Legal guardians are next in line to care for a child in need. Society makes it seem as though the only way a child would need a guardian is if both of the parents are no longer with us. In actuality, there are many ways for an individual to become the guardian of a minor.
If a parent is unfit to take care of the said child, or if they need a little help raising them, a guardian would work out well. If a family member or an individual is primarily looking after a child and wants to have some say over what happens in their lives, applying for guardianship would be an option.
Becoming someone’s guardian is an important process, which means research is required before applying for any custody arrangement. There is a long list of dos and don’ts that come along with it, including rules that come specifically from state law. Being a guardian is taking on someone else's life, which means being sure that everything is set and ready beforehand including yourself and your life. This process can be gratifying but also stressful in that it is becoming a parent to a child who needs our help. This means taking care of their every need–doctors’ appointments, nourishment, schooling, etc. –they need to be our number one priority because they are being brought into a new environment.
20 How Is Adopting Different?
Adopting a child is different from gaining guardianship of one. Adopting a child is the process of becoming the legal parent of a child, while becoming a guardian is just being the one in charge of the child until they are 18 or no longer need a guardian. These two are very similar, but one process is a lot harder and longer than the other, according to Considering Adoption. Both of these options include caring for a child who needs it; one is usually just more long-term than the other. In adoption cases, parents are giving up their rights, but that might not be necessarily the case with guardianship.
19 Do You Have Other Children In The House?
Are there other children in the house? If there are, we need to be sure they are okay and prepared for the change that comes with adding a potential child into the household. If we are becoming guardian to a minor–younger than the children at home–our other kids may grow to be envious that a younger child is getting more attention. If the child is older, the bond might be more secure, according to the Adoption Advocate.
Children can be tricky, which is why it is essential to understand their feelings, wants and needs before bringing anyone new into our homes.
18 Are There Any Psychological Issues To Be Aware Of?
Aside from medical issues, some children can come to us with psychological problems as well. These can be things such as depression and anxiety or bipolar disorder. Children change a lot over time because they are still developing, so even if they come to us with specific disorders and/or problems, it does not mean those will be forever. Mayo Clinic reports what signs and symptoms to look out for when it comes to caring for children with some psychological issues.
Children with any of the disorders mentioned need a lot of support and attention through thick and thin.
17 Does The Child Have Medical Issues?
Before becoming a guardian, it is critical to know whether or not the child you want to look after has any medical issues. Medical problems can become expensive very quickly, which is why it is essential to know their health history before becoming a guardian. Some medical issues are easily treatable and can be controlled without too much money, while others can cost a fortune.
According to KidsHealth, we have to be aware of everything having to do with the child's health history–including the parents’ history and any pre-existing conditions.
We have to be sure that we can handle any situation and or emergency that can be thrown at us.
16 Is Your Background Clear?
There is a long list of rules that come with becoming the guardian of a minor. One of the primary rules is that we have to pass a background check. According to Family Division Rules, the person applying to become a guardian must have a clean record. A child needs to be in an environment that is safe for them, and anyone who could potentially get into trouble in the future because of a record may not be the best person for guardianship.
Not everyone with a record is trouble, but society can never be too careful with children.
15 Anybody Can Petition To Terminate The Guardianship
Usually, once guardianship is granted, it does not end until the child ages out of needing a guardian. But the government does allow anybody to petition to terminate guardianship based on their own opinion. If someone feels as if a guardian is not doing what they are supposed to, in regards to the minor they have in their home.
Anybody can share their thoughts and or concerns with a judge to get the guardianship terminated, according to Family Law Self-help Center.
The judge will always look over the petition carefully and act within the best interests of the child.
14 Parents Have To Consent
If the parents of the child you want to be a guardian of are still alive and have not been proven unfit to raise their child, they must be on board with anybody else acting as guardian. According to Family Division Rules, although parents do need to consent most of the time, there are occasions in which the judge will rule regardless of what the parents want, based on what is best for the child in question. The children are supposed to come first, so whatever is best for them is ultimately what the judge will choose–regardless of what anybody wants.
13 All Household Members Must Have Clean Records
Similar to having to have a background check ran on ourselves, if somebody is living within our house that may have a record, we might not be granted guardianship. Society wants children who are being moved into new homes to be safe and secure, and they do not want anything to jeopardize that. Judges don't tend to grant a person or family member permission to have guardianship over any child, if a member of the household has a record. They might look at individual situations if they arise, but for the most part, a past record doesn't mesh well with bringing an adopted child into the home.
12 There Are Checkups By The State
It is important to remember that once we bring a child that is not ours into our home, we are subject to regular check-ups that usually occur every six months. The state will want to know how the child is doing in our care. Sometimes someone will be sent to the home, but usually, the guardian is asked to fill out a check-up report in which they answer questions such as: how the child is doing in school, have their problems been improving and have they had any other issues? According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, the checkup is essential and not to be forgotten.
11 Are Your Finances Okay?
Becoming a minor's guardian requires financial stability. In some cases, the parents who have either passed or need help have left behind money, but there are plenty of cases where there is no other money except for your own.
If we are living paycheck to paycheck already, adding another person to the mix may not be a good idea.
But according to Mint, preparing to fund as a guardian is similar to bringing a new baby home–other than the obvious purchases of baby items. We are going to have to supply anything and everything this child needs such as food, clothing, toys and so much more. They don’t need to be spoiled, but we have to be able to provide for them.
10 Are There Other Relatives In The Picture?
Does the child have other relatives that might get in the way of guardianship? Sometimes a child has many people in their lives who feel as though they are more fit than anyone else to take care of them. The critical thing to remember here is that everything must be done with the minor’s best interest. Family members or anyone, really, can talk to a judge about their concerns, according to Family Law Self Help Center, and if those concerns are valid, our position as guardian may be wavered. Be sure to have a good understanding of who is around and whether or not they will challenge your guardianship.
9 Are You Fully Capable?
There are a plethora of questions we need to ask before becoming guardian to a minor. We should have already asked things like whether or not we want to do this, but the next set of questions should be along the lines of:
“Do we have the time in our lives to dedicate everything to this child?”
Children need a lot of care no matter what age they are at and we need to be able to provide for every stage, according to Adoptions from the Heart. We need to be entirely sure before bringing a minor into our lives.
8 Are You Right For The Child?
A lot of research needs to happen before deciding to apply for guardianship of a minor. A child has their own personality already, and we need to make sure we are compatible with them before becoming their guardian. If, for example, the child needs to be in a home without other children and there are other kids in the house, we might not be the right pair. If they have many medical issues that we cannot afford, again we might not be the right fit. Every situation needs to be thought through before taking in a child, according to Family Education.
7 What About Schooling For The Child?
Schooling should be one of the top priorities for taking on the guardianship of a minor. Depending on what grade they are in, there should be at least one school in the area in which they fit into. For some students, they may have issues with public school, and if that is the case, they can always get their diploma through a charter, online or homeschooling. According to Teach, there are at least six different schooling options for every child, because sometimes the public school system does not work for everyone.
What we are willing to allow and are comfortable with but also what works best for the child is how we should determine the school they attend.
6 You Have The Control
Some minors may come into a new house with some unresolved negative emotions which could stem from their pasts, amongst other things. It is important to remember that in every situation, we are the boss while they are in our care.
We get the final say on every decision including what school they attend, the food they eat and the rules they live by.
According to A Fine Parent, the best way to discipline a child is to help them to understand that emotion is perfectly fine as long as it is handled in the correct way, even anger—it’s okay to get angry within reason.
5 Same Power And Responsibility As A Parent
Some guardians feel as though they are just a babysitter temporarily until the parents are capable again or until the child gets placed into a forever home. The critical thing to remember here is that guardianship is the next best thing to being the child's parent. We have the right to make any decisions regarding the child, according to Family Division Rules. They are in our households and will be living with us until the foreseeable future, and for this reason, we have the power to make all of the rules, within reason.
Children need discipline and guidance, and this is what we are there for.
4 You Do Not Have To Be Related
There is a myth surrounding guardianship that one must be related to the child to become their guardian–this couldn't be farther from the truth. According to FindLaw, anyone who is qualified to take care of a person can apply for guardianship. The court system will happily put a child in need in the capable hands of anyone as long as they are the right fit. Children are fragile in some cases, and ultimately are the future. So, for this reason, they must be taken care of properly at all times.
Relation does not matter as long as we are capable.
3 Is The Whole Family On Board?
Bringing a minor into the house can take a toll on everyone involved. Minors who’re relocating need a lot of care and attention while they are integrating into a new environment. That being said, the family of the guardian needs to be as supportive as possible. Things can quickly go wrong if your family has an idea of what they think is going to happen–bringing a minor into the house–but something different happens. This is why it is crucial to prepare anyone living with you or in your everyday life for the beginning of a guardianship according to Focus on the Family.
2 Is This Right For You?
There are a lot of aspects to consider before committing to be the guardian of a child. According to How Stuff Works, some questions to we should ask ourselves beforehand are “Why do I want to become a guardian?” “Can I handle it?” and “What kind of support do I have?” We are about to take on the life of a child, and if we do not have it together, our home might not be the best place to help someone else get it together. Our lives have to be on track before bringing another person into the house as their guardian.
1 When Does Guardianship End?
There are a few different ways for guardianship to end. Either, the child turns 18 - thereby, aging out of needing a guardian- or the child's parents are in a better situation and can take care of their children again. Lastly, if the guardianship situation is not working out for the child or the guardian, it can be terminated by the courts with a request from either the guardian or the child. If the child were to pass on then, in this case, the guardianship would end as well, according to Nolo.
There are plenty of options for anybody dealing with custody to get out of it if need be.