If you are worried that your minor child relative is not in a safe home, you may be considering becoming a guardian or even adopting the child. This issue arises when a child is being abused or neglected by the parents or caregivers. This can also include instances in which the parents or caregivers are engaging in illegal activities, lack a stable home, lack financial resources to care for the child, or are unwilling to care for the child. If you feel that you could step in, you may want to work towards a kinship adoption or custody placement.
A relative caregiver who wants temporary custody of the child or to adopt the child must:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- Be physically and emotionally fit to care for the child;
- Have a safe and stable home in which the child lives with the guardian; and
- Be financially able to care and provide for the child.
It is also important to note that a juvenile court will also evaluate the potential caregiver’s criminal history.
If the court first determines that the child is not safe with the current caregivers and that you are a good placement for the child, you can obtain custody.
As the potential temporary guardian family member, you should work with an attorney to petition juvenile court to find that the child is “dependent and neglected.” This means the child is subject to abuse or neglect and the current caregivers are unfit. At that point, DCS becomes involved in some capacity. The juvenile court determines if your claims are valid and if the best place for the child is with you.
Your attorney will work with you to gather evidence of the inability of the child’s current caregivers or parents to care for and protect the child. That evidence includes your eye witness testimony of the child’s situation, police reports, previous DCS reports, medical records of all the parties including the child, messages or audio recordings you may have access to, photographs, and anything else that may support the case. Your attorney would also build your case to show that you are the best person to take custody of the child. Evidence such as your bank records, employment records, home information, and your relationship with the child will be important for your case.
Becoming the guardian of a child family member means that you are awarded custody of that child until such a time that a court determines it is in the best interest of the child to go back to the child’s parents. It is a major decision to make for yourself and the child.
TERMINATING PARENTAL RIGHTS TO ALLOW FOR KINSHIP ADOPTION
If the situation is dire, you may even work to terminate the parental rights of the unfit parents through due to some of the reasons you may be looking for temporary custody. There are also cases in which you may obtain custody of the child relative through the dependency and neglect case. If the biological parents never get their act together, you may petition to terminate their rights. There are also cases in which parents willingly consent to having a relative adopt their child. If that is the case, you would then be going through the process of adopting the child.
No matter what scenario you are facing, the attorneys at Held Law Firm can help you navigate the process. If you’d like assistance in the kinship adoption process, give us a call.
Leah Smith is an attorney at Held Law Firm.