Kinship Guardianship as a Permanency Option - Rhode Island

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Definitions

Citation: Admin. Rules 03-240-802, Policy 900.0025

Relative is defined as:

  • Grandparent, including step-grandparent, great-grandparent, or adoptive grandparent
  • Sibling; including half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother, stepsister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, adoptive brother, or adoptive sister
  • Uncle or aunt of whole- or half-blood, including uncle-in-law, aunt-in-law, great-uncle, or great-aunt
  • First and second cousins, including cousin of whole- or half-blood or first and second cousins-in-law
  • Stepmother or stepfather
  • Nephew or niece, including nephew or niece of whole- or half-blood, nephew-in-law, niece-in-law, great-nephew, or great-niece

Relatives of the putative father will be considered if his name appears on the child's birth certificate, he has admitted paternity in a court of proper jurisdiction, or he has signed an affidavit of paternity.

Spouses of any of the persons listed above continue to meet this relationship requirement even after the marriage is terminated by death or divorce.

Purpose of Guardianship

Citation: Admin. Code 03-007-001, Policy 700.0245

The Department of Children, Youth and Families utilizes a family-driven and youth-guided approach in developing an individualized, culturally sensitive family plan that addresses health, safety, and well-being when making permanency decisions. Federal and State law and department policy recognize legal guardianship as an important permanency option when family reunification, termination of parental rights, or adoption does not meet the child's permanency needs.

Legal guardianship provides the caregiver with the opportunity to provide a safe and stable environment for the child without terminating parental rights and provides a permanency option for older children who do not want to be adopted. Legal guardianship provides the child with a sense of belonging, and placement with members of the family support system maintains consistency in a child's life and helps decrease placement trauma.

Legal guardianship recognizes the tradition in many cultures of caring for related children without changing family relationships.

A Guardian's Rights and Responsibilities

Citation: Admin. Code 03-007-001, Policy 700.0245

Legal guardianship provides the caregiver with the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the child and the ability to care for the child without child welfare agency intervention.

Qualifying the Guardian

Citation: Admin. Rules 03-240-802, Policy 900.0025

In assessing a kinship care home, issues of child safety and well-being are of utmost importance. Careful and sensitive assessments must be made of kinship care homes with particular attention to the following areas:

  • History of involvement with child protective services
  • History of criminal charges
  • The child's comfort level with the kinship caregiver
  • The caregiver's commitment to protecting the child's health and safety and their willingness and ability to protect the child from abuse and neglect, whether by the parents or others
  • Whether the relationship between the caregiver and the parent is positive
  • The caregiver's willingness to care for the child as long as may be needed
  • Whether the kinship caregiver knows the child well and is physically healthy enough to care for the child
  • Whether the kinship placement will be able to keep siblings together, or, at the least, allow them regular contact

If the department determines that the relative is a fit and proper person to have placement of the child, taking into account any particular needs of the child and the child's best interests, then the child shall be placed with that relative.

All kinship care placements must be licensed and are subject to criminal records checks, including fingerprinting, and the same licensing standards and foster parent training that apply to a nonrelative foster home. Under certain circumstances, a waiver may be granted for nonsafety-related licensing requirements.

Procedures for Establishing Guardianship

Citation: Admin. Code 03-007-001, Policy 700.0245

The family court may grant a petition for legal guardianship initiated by the department for a child in the department's care. The petition contains the written consent of the parent who previously had custody of the child and the department. The granting of legal guardianship terminates department custody, the involvement of the department with the child, and the department's involvement with the child's parents as it relates to that child.

Contents of a Guardianship Order

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

Modification/Revocation of Guardianship

Citation: Admin. Code 03-007-001, Policy 700.0245

The court may revoke a legal guardianship if the court finds after hearing on a motion for revocation that continuation of the legal guardianship is not in the best interests of the child. Notice of any hearing on such motion is provided by the moving party to the department, the court-appointed special advocate, the parent or legal guardian, and any and all other interested parties.

Kinship Guardianship Assistance

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-12.3; Admin. Code 03-007-001, Policy 700.0245

The State may make funds available through the department for special reimbursement to guardians appointed pursuant to this chapter. These funds will be disbursed in accordance with the guidelines to be promulgated by the department.

In regulation: The child is eligible for title IV-E kinship guardianship assistance if:

  • The child has been removed from home pursuant to a voluntary placement agreement or as a result of a judicial determination that continuation in the home would be contrary to the welfare of the child, and the child is eligible for title IV-E foster care maintenance payments while residing for at least 6 consecutive months in the home of the prospective legal guardian.
  • Being returned home or adopted are not appropriate permanency options for the child.
  • The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the prospective legal guardian, and the legal guardian has a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child.
  • A child who is age 14 or older has been consulted regarding the legal guardianship arrangement.

The child and any sibling of the child may be placed in the same legal guardianship arrangement if the department and the guardian agree on the appropriateness of the arrangement for the siblings. Kinship guardianship assistance payments may be paid on behalf of each sibling placed with that legal guardian. The sibling does not have to meet the eligibility criteria above to be eligible for assistance.

The department provides kinship guardianship assistance payments on behalf of children to grandparents and other kinship caregivers who assume legal guardianship of children they have cared for as foster parents and have committed to care for permanently. Assistance payments cannot exceed the foster care maintenance payment that would have been paid on behalf of the child as if the child remained in a foster family home.

Links to Agency Policies

Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth and Families, Policy Manual: click on tab for 'Index,' scroll down and select '700.0245' for Legal Guardianship and Kinship Guardianship Assistance or '900.0025' for Kinship Care.