Adoption of the child or youth is not possible or appropriate.
  • If the child is as least age 12, the child consents to the proposed appointment of a permanent guardian.
  • If the child is under age 12, the proposed permanent guardian is a relative or already serving as the permanent guardian of at least one of the child's siblings.
  • The child has resided with the proposed permanent guardian for at least 1 year.
  • The proposed permanent guardian is suitable and worthy and is committed to remaining the permanent guardian and assuming the right and responsibilities for the child until the child reaches the age of majority.

When appointing a permanent guardian of a minor, the court shall take into consideration the following factors:

  • The ability of the prospective permanent guardian to meet, on a continuing day-to-day basis, the physical, emotional, moral, and educational needs of the minor
  • The minor's wishes, if he or she is over age 12 or is of sufficient maturity and capable of forming an intelligent preference
  • The existence or nonexistence of an established relationship between the minor and the prospective permanent guardian
  • The best interests of the child

There shall be a rebuttable presumption that appointment of a grandparent or other relative related by blood or marriage as a permanent guardian is in the best interests of the child.

Contents of a Guardianship Order

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

Modification/Revocation of Guardianship

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 45a-616a

Effective October 1, 2018: If a permanent guardian appointed under this section becomes unable or unwilling to serve as permanent guardian, the court may appoint a successor guardian or permanent guardian in accordance with this section and sections 45a-616 and 45a-617 or may reinstate a parent of the minor who was previously removed as guardian of the person of the minor, if the court finds that the factors that resulted in the removal of the parent as guardian have been resolved satisfactorily, and that it is in the best interests of the child to reinstate the parent as guardian.

Kinship Guardianship Assistance

Citation: Gen. Stat. §§ 17a-98a; 17a-126

DCF shall establish a kinship navigator program. The program shall ensure that:

  • When DCF places a child with a relative for foster care, DCF informs the relative regarding procedures to become licensed as a foster parent.
  • Grandparents and other relatives caring for a child are provided with information on the array of State services and benefits for which they may be eligible, including the subsidy program.

DCF shall establish a program of subsidized guardianship for the benefit of children who have been in foster care for not less than 6 consecutive months, for whom neither reunification with a parent nor adoption is an appropriate permanency option, and who have been living with a caregiver. DCF shall provide the following subsidies under the subsidized guardianship program:

  • A special-needs subsidy, a lump sum payment for up to $2,000 for one-time expenses resulting from the assumption of care of the child
  • A medical subsidy comparable to the medical subsidy to children in the subsidized adoption program
  • A monthly subsidy on behalf of the child that shall not exceed the foster care maintenance payment that would have been paid if the child had remained in licensed foster care

A guardianship subsidy shall continue, subject to annual review, until the child reaches age 18. A guardianship subsidy may continue, subject annual review, through the child's 21st birthday, provided the child is enrolled full time in a secondary education program or in an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education or participating full time in a program that is designed to promote or remove barriers to employment.

Links to Agency Policies

Connecticut Department of Children and Families Agency Regulations, Sections 17a-126-1 through 17a-126-23, Subsidized Guardianship