Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option - Maryland

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Definitions

Citation: Code of Regs. § 07.02.29.02

The term 'guardianship' means that a court has granted physical and legal custody, including legal authority and responsibility for a child, to an individual to provide for a child's needs.

The term 'kinship care' means continuous 24-hour care and supportive services provided for a minor child placed by a child-placing agency in the home of a relative related by blood or marriage, within the fifth degree of consanguinity or affinity.

The term 'relative' means an adult who is at least age 18 and who is:

  • Related by blood, marriage, or adoption within the fifth degree of consanguinity or affinity
  • An individual who makes up the family support system, including adults related beyond the fifth degree of consanguinity or affinity, godparents, friends of the family, or other adults who have a strong familial bond with the child

The term 'relative caregiver' means a relative, or relatives as is applicable, of a child who is in the care, custody, or guardianship of a local department and who has been designated by the local department as a temporary 24-hour caregiver of that child.

The term 'relative guardian' means a relative caregiver whom the court has designated as guardian.

A 'guardianship assistance agreement' is the written and binding agreement between the local Department of Social Services and the relative caregiver.

The 'Guardianship Assistance Program' is a program whereby the State, under qualifying circumstances, contributes financial assistance and medical assistance to help in the care of a child.

Purpose of Guardianship

Citation: Code of Regs. § 07.02.29.01

The purpose of the guardianship assistance program is to provide legal stability for a child who is in the custody or guardianship of a local department by allowing relative caregivers to take full legal responsibility for the child.

The goals of the guardianship assistance program are both of the following:

  • To encourage relative caregivers to become legal guardians of a child who has been placed in their home by a local department by removing financial barriers
  • To provide a permanent, safe, and nurturing environment for a child that supports a familial cultural background

A Guardian's Rights and Responsibilities

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

Qualifying the Guardian

Citation: Crts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-819.2; Code of Regs. §§ 07.02.11.26; 07.02.11.27

The report to the court shall include a:

  • Home study
  • Child protective services history
  • Criminal history records check
  • Review of the proposed guardian's physical and mental health history

In regulation: The local department shall give priority to the child's relatives over nonrelatives when determining permanency plans and placement. The decision by the local department to place a child with relatives shall be made:

  • With the participation of the relatives
  • After completing a home study to include:
    • A physical description of the relative's living situation and family history
    • Services needed by the child
    • The relative's ability and capacity to safely assume parental responsibilities
  • When feasible, in conjunction with a visit or visits by the child in the relative's home

Before custody and guardianship are granted to a relative or nonrelative of a child not committed to the local department, the local department shall:

  • Determine if departmental funds are available to support and maintain the child
  • Assess all factors necessary to determine the best interests of the child
  • Pursuant to an order from the court, prepare a report on the suitability of the individual to be the guardian of the child that includes a:
    • Home study for custody and guardianship
    • Child protective services history, if any
    • Criminal background check
    • Review of the proposed guardian's physical and mental health history

The local department shall submit the report to the court within 120 days after the date that the court issued the order to the local department to produce the report.

Procedures for Establishing Guardianship

Citation: Fam. Law § 5-326; Crts. & Jud. Proc. § 3-819.2

At a guardianship review hearing held 1 year or more after a juvenile court enters an order for guardianship of a child, the juvenile court may designate an individual guardian of the child if:

  • The local department certifies the child's successful placement with the individual under the supervision of the local department or its agent for at least 180 days or a shorter period allowed by the juvenile court on recommendation of the local department.
  • The local department files a report by a child-placing agency, completed in accordance with department regulations, as to the suitability of the individual to be the child's guardian.
  • The juvenile court makes a specific finding that:
    • For a compelling reason, adoption is not in the child's best interests.
    • Custody and guardianship by the individual is in the child's best interests and is the least restrictive alternative available.

Designation of a guardian under this paragraph terminates the local department's legal obligations and responsibilities to the child.

Before granting custody and guardianship under this section, the court shall consider:

  • Any assurance by the local department that it will provide funds necessary for the support and maintenance of the child
  • All factors necessary to determine the best interests of the child
  • A report by a local department or a licensed child-placing agency, completed in compliance with regulations adopted by the Department of Human Resources, on the suitability of the individual to be the guardian of the child.

Contents of a Guardianship Order

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

Modification/Revocation of Guardianship

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

Kinship Guardianship Assistance

Citation: Code of Regs. §§ 07.02.29.03; 07.02.29.04; 07.02.29.05

Both the child and the relative caregiver shall meet the eligibility requirements stated in this chapter, including the following:

  • The child shall be placed with the caregiver for at least 6 consecutive months prior to the establishment of guardianship assistance.
  • The relative caregiver home shall be approved as a resource home or kinship home for the last 6 consecutive months in which the child resided with the caregiver.

A child committed to a local department shall be eligible for consideration to participate when:

  • A court has determined that continuation in the home would be contrary to the welfare of the child.
  • The child has resided with the relative caregiver for 6 consecutive months.
  • The local department has established that both returning home and adoption have been ruled out.
  • The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative caregiver.
  • The child is under age 18 at the time of the court hearing to award custody and guardianship.
  • The school-age child under age 18 is a full-time elementary or secondary school student or is incapable of attending school due to a documented medical condition.

To be eligible for the guardianship assistance program, the relative caregiver shall:

  • Successfully complete the application requirements as set forth in this regulation
  • Be an approved resource or formal kinship home with the child in the placement for the last 6 consecutive months
  • Demonstrate a strong commitment to permanently care for the child

The relative caregiver shall:

  • Complete a signed written application
  • Complete a physical assessment and a mental health history
  • Meet all the requirements of approval for a resource home or kinship home

The spouse of a relative guardian shall be encouraged to participate as a relative guardian for the agreement and the court-determined guardianship.

Links to Agency Policies

Maryland Department of Human Resources, Social Services Administration, 1.9.15 COMAR 07.02.29, Guardianship Assistance Program (PDF - 518 KB)