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Forever families through guardianship

CC BY 2.0 via flickr user Clover_1

All children deserve to grow up in safe, loving homes, where their needs are being met.  Sometimes safety concerns cause children to have to be removed from their parents.  When this happens, placing children with relatives and family friends usually produces the best outcomes.

Out-of-home placement is meant to be temporary.  However when children cannot return to their parents, the state should ensure that these children find loving, permanent families.

When relatives and family friends want to provide permanent homes for youth in care, permanent legal guardianship is oftentimes the more preferred permanency option over adoption.  In a typical permanent guardianship, Adult Sister has become the primary caregiver of Younger Brother, Godparents have taken Godchild into their home or Grandpa is now making parenting decisions for Grandchild.  Adult Sister might be uncomfortable becoming “Mom” or Grandpa becoming “Dad.”  Godparents might not want to interfere with a child’s legal connection to his or her biological parents.

While adoption is a wonderful permanency option for some families, adoption works best because it creates a family unit.  When a guardianship is entered into, a familial relationship already exists, and many family members and family friends balk at the notion that a formal adoption is needed to “create” a family.  At the same time, permanent guardianships confer a legal status to these families, giving guardians the legal responsibility and authority to care for children and youth in their homes and recognizing the children as part of legal, permanent families.

Additionally, since guardianships do not dissolve the original parent-child relationship, children are able to maintain contact with their parents, if such contact is appropriate.

Unlike many other states, Nebraska does not currently have a statutory framework for permanent guardianships, and as a result, our courts lack the uniformity when making guardianship decisions.  LB 908, which we are testifying in support of, creates that framework.  All children and youth deserve permanent families.  For many children and youth, permanent guardianships provide just that.

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