Have you ever considered becoming a legal guardian for a child? There are definitely a lot of things to consider before you take on that kind of responsibility, but the personal rewards of helping a child out in a difficult situation can be life changing. A guardian can be anyone: relatives, friends of the family, or other people suitable to raise the child. Being a guardian involves a sustained commitment, in terms of time, money and emotional investment, to the safety and well being of a child, as well as a confidence in your own capacity to establish a stable and supportive environment.
Guardianship is a legal status that falls somewhere between full-on adoption and the simple signing of a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. Adoption involves the termination of the rights of the original parents, while in a guardianship situation parents still have parental rights and can ask for reasonable contact with the child. Moreover, if parents become newly able to take care of the child, guardianships may be terminated. Adoption arrangements are generally permanent and have legacy repercussions in that an adopted child will inherit from their adopted parents. A Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit gives the same types of rights as guardianship, but is not an official court document and is revocable by the parents at any time.
Guardians have full legal and physical custody of a child. This means that they are responsible for deciding where a child lives and goes to school, for medical and dental care, and for any psychological counseling needs the child may have. Guardians are also responsible for any damages a child may cause, and for helping to regulate the child’s contact with their parents. In California, all guardians are required to submit Form GC-251, a yearly Confidential Guardianship Status Report that has questions about the child’s progress and what kind of interactions they have with their parents. In addition to filling out the status report, a guardian must also come to court, meet with any court investigators or social workers, or take on any additional duties requested by the court.
For more on the process of becoming a guardian in California, see the section on ‘Guardianship’ underneath ‘Families & Children’ in the Self-Help section of the California Courts web page. Use PDFfiller to fill out and sign your guardianship-related paperwork including the Confidential Guardianship Status Report, and start building a relationship that could change someone’s life, including your own.