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Rights & Responsibilities of Kinship Caregivers
Rights & Responsibilities of Kinship Caregivers

The legal rights and responsibilities of kinship caregivers vary slightly depending on the arrangement.

Non-Custody Arrangements

If the public children services agency holds custody of the child, the kinship caregivers cannot legally hold custody of the child. In this arrangement, the kinship caregivers are responsible for the day-to-day responsibilities for the child with oversight and support from the public children services agency.

Responsibilities

  • To meet children’s basic needs for food, clothing and shelter
  • To create a safe place for children to learn and grow
  • To provide a safe environment for children to cope with complex feelings
  • To ensure children feel included and equal in all family activities
  • To provide transportation for children to all appointments, visits, events, etc.
  • To encourage children to participate in social and recreational activities
  • To monitor and strengthen children’s academic progress
  • To provide consistent and realistic guidance and discipline
  • To work with the professionals and birth family as part of the team helping the family
  • To support children’s identity and traditions

Rights

  • To be treated as part of the child welfare team
  • To ensure the well-being of their family
  • To receive proper training and support
  • To receive children’s medical cards and arrange for their medical care
  • To receive relevant information about children prior to placement
  • To refuse placement of a child in their home if they are unable or unwilling to meet their needs
  • To advocate on a child’s behalf for needed services
  • To request the removal of a child from their home when it is necessary for the safety or well-being of the child or other parties
  • To communicate with any educational or medical professionals working with a child
  • To assist in planning visits with the birth family
  • To enroll children in activities to enhance their social and cultural growth

Legal Custody Arrangements

Some kinship caregivers obtain court-ordered legal custody which gives them certain rights and responsibilities with respect to the children they are raising.

Legal custody will allow kinship caregivers to:

  • Make many of the major decisions regarding the children’s care, upbringing, education, and medical needs
  • Provide food and shelter for the children
  • Protect and discipline the children
  • Provide emotional support for the children

Legal custody is not limited to relatives. If it is best for the emotional and physical well-being of the child, the court may award legal custody to an unrelated person who has demonstrated a willingness and ability to raise the child.

When a child is born, the mother automatically has legal custody—and so does the father, if they are married. Kinship caregivers must receive legal custody in a court of law.

How to Gain Legal Custody

There are three ways to gain legal custody of a child:

  • A custody order. If a judge issues you a custody order, this means you will be responsible for the child’s day-to-day care but the parents will continue to have a legal relationship with the child. They will have a right to visit (unless the judge says they cannot) and could someday ask a judge to return custody to them.
  • Guardianship. If you are appointed the child’s legal guardian, this means you will be given day-to-day responsibility for the child, while the parents maintain some rights. The main difference between a custody order and guardianship is that guardianship is usually granted in the probate court, with different rules.
  • Adoption. If you adopt the child, you will become the child’s legal parent in every way. The legal relationship between the child and the child’s birth parents will end, and you will decide if it is best for the child to visit with their parents or have a relationship with them. The birth parents will not be able to challenge your decisions regarding contact as they will have no legal right to do so.

If you are a grandparent currently caring for your grandchild, but you do not have legal custody or guardianship and are unable to make decisions about and access educational and medical services for your grandchild, there are two other ways you can obtain “care, physical custody and control”: a Power of Attorney or a Caretaker Authorization Affidavit.

Power of Attorney

Power of Attorney allows you temporarily to:

  • Authorize your grandchild’s enrollment in school.
  • Access educational information.
  • Be involved in the child’s educational planning.
  • Provide consent for educational activities.
  • Arrange for the child’s routine and emergency medical, dental and psychological treatment.

To obtain Power of Attorney for your grandchild, you must:

  • Fill out the appropriate form.
  • Understand and agree to the terms regarding Power of Attorney.
  • Provide the signature of the consenting parent, yourself and the official notary.
  • File the form with your local juvenile court within five (5) days of signing.

A Power of Attorney does not give you authority over your grandchild’s adoption, marriage or custody arrangements. If you have questions about obtaining a Power of Attorney, call the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ Help Desk at 1-866-886-3537 and select option 4.

Caretaker Authorization Affidavit

If you have tried but failed to locate your grandchild’s parents after making reasonable efforts to do so, you may obtain a Child Caretaker Authorization Affidavit. The Child Caretaker Authorization Affidavit allows you temporarily to:

  • Authorize your grandchild’s enrollment in school.
  • Access educational information.
  • Be involved in the child’s educational planning.
  • Provide consent for educational activities.
  • Arrange for the child’s routine and emergency medical, dental and psychological treatment.

To obtain a Child Caretaker Authorization Affidavit, you must:

  • Fill out the appropriate form.
  • Understand and agree to the terms regarding the Child Caretaker Authorization Affidavit.
  • Provide your signature and that of an official notary.
  • File the form with your local juvenile court within five days of signing it.

A Child Caretaker Authorization Affidavit does not give you authority over your grandchild’s adoption, marriage or custody arrangements. If you have questions about obtaining a Caretaker Authorization Affidavit, call the Help Desk at 1-866-886-3537 and select option 4.

See Legal Services for more information on how to get help.

Additional Information: