Most children are raised by one or both of their parents, and their parents are the children’s legal guardians. Sometimes, however, parents are unable to raise their kids in their home. There are a wide variety of situations why parents may be unable to provide a stable home environment and serve as their children’s legal guardians through adulthood. When parents cannot provide a home for their children, family law determines what happens to the kids. Sometimes, parental rights are terminated and other times a child is put into temporary foster care. Foster families can be strangers, but this is not always the best solution. Kinship care is an alternative.
Kinship care means that a child is cared for by a relative who is not a parent. According to Arizona’s Children Association, there are more than 198,000 households in Arizona where grandparents, aunts and uncles, or other relatives are caring for a child who is related to them but who is not their own. These households face unique challenges, and must understand how Arizona family law applies to them.
Singer Pistiner, P.C. has extensive experience helping families to understand all of the legal issues surrounding kinship care. If you want to raise a relative’s children, or if you are currently raising a relative’s children and have questions about your rights or the children’s rights, give us a call today so we can offer you the legal guidance you need.
Arizona Family Law and Kinship Care
There is both formal and informal kinship care. In informal kinship care, a parent turns over legal guardianship to a relative. There is usually no financial support provided to guardians in these cases, and Department of Child Safety is typically not involved in overseeing a child’s care in informal kinship care.
Formal kinship care is different. Children typically enter formal kinship care when Arizona Department of Child Safety has determined the children are not able to remain in the custody of their parent(s). The decision to remove a child from parental care can be triggered by abuse, by a parent’s incarceration, by substance abuse issues, or by a wide variety of other factors. DCS will file papers with the court to remove a child from a parent’s home and to have the child declared a dependent ward. DCS then becomes responsible for the child, and both DCS and the courts will play a major role in determining how the child is cared for.
When DCS removes a child from a parent’s home, the DCS worker assigned to the case will usually make an attempt to find a qualified relative to take the children into their home rather than placing the children with an unrelated foster family. The relative who becomes the child’s carer may become a licensed foster parent or may be unlicensed.
To become an unlicensed kinship foster caregiver, the relative of the children must be at least 18 years of age. DCS will visit the home where the children are to be placed, and kinship caregivers have to pass a home study. All adults in the home must also pass a DCS background check and criminal background check, and the caregiver must meet basic health and safety requirements.
To become a licensed kinship foster parent, the relative must be at least 21, and must be a legal resident of the United States. If married, the kinship foster parent’s spouse must also become licensed. Fingerprinting and a criminal background check are required, and a report from a doctor confirming general good health status is necessary. Transportation must be available, and a bed and storage space must be available for the children. Licensed kinship foster parents also must own, lease, or rent a place to live; must have enough income to take care of their own families; and must provide the names of at least five references. Thirty hours of training is required before becoming licensed and a home study must be completed by a foster home licensing worker.
Children placed in a relative’s home still remain formally under the care of DCS. Kinship foster parents must bring children to visits and appointments, must support the case worker’s plan for the child and family, must facilitate visitation with parents, and must follow DCS discipline policies which prohibit physical discpline. Both licensed and unlicensed kinship foster parents will be provided with at least some financial support, but the amount varies.
Getting Help from a Family Law Attorney
If you are considering kinship care, you need to understand how Arizona family law is going to determine what happens to the children who need your help. Call Singer Pistiner, P.C. today to speak with a Scottsdale, AZ attorney who can guide you through the legal issues inherent in the kinship care relationship.