If a parent is unable to care for a child or is determined to be unfit, the guardianship of the child can be granted to a relative or family friend. Guardianship can be defined as the position of being legally responsible for the care of someone who is unable to manage their own affairs. This provides a viable option for the child to be removed from the home and be relieved of neglectful behavior by their parent(s).
In New Jersey, before a child is removed from their birth home and placed into the home of a relative or family friend, there are strict procedures that must be followed, including:
- A thorough inspection of the potential guardian’s home; and
- Local police and other background checks on all household members over the age of eighteen.
The home must be deemed as a safe and nurturing environment for the incoming child. Background checks are performed on all those in the household over the age of eighteen to protect the child and his or her interests. There shouldn’t be any indication of criminal history, sex offender registry, or any other harmful history that could be detrimental to the child. If the person attempting to obtain legal guardianship of the child passes these inspections, they can potentially be granted guardianship from Child Protection and Permanency (CP&P).
As of July 1, 2005, each legal guardian in New Jersey must be a licensed resource parent. Licensed resource parents will be eligible to receive benefits, such as a monthly board payment, a clothing allowance, healthcare coverage for the child, and other support services. This program, namely the Kinship Legal Guardian Subsidy (KLG Subsidy), may be able to help legal guardians who may not be able to afford to care for the child.
According to the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, the KLG Subsidy can help legal guardians in many ways, which include:
- A regular monthly payment that helps the guardian meet everyday needs for the child;
- Medicaid coverage for the child;
- Special medical services for those children with disabilities; and
- Post-KLG counseling services.
Caring for another child can be difficult, though rewarding. Knowing that a child is out of harm’s way and has the potential to grow and develop will help ease the thoughts of the process being financially and emotionally taxing. If you need to initiate a guardianship proceeding on behalf of a relative or family friend that is a minor, it is important to seek the consultation of an experienced New Jersey family law attorney. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Hunziker, Jones, and Sweeney are skilled family law attorneys that help individuals and their families handle all aspects of family law, including the guardianships and custody matters. For more information, contact our New Jersey family lawyers at (973) 256-0456.