Some 7 million children under 18 in this country live under a grandparent's care. Drug addiction, family violence, abandonment, poverty and other reasons may be to blame. But in raising your grandchildren, simply opening your home to them may not be enough. Taking responsibility for a child can involve complicated legal options, requirements and rights.
Yes. The county social worker and court must give you (or any aunt, uncle or sibling) preferential consideration when deciding where to place the child. You and your home must meet certain standards, but, as a grandparent, you would not need a license. Also, a judge could authorize you to make decisions regarding the child's medical care and education, and you might be eligible for foster care payments, depending on certain criteria. In some counties, families in your situation can also get support services such as respite, legal assistance, mentoring and transportation, as well as tutoring and recreational activities for the child, through the state's Kinship Support Services Program (KSSP). For more information, go to www.dss.cahwnet.gov (click on Find Services and Foster Care, then Kinship Care).
IIt depends on the situation. If it appears that the children will remain in your care, you may want to consider becoming their legal guardian. This does not terminate the parents' parental rights and obligations, but it does give you legal custody. This means that you would have the legal right to make many decisions regarding their education and care.
If, however, the parents are only temporarily unable to care for the children, it may be sufficient to simply fill out a Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit. (FC § 6550) This would allow you to get them into school and authorize school-related medical care.
You can file a petition in court for appointment as guardian, or the child, if he or she is at least 12, can file the petition. (Prob. § 1510) A court-ordered, confidential investigation will take place. The judge may place the child in your custody if he or she finds that it would be in the child's "best interests." (Prob. § 1514) However, if either parent objects to the guardianship, the judge will not appoint you guardian unless he or she finds that granting custody to the parent would be "detrimental" to the child and that the guardianship would be in the child's best interests. (FC § 3041)
Yes. If you are caring for a grandchild or other young relative, you may apply for CalWORKs benefits for yourself and the child if you meet certain eligibility requirements. (WIC §§ 11200 et seq) If you seek benefits for the child alone--not yourself--your employment status will have no bearing on the child's eligibility and there is no maximum time allowance for receiving such benefits. You may even be eligible for foster care payments. Contact your local social services office for more information.
If your grandchild has been living with you as a ward or dependent of the court and you become that child's legal guardian, you may qualify for the Kinship Guardianship Assistance Payment (Kin-GAP) Program. Under this program, if you meet certain criteria, you may receive monthly payments at the basic foster care rate. (WIC §§ 11360-11369)
Again, it depends on the situation. If either parent has died, for example, the child's siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents may be granted reasonable visitation if it is, as the judge sees it, in the child's best interests. (FC § 3102) A grandparent may also be granted visitation if the child's parents are divorced or legally separated. (FC § 3103)
A grandparent may not, however, file a petition for visitation if the child's parents are married unless: the parents are separated, one has disappeared for at least a month, one parent joins in the grandparent's petition or the child is not living with either parent. (FC § 3104)
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