When a parent is unable to care for their children, guardianship may be necessary to deliver that care and guidance. Guardianship refers to another party being granted the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of someone else, such as a child. The court appoints the “guardian” as the decision-maker for the “protected person,” who may be a child.
There are different types of guardianships under the law. One type that you might find used in Connecticut is called “subsidized guardianship.” Here is what that type of guardianship entails, some of its benefits, and who qualifies to be appointed.
When Guardianship Can Become Necessary with DCF Involvement
Parents have the legal right to make decisions for their children. That is until the court says they don’t. In some cases, an adult may not be able to make decisions for their child temporarily due to physical limitations, mental illness, substance abuse, or other serious issues.
When there is a question of parental capacity or abuse or neglect, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) may become involved. If you become the subject of a DCF investigation, the agency may recommend guardianship if they believe that your child is in danger in the home. Once a child is removed from the home, DCF may petition the court for guardianship, meaning someone else will be appointed to make decisions for your child.
What is Subsidized Guardianship?
Subsidized guardianship is a placement option for children placed in foster care. Eligible caregivers become the child’s legal guardian and are able to consent to their needs relative to healthcare, school activities, and basic scheduling. Under subsidized guardianship, the guardian receives payment from the state to help them meet the child’s needs.
Who Qualifies for Guardianship Subsidies?
According to Connecticut law, relative caregivers are permitted to apply for guardianship subsidy. To qualify, the child must be under the age of 18 and be living with a caregiver who has been licensed for at least six months. DCF must conduct a thorough assessment of the child’s situation and recommend guardianship with the relative in question.
State law also requires that subsidies be provided to relative caregivers who have been in certified or foster care for at least 18 months. But the agency can offer subsidies if the child has been in this situation for at least six months.
The Benefits of Subsidized Guardianship
While having someone get paid to care for your child might seem unfair, there are some benefits to subsidized guardianship. In many cases, a family member who would otherwise not be able to afford to take in your child will now be able to take on the responsibility, increasing the overall family permanence.
There’s a common misconception that subsidized guardianship undermines reunification efforts by parents. In fact, this isn’t the case. In Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Illinois, reunification rates were not significantly different in cases where subsidized guardianship was offered versus where it wasn’t.
Types of Subsidies Available to Guardians in Connecticut
Connecticut statutes provide for the payment of three different types of guardianship subsidies:
- Monthly subsidy — The monthly subsidy is equal to the prevailing foster care rate established by DCF, which is applicable to the child’s special needs and age less the child’s income and assets.
- Special needs subsidy — A special needs subsidy is a one-time payment of not more than $2,000 paid to the child’s guardian for expenses the guardian incurs for which there are no other resources, such as state, federal, or private sources to pay for expenses. Some examples of expenses permitted under this policy include legal fees from the guardianship case, out-of-state travel expenses to attend court hearings, and medical or psychological exams.
- Medical subsidy — Children who may or may not have private health insurance could be eligible for state Medicaid benefits through a medical subsidy. The guardian will be responsible for reapplying for this benefit annually.
Contact an Experienced DCF Defense Attorney
If you live in Connecticut and the state has ordered guardianship of your child due to a DCF investigation, it’s important that you understand and protect your rights. While a subsidized guardianship might help keep your child with a close family member and assist with reunification, DCF has the right to petition the court to terminate your parental rights at any point if they feel there is justification.
It’s important to understand that a guardianship situation does not end your parental rights. Even if a guardian has been appointed, you should be working diligently toward reunification, which can be a complex and confusing process. We can help.
The Christie Law firm specializes in dealing with DCF cases throughout Connecticut. We understand how DCF operates and have extensive experience protecting parents and children who have become wrapped up in this system. Call (860) 461-7494 or contact us online to schedule a confidential initial consultation.