Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option - Georgia

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Definitions

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-2

The term 'guardianship order' means the court judgment that establishes a permanent guardianship and enumerates a permanent guardian's rights and responsibilities concerning the care, custody, and control of a child.

The term 'fictive kin' means a person who is known to a child as a relative, but is not, in fact, related by blood or marriage to the child and with whom the child has resided or had significant contact. The term 'other persons who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to a child' includes fictive kin and other individuals, including, but not limited to, neighbors, teachers, scout masters, caregivers, or parents of friends of the child and with whom the child has resided or had significant contact.

The term 'relative' means a person related to a child by blood, marriage, or adoption, including the spouse of any of those persons even if the marriage was terminated by death or dissolution.

Purpose of Guardianship

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

A Guardian's Rights and Responsibilities

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 29-2-21; 29-2-22

The power of a guardian over the minor shall be the same as that of a parent over a child; the guardian standing in place of the parent. A guardian shall:

  • Arrange for the support, care, education, health, and welfare of the minor, considering the minor's available resources
  • Take reasonable care of the minor's personal effects
  • Expend money of the minor that has been received by the guardian for the minor's current needs for support, care, education, health, and welfare

A guardian, solely by reason of the guardian-minor relationship, is not personally liable for the following:

  • The minor's expenses
  • Contracts entered into in the guardian's fiduciary capacity
  • The acts or omissions of the minor
  • Obligations arising from ownership or control of property of the minor
  • Other acts or omissions occurring in the course of the guardianship

The appointment of a guardian shall vest in the guardian the exclusive power, without court order, to:

  • Take custody of the person of the minor and establish the minor's place of dwelling within this State
  • Give any consent or approval that may be necessary for medical or other professional care, counsel, treatment, or services for the minor
  • Bring, defend, or participate in legal, equitable, or administrative proceedings, including alternative dispute resolution, as are appropriate for the support, care, education, health, or welfare of the minor in the name of or on behalf of the minor
  • Execute a surrender of rights to enable the adoption of the minor
  • Exercise those other powers reasonably necessary to provide adequately for the support, care, education, health, and welfare of the minor

Qualifying the Guardian

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-240

The juvenile court shall be vested with jurisdiction to appoint a permanent guardian for a child adjudicated as a dependent child in accordance with this article. Prior to the entry of an order, the court shall:

  • Find that reasonable efforts to reunify the child with his or her parents would be detrimental to the child or find that the living parents of the child have consented to the permanent guardianship
  • Find that termination of parental rights and adoption is not in the best interests of the child
  • Find that the proposed permanent guardian can provide a safe and permanent home for the child
  • Find that the appointment of a permanent guardian for the child is in the best interests of the child and that the individual chosen as the child's permanent guardian is the most appropriate individual to be the child's permanent guardian, taking into consideration the best interests of the child
  • If the child is age 14 or older, find that the appointment of a permanent guardian for the child is in the best interests of the child and that the individual chosen by the child as the child's permanent guardian is the most appropriate individual to be the child's permanent guardian, taking into consideration the best interests of the child

Procedures for Establishing Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 15-11-241; 15-11-243(b)

The petition for the appointment of a permanent guardian shall set forth:

  • The name and date of birth of the child
  • The name, address, and county of domicile of the petitioner and the individual nominated to serve as guardian, and their relationship to the child, if any
  • A statement that:
    • Reasonable efforts to reunify the child with his or her parents would be detrimental to the child
    • Termination of parental rights and adoption is not in the child's best interests
    • The proposed guardian can provide a safe and permanent home for the child
    • The appointment of a permanent guardian is in the child's best interests and that the individual chosen as the child's guardian is the most appropriate individual to be the child's permanent guardian
    • If the child is age 14, that the appointment of a permanent guardian is in the child's best interests and that the individual chosen by the child as the child's permanent guardian is the most appropriate individual to be the child's permanent guardian
    • Whether, to the petitioner's knowledge, there exists any notarized or witnessed document made by a parent of the child that deals with the guardianship of the child and the name and address of any designee named in the document
  • In addition to the petitioner and the nominated guardian and, if the parent of the child has not consented to the permanent guardianship, the names and addresses of the following relatives of the child whose parents' whereabouts are known:
    • The adult siblings of the child
    • If there is no adult sibling of the child, the grandparents of the child
    • If there is no grandparent of the child, any three of the nearest adult relatives of the child

A hearing shall be conducted in accordance with § 29-2-18 to determine the best interests of the child who was adjudicated as a dependent child, and in reaching its determination the court shall consider § 15-11-240.

Contents of a Guardianship Order

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-242

Permanent guardianship orders entered pursuant to § 15-11-240 shall:

  • Remain in effect until the child adjudicated as a dependent child reaches age 18 or becomes emancipated
  • Not be subject to review by the court except as provided in § 15-11-244
  • Establish a reasonable visitation schedule that allows the child adjudicated as a dependent child to maintain meaningful contact with his or her parents through personal visits, telephone calls, letters, or other forms of communication or specifically include any restriction on a parent's right to visitation

A permanent guardian shall have the rights and duties of a permanent guardian as provided in §§ 29-2-21, 29-2-22, and 29-2-23 and shall take the oath required of a guardian as provided in § 29-2-24.

Modification/Revocation of Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Code § 15-11-244

The court shall retain jurisdiction over a guardianship action under this part for the sole purpose of entering an order following the filing of a petition to modify, vacate, or revoke the guardianship and appoint a new guardian.

The guardianship shall be modified, vacated, or revoked based upon a finding, by clear and convincing evidence, that there has been a material change in the circumstances of the child who was adjudicated as a dependent child or the guardian and that such modification, vacation, or revocation of the guardianship order and the appointment of a new guardian is in the best interests of the child. Appointment of a new guardian shall be subject to the provisions of §§ 15-11-240 and 15-11-241.

Kinship Guardianship Assistance

Citation: Child Welf. Pol. Man., Policy 10.8

Subsidized guardianship is a monthly financial payment that follows a rate/age schedule. Subsidized guardianship payments are initiated after nonreunification is granted by the court, the child has been placed with the relative for at least 6 months under the supervision of the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS), and permanent guardianship is transferred to the relative. Payments begin the month after the child is transferred from the legal custody of DFCS to the permanent guardianship of the relative.

DFCS shall utilize the following eligibility criteria for subsidized guardianship payments for children who achieved permanency with a relative:

  • The relative must meet the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families degree of relationship.
  • A relative/nonrelative care assessment has been approved.
  • Nonreunification was granted by the court.
  • A subsidized guardianship/non-relative subsidized guardianship application and agreement has been signed by the relative and approved by the county department.
  • The child has resided with the relative under DFCS supervision for a minimum of 6 months prior to the transfer of permanent guardianship.
  • The relative was granted permanent guardianship of the child until the child reaches age 18.
  • The child is a citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States.
  • The income of the child, excluding the child's wages, is less than the amount of the subsidized guardianship payments.

Links to Agency Policies

Georgia Department of Human Services, Child Welfare Policy Manual (PDF - 513 KB), see Chapter 10.