State foster care agencies prefer to keep families together whenever possible. When that is not possible, the second choice is relative placement. Placing the child with a relative, such as the grandparents, is usually less traumatic for the child than going to a stranger's foster care home for a number of reasons. The child should already know the grandparents. The child should not have to adjust to different cultures, social preferences, language including colloquialisms, or neighborhood. Family gatherings should have relatives in attendance that the child is used to seeing. These familiar people eliminate much of the anxiety and regression seen in typical out-of-home placements.
If you're wondering how to get guardianship of a grandchild, here's where to start.
Contact Child Protective Services
Contact the local CPS agency that has custody of your grandchild as soon as possible. Tell the CPS worker specifically that you are the grandparent of the child and you are requesting placement in your home. The worker will need your Social Security number to run a police and child abuse check.
Do Home and Face-to-Face Visits
Schedule a home visit. The CPS worker will need to come to your home. She will verify that you have a safe place for your grandchild to sleep. The worker will also make sure that you have running water, electricity, a phone and refrigerator. You may need to provide proof of income to show that you can support the child as well as proof that your rent or house payment is up to date.
Ask the CPS worker for a face-to-face visit with your grandchild as soon as possible.
Prepare for the Home Visit
Clean your house and prepare the bed for the child prior to the CPS home visit. Your home does not need to be immaculate, but you should vacuum, sweep, mop and disinfect the kitchen and bathrooms. If you do not have age-appropriate toys for your grandchild, buy a few.
Pin a Move-In Date
Request a specific move date for the child once the CPS worker says you and your home have passed inspection. If the date is more than a few days away, find out why and request additional face-to-face visits.
Do Your Paperwork
Fill out guardianship papers once your grandchild is placed in your home. CPS should help you with this. They may actually file the paperwork on your behalf with the local court and pay the fee. If they do not, you can find a link to the guardianship application and instructions on your state's website. Fill the paperwork out, take it to the court and pay the fee. You will receive a hearing date in the mail from the court.
Attend Your Hearing
Attend the guardianship hearing as scheduled. Tell the judge you are seeking full or temporary guardianship and the reason why. The CPS worker should attend this hearing with you. Because the child is in state custody, parental approval may not be necessary; ask your CPS worker.
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- You can hire a lawyer to help you apply for guardianship, but expect to pay $500 to $1,000 instead of less than $200 in court fees.
- CPS workers can be difficult to reach; call several times a day until you get an answer or you may risk not getting your grandchild.
- Terminating full guardianship requires a new hearing. The parents must show the court that they can now care for the child.
- Ask to speak to a supervisor if the CPS worker does not seem to be taking your request seriously.
- Grandparents on the child abuse registry cannot be given custody of minor children.
- Grandparents with recent felony convictions probably will not be given custody.
Julia Fuller began her professional writing career eight years ago covering special-needs adoption. She holds a bachelor's degree in accounting from Marywood College, is co-owner of GJF Rental Properties as well as a livestock and grain crop farm. She worked for the United States Postal Service and a national income tax service.