- New Jersey has a program that provides financial help to individuals caring for their grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or other children.
- It is called the Kinship Care Subsidy Program.
- A caregiver may be eligible for the program if she or he has cared for the child for at least the last 12 months.
- In order to apply for the subsidy program, the caregiver must file a court action and ask the court to appoint him/her as “kinship legal guardian” for the child living in his or her home.
Understanding a Kinship Guardianship
When a caregiver is appointed as a legal guardian for a child, s/he assumes most responsibility for the child. While the parents can still have contact with the child, they lose their rights to custody and will have a hard time getting custody back. The caregiver must notify the child’s biological/adoptive parents and anyone who has legal visitation rights with the child prior to applying for kinship legal guardianship. The lawful parents and those with legal rights to visit the child can also oppose the caregiver’s court action.
The caregiver does not have to be related to the child in his or her care to apply for this program. The program is available to family friends or other people having a legal relationship with the children in their care. If a caregiver qualifies for this program, s/he will be able to receive up to $250 per month for each child in her or his home. There are special rules about how this applies to DCP&P cases.
Rights of Kinship Legal Guardians and Birth Parents
The kinship legal guardian will have the same rights and responsibilities as a birth parent, including making decisions about the child’s care, consenting to medical treatment, making plans for the child’s education, applying for services for the child, and general responsibility for ensuring the child’s safety and well-being.
Rights and Obligations of the Child’s Parents
If the court grants kinship legal guardianship to the caregiver, the birth or adoptive parents will no longer have legal custody of the child, but their parental rights will not be terminated.
The parents will still have the following rights and obligations:
- The right to visit the child;
- The power to consent to an adoption or name change; and
- The obligation to pay child support.
The child may still visit with siblings and/or extended family, with the kinship legal guardian’s permission or as allowed by the court. The child can still inherit money from his/her parents and get government benefits or insurance through them.
Who is Eligible for Kinship Legal Guardianship?
A caregiver can become a kinship legal guardian for a child if:
- The child has been living with the caregiver for at least the last 12 months;
- The child’s parents are incapacitated and cannot take care of the child;
- The caregiver is biologically or legally related to the child or is a family friend;
- The caregiver can show that it is in the child’s best interests to stay with him/her; and
- The caregiver is financially eligible.
How Long Does Kinship Legal Guardianship Last?
A kinship legal guardian is responsible for taking care of the child until the child turns 18. The court can end the guardianship before the child turns 18 if:
- Ending the guardianship is best for the child;
- The parents become able to take care of the child; or
- The kinship legal guardian is unable to take care of the child.
If the parent or guardian seeks to end the guardianship before the child turns 18, s/he will have to file a motion with the court. The court will hold a hearing and determine whether the guardianship should be ended.
To discuss your NJ guardianship matter, please contact Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please ask us about our video conferencing consultations if you are unable to come to our office.
By Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a Freehold Township, Monmouth County, NJ Guardianship Attorney