Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option - Missouri



Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 453.072; 211.021; Code of Regs. Tit. 13, § 35-38.010

The term 'close nonrelated person' means any nonrelated person whose life is so intermingled with the child that the relationship is similar to a family relationship. The term 'relative' means any grandparent, aunt, uncle, adult sibling, adult first cousin of the child, or any other person related to the child by blood or affinity.

The term 'legal custody' means the right to the care, custody, and control of a child and the duty to provide food, clothing, shelter, ordinary medical care, education, treatment, and discipline of a child. Legal custody may be taken from a parent only by court action and if the legal custody is taken from a parent without termination of parental rights, the parent's duty to provide support continues even though the person having legal custody may provide the necessities of daily living.

In regulation: The term 'relative' means a person related to another by blood, adoption, or affinity within the third degree (grandparent, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepparent, stepbrother, stepsister, uncle, aunt, or first cousin).

The term 'kinship' applies to a person not related by blood, marriage, or adoption who has a close relationship with the child or child's family (godparents, neighbors, teachers, close family friends, and fellow church members) or a person who has a close relationship with the child or child's family and is related to the child by blood or affinity beyond the third degree.

Purpose of Guardianship

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Sec. 4, Ch. 22

Guardianship is a permanency option for children in out-of-home care when neither family reunification nor adoption is feasible or desirable, and the caregiver family is willing to assume a greater level of responsibility and authority over the child.

A Guardian's Rights and Responsibilities

Citation: Child Welf. Man. Sec. 4, Ch. 22

The guardian becomes legally responsible and obligated to take care of the child. The guardian must make all necessary decisions regarding the child's affairs, including medical care, education, and finances. Also, the guardian is under a duty to provide the child with necessary food, clothing, and shelter. The guardian is directly supervised by and answerable to the court that granted the petitioner's request for guardianship.

Qualifying the Guardian

Citation: Code of Regs. Tit. 13, § 35-38.010; Child Welf. Man. Sec. 4, Ch. 22

A prospective guardian shall not be approved if he or she:

  • Has a felony conviction for child abuse or neglect, spousal abuse, a crime against children (including child pornography), or a crime involving violence, including rape, sexual assault, or homicide, but not including other physical assault or battery
  • Has had a felony conviction for physical assault, battery, or a drug-related offense in the past 5 years

In policy: The Department of Social Services will pursue guardianship when:

  • Family reunification is not likely in the foreseeable future and termination of parental rights is deemed inappropriate.
  • Adoption is not an option.
  • The current caregiver is able to meet the needs of the child, including financial, and is willing to pursue guardianship.
  • The current placement is stable.
  • The child's parent(s) will consent to guardianship.
  • The child, if over age 14, consents.
  • The juvenile court having jurisdiction supports guardianship as an option and is willing to terminate its jurisdiction when guardianship is granted.
  • The child's family support team is supportive of a plan for guardianship.

The caregiver family must comply with all licensing requirements, including training, background checks, and the home-study process.

Procedures for Establishing Guardianship

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 211.477(4); Child Welf. Man. Sec. 4, Ch. 22

If, after the dispositional hearing, the court finds that one or more of the grounds set out for termination of parental rights exists, but that termination is not in the best interests of the child because the court finds that the child would benefit from the continued parent-child relationship or because the child who is age 14 or older objects to the termination, the court may appoint a guardian under the provisions of chapter 475.

In policy: Persons interested in serving as a child's guardian must file a petition in probate court in accordance with chapter 475. If the court makes a determination that the child is a minor incapable of caring for him- or herself and unable to manage his or her affairs, a guardian is appointed.

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: Rev. Stat. § 453.072; Code of Regs. Tit. 13, §§ 35-38.010; 35-38.021

Any subsidies available to adoptive parents also shall be available to a qualified relative of a child or a qualified close nonrelated person who is granted legal guardianship of the child.

In regulation: In order for a child to qualify for a guardianship subsidy, the child shall meet the following criteria:

  • The child must be under age 18 at the time of placement.
  • The child must be in the custody of the department or a child-placing agency.
  • The child cannot or should not be returned to the home of his or her parents.
  • The child must be a 'child with special needs,' as defined below, that precludes placement with a guardian without providing subsidy.

To be eligible for a subsidy, a child shall meet one or more of the following conditions:

  • Any physical condition, whether congenital or not, that requires treatment or the purchase of special equipment or services
  • Intellectual impairment or dysfunction
  • Racial or ethnic minority
  • Be age 5 or older and younger than 18, or younger than 21 if the child's condition requires extraordinary treatment or rehabilitative services
  • Two or more children who are siblings and being placed with the same family
  • A developmental disability that prevents the child from functioning at the normal level for his or her age
  • A mental or emotional disturbance that impairs the child's mental functioning
  • A severe behavioral condition or inadequate social development that interferes with the child's ability to form satisfactory relationships
  • A history of circumstances such as long-term out-of-home care, incest, or a social or genetic complication in the family background, that can impede an adoption

In order for a guardian to be eligible for subsidy, he or she shall be a grandparent or great-grandparent, aunt or great-aunt, uncle or great-uncle, adult sibling, or adult first cousin of the child who has been approved as a guardianship placement.

Links to Agency Policies

Missouri Department of Social Services, Child Welfare Manual, see Section 4, Chapter 22