Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option - Iowa

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Definitions

Citation: Pol. Man. Tit. 13, Ch. D(1)

The term 'guardian' means a person who is not the parent of a child but who has been appointed by the court or juvenile court that has jurisdiction over the child to have a permanent self-sustaining relationship with the child, to make important decisions that have a permanent effect on the life and development of that child, and to promote the general welfare of that child.

Purpose of Guardianship

Citation: Pol. Man. Tit. 13, Ch. D(1)

Guardianship offers more permanency than long-term foster care but less permanency than a return to the child's parents or adoption. When parents are unable to provide daily care for their children, and adoption is not warranted, guardianship can keep children rooted, empower families, and provide permanence for children.

Placement with a legal guardian may be appropriate if a child is unlikely to return home in the foreseeable future and adoption is not possible because of any of the following:

  • The child will not consent to adoption.
  • Parental rights cannot be terminated.
  • The child continues to benefit from the relationship with the birth family.
  • Potential guardians are not willing to adopt the child, even though there is a strong and beneficial emotional bond between them.

The recommendation of guardianship as the child's permanency goal is appropriate when guardianship will assure the child's safety and is consistent with the well-being and permanency needs of the child. Guardianship may be in the child's best interests if the following factors have been considered:

  • The wishes of the child's prospective permanent legal custodian
  • The wishes of the child age 10 or older
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the birth parents, when applicable, and the prospective permanent legal custodian
  • The child's adjustment to the present home, school, and community
  • The child's need for stability and continuity of relationships
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved

A Guardian's Rights and Responsibilities

Citation: Pol. Man. Tit. 13, Ch. D(1)

Unless otherwise enlarged or circumscribed by a court having jurisdiction over the child or by operation of law, the right and duties of a guardian with respect to a child are as follows:

  • To consent to marriage; enlistment in the armed forces of the United States; or medical, psychiatric, or surgical treatment
  • To serve as guardian ad litem, unless the interests of the guardian conflict with the interests of the child or another person has been appointed guardian ad litem
  • To serve as custodian, unless another person has been appointed custodian
  • To make periodic visits if the guardian does not have physical possession or custody of the child
  • To consent to adoption and to make any other decision that the parents could have made when the parent-child relationship existed
  • To make other decisions involving protection, education, and care and control of the child
  • Make an annual report to the court

Qualifying the Guardian

Citation: Pol. Man. Tit. 13, Ch. D(1)

A potential guardian for a child may be the child's foster (resource) parent, a relative, or a nonrelated person with whom the child has a relationship. The following factors must be considered when determining the appropriateness of a person to be a child's guardian:

  • The best interests of the child
  • The potential guardian's ability to nurture the child
  • The degree of the potential guardian's commitment to the long-term care of the child
  • The potential guardian's understanding of the role expected and attitude toward the child's family
  • The results of records checks
  • A home study, unless the potential guardian is a licensed foster parent or adoptive parent
  • A home visit to determine the safety and stability of the home (if not previously done)
  • A financial statement by the family to determine the family's financial means to care for additional children
  • Three references provided by the family, with the ability to also check three unsolicited references if needed

Criminal records checks, as well as checks of the central abuse registry and the sex offender registry, must be completed on anyone in the potential guardian's home who is aged 14 or older. If a home study has been done, and records checks were obtained through the study, checks do not need to be completed.

If any person in the prospective guardian's household has a record of founded abuse, a criminal conviction, or placement on the sex offender registry, the home shall not be approved for the child's placement, unless an evaluation of the abuse or criminal conviction determines that the abuse or crime does not warrant prohibiting the placement of the child.

Procedures for Establishing Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.104; Pol. Man. Tit. 13, Ch. D(1)

During a permanency hearing, the court shall consider the child's need for a secure and permanent placement in light of any permanency plan or evidence submitted to the court and the reasonable efforts made concerning the child. After a permanency hearing, the court may enter an order to transfer guardianship and custody of the child to a suitable person.

Prior to entering a permanency order for guardianship, convincing evidence must exist showing that all of the following apply:

  • A termination of the parent-child relationship would not be in the best interests of the child.
  • Services were offered to the child's family to correct the situation that led to the child's removal from the home.
  • The child cannot be returned to the child's home.

In policy: The Department of Human Services must submit a recommendation for guardianship to the court that includes clear and convincing evidence that:

  • Services were offered to the child's family to correct the situation that led to the child's removal.
  • The child cannot be returned home.
  • Adoption would not be a viable permanency option.
  • The birth parents support the guardianship recommendation.
  • The child is not in need of child welfare services.
  • The family team meeting recommendation is for guardianship.
  • The child has been living with the prospective guardian for the last 6 months.
  • The prospective guardian has a significant relationship with the child and demonstrates a willingness to make a long-term commitment to the child's care.
  • The assessment of the prospective guardian shows that the guardian can meet the needs of the child and that his or her home is safe and stable.
  • Guardianship is in the best interests of the child.

Contents of a Guardianship Order

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.104; Pol. Man. Tit. 13, Ch. D(1)

Any permanency order may provide restrictions upon the contact between the child and the child's parent or parents, consistent with the best interests of the child.

In policy: Residual parental rights and responsibilities are not affected by guardianship. However, the court can define or limit the rights of the child's parents through the guardianship order. Rights that may be affected include visitation, consent to adoption, support, and lines of inheritance.

Modification/Revocation of Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 232.104

Following a permanency hearing and the entry of a permanency order that places a child in the custody or guardianship of another person or agency, the court shall retain jurisdiction and annually review the order to ascertain whether the best interests of the child are being served. Any modification shall be accomplished through a hearing procedure following reasonable notice. During the hearing, all relevant and material evidence shall be admitted and procedural due process shall be provided to all parties.

Kinship Guardianship Assistance

Citation: Admin. Code Tit. 441, §§ 204.1; 204.2

This chapter implemented a 5-year demonstration waiver project for a subsidized guardianship program to provide financial assistance to guardians of eligible children who are not able to be adopted and who are not able to return home.

The guardian named in a permanency order under § 232.104 for a child who was previously in the custody of the department is eligible for subsidy when all of the following conditions exist:

  • The child has a documented permanency goal of long-term foster care, guardianship, or another planned permanent living arrangement.
  • The child has been in a licensed foster care placement and has lived in foster care for at least 6 of the last 12 months.
  • The child is either:
    • Age 14 or older and consents to the guardianship
    • Age 12 or older and guardianship has been determined to be in the child's best interests
    • Under age 12 and part of a sibling group with a child aged 12 or older
  • The child has lived in continuous placement with the prospective guardian for the 6 months before initiation of the guardianship subsidy.
  • The guardian is a person who has a significant relationship with the child and demonstrates a willingness to make a long-term commitment to the child's care.
  • The child has been randomly selected to participate in the waiver demonstration project.

The guardian may be a relative or nonrelative. Placement with that guardian must be in the best interests of the child. The best-interest determination must be documented in the case file.

The subsidized guardianship applicant or recipient need not reside in Iowa.

Links to Agency Policies

Iowa Department of Human Services, Employee's Manual, Title 13, Chapter D(1), Subsidized Guardianship (PDF - 133 KB)

Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association, Kinship Caretakers: How to Navigate Iowa's Child Welfare System (PDF - 1,165 KB)