Grandparents’ Rights – I want to care for my grandchildren (Part 1)

I want to care for my grandchildren (Part 1)

Top 10 questions about grandparents as a type of foster parent (part of “Kinship Care”)

My grandchildren’s parents have a lot of problems, such as alcohol and drugs, and I do not think that they can properly take care of my grandchildren. Can I take care of them?

Perhaps. There are two ways in which to do this, however, each one has requirements and each one comes with different rights and responsibilities for you.

The methods are:

  • you can apply for “Kinship Care” (this is done through child and family services); or
  • you can apply for “guardianship” of your grandchildren (generally, this is if the children have already been in your care for a minimum of six months, however, this residency requirement can we waived in certain circumstances). With this option, either:
    • guardianship of your grandchild would be taken away from the parent(s), or
    • the parent(s) would keep guardianship and the government would be added as a guardian, depending on the circumstances.

What kinds of things should I consider before deciding whether I can/should take care of my grandchildren?

While grandparent caregivers may find it rewarding to be involved in rearing their grandchildren, they may also experience challenges, including social isolation, financial problems, or health issues.

You have done this job before, so you know that it is a big undertaking. You may wish to consider and plan ahead for these potential difficulties.

Some things to think about:

  • adapting to the caregiver role could necessitate changes in employment, living arrangements, and social networks, as well as other lifestyle adjustments;
  • since your adult children are having problems that have led to this situation, you might have to contend with people who are skeptical about your parenting abilities, or you may even have your own self-doubts; and
  • some parents may be relieved to have grandparents take on the caregiving responsibilities, but many will not. If your application is contested by your adult children, any existing conflict between the generations is likely to increase.

What is Kinship Care?

A program of the Alberta government, Kinship Care provides for children who have already come into the care of Child and Family Services to be placed with extended family members, such as a grandparent, or someone with whom they have a significant relationship. Kinship caregivers receive financial help, training and support similar to that received by foster parents. Kinship homes provide care for a specific child and do not accept other children as foster children.

Kinship Care is different from Foster Care. In Foster Care, children are placed in temporary homes with people they may not have had a previous relationship with. Children may stay in a foster home for a few days or many years. Foster parents also receive financial compensation, training and support for the care they provide foster children (although the amounts may differ).

For more information about Kinship Care see: www.child.alberta.ca/home/595.cfm

What is the role of a Kinship Caregiver?

The role of a Kinship Caregiver is to take on the everyday responsibilities of a parent. These responsibilities include:

  • providing food and lodging;
  • attending medical appointments and following through with treatment and medication recommendations; and
  • school involvement.

Kinship Caregivers are asked to participate in planning meetings (with Child and Family Services) about ongoing arrangements to care for the child or children. Kinship Caregivers are encouraged to support appropriate contact between the children in their care and the family of origin, and to keep that family informed of the child’s activities.

While grandparent caregivers may find it rewarding to be involved in rearing their grandchildren, they may also experience challenges, including social isolation, financial problems, or health issues.

Who is eligible to become a Kinship Caregiver?

A Kinship Caregiver is a family member or someone who has a significant relationship with the child or children to be cared for. Kinship Caregivers are not the biological parents or any person who has taken “private guardianship” of the child.

A Kinship Caregiver must be an adult (at least 18 years old) and a resident of Alberta. Any adult, regardless of marital status, can be eligible. The maximum age is determined by the best interests of the children.

A Kinship Caregiver must also meet the following criteria:

  • if cohabiting, in a stable relationship for at least 12 months prior to applying;
  • physically and mentally capable of meeting the children’s needs, with no major illness or trauma in the past 12 months; and
  • financially stable and living within their means (Caregivers can rent or own their home, and can be retired or employed outside the home).

How do I apply to become a Kinship Caregiver?

Before placing a child with a Kinship Care provider, Alberta Children and Youth Services conducts a criminal record check, and a Child and Youth Intervention Module (CYIM) check. Then a Safety Environment Checklist is completed.

If you pass these initial screening tests, your grandchild may be placed with you on the condition that you complete a full application process with the assistance of a caseworker.

The entire application process consists of three steps.

  1. Kinship Care Application This application includes three personal references, a medical reference, a criminal record check, and a child welfare check.
  2. Caregiver Orientation Applicants must attend eight 3-hour training sessions that cover topics such as child development, special needs of children in care, and supports available to Kinship Care providers.
  3. Approved Home Assessment Report An assessment is done to determine whether you can provide a safe and suitable home for children. The assessment addresses topics such as family history, parenting skills, and home safety.

Kinship Care provides for children who have already come into the care of Child and Family Services to be placed with extended family members, such as a grandparent.

What is considered to be a safe and stable environment for a child?

A safe and stable environment is one wherein children:

  • are protected from any form of violence in the home;
  • have adequate and seasonally-appropriate clothing;
  • are encouraged and helped to participate in recreational activities;
  • are kept safe from alcohol, firearms, and toxic products. Alcohol and cleaning products should be kept out of children’s reach. A locked box is required for medications. Firearms must be have trigger locks and be stored separately from ammunition;
  • are not left unsupervised if they are under age 12; and
  • have only regular caregivers (e.g.: babysitters) who have undergone a complete a Security Clearance Check and Child and Family Services Intervention Check (your Kinship Care worker can provide forms).

What kind of financial support is available for a Kinship Caregiver?

Kinship Caregivers are financially compensated for the children in their care. This compensation includes:

  • initial financial assistance in setting up your home to care for the child;
  • a daily basic maintenance allowance, based on the age of the child, which covers all of the day-to-day costs of raising a child such as food, clothing, shelter, personal care items, general household costs and a spending allowance;
  • an allowance of $2.60 per child, per day, for incidental costs associated with babysitting;
  • medical coverage paid for through the child’s Personal Health Care Number (PHN) or Treatment Services Card; and
  • reimbursement for other child-related costs that you may have to pay up front.

What happens if caring for my grandchild(ren) becomes too overwhelming for me?

There is help available. From the perspective of Child and Family Services, it is best for the child to:

  • stay with a family member if possible;
  • remain in a stable and caring home; and
  • not be moved too often.

Kinship Caregivers are financially compensated for the children in their care.

A needs assessment conducted before your grandchild comes to live with you helps to ensure that – within reason and the policies of the department – the needs of both the child and the grandparents are met and addressed. However, circumstances can change. You may find that you need to go back to work part-time and therefore require some child care, or that your grandchild needs behavourial or medical therapy.

Child and Family Services will discuss such new needs as they come up, and will determine how much of these new needs they can fund. Your caseworker will offer guidance and support to ensure that the needs of the child and the caregivers are met.

If the needs are too great, Child and Family Services can find a new home for your grandchild. If this occurs, you can usually continue to have access to your grandchild. Child and Family Services examines each case to determine individual circumstances.

How is being a Kinship Caregiver for my grandchildren different from being their guardian?

Although Kinship Care permits children to live with their grandparents, the children remain wards of the province (in other words, the government has custody). Technically, this means that all decisions pertaining to the child are subject to approval by the government. In addition, the grandparents cannot travel out-of-country without a letter of consent from the government.

Since it is not practical for the caseworker to make all decisions related to a child, Child and Family Services delegates some decision-making powers to the Kinship Caregiver. In a “Delegation of Powers” document, the province lists all areas of care that you are entitled to make decisions about. You will likely have authority over daily decisions such as enrolling the child in sports or other activities and taking the child to annual medical appointments.

Major decisions are not delegated, and technically all decisions are still subject to approval by Child and Family Services. The Kinship Caregiver must notify the caseworker of any significant or serious occurrence in the child’s life such as an injury requiring medical attention or difficulties at school. In addition, Child and Family Services may still consult with the child’s parents when making certain major decisions.

If the Kinship Caregiver consistently does not follow the provisions of the Delegation of Powers document, Child and Family Services must examine the case. If the breaches are severe, the child may be taken away.

In addition, Kinship Care provides certain pre-set financial benefits that guardianship does not, and vice versa. For example: foster parents with certain types of training and experience receive an additional “skill” fee. Kinship Caregivers, on the other hand, do not have an additional “skill” fee. However, with guardianship, grandparents may be eligible for some other types of financial assistance, such as support payments or other child benefits (such as reasonable day care costs).

You should NOT rely on this webpage for legal advice. It provides general information on Alberta law only. June 2010.
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