Welcome to part 2 of our probate vs. juvenile court guardianship series. If you haven’t already done so, you are invited to read part 1 in this series.
Juvenile Court Guardianship
Call the Child Abuse Hotline in your community and report the circumstances why you believe your grandchild/minor relative is at risk with their parents. A child protection worker will be assigned to contact you and to investigate. If they believe there is a need to file a petition in Juvenile Court, they will submit their case to the County attorney for filing. Usually the grandchild/minor relative is picked up and placed temporarily in a receiving home pending a Detention Hearing in Juvenile Court. You and your home would be investigated and inspected. There is a risk of you and your home not qualifying for placement. It could be your background includes criminal convictions and/or child abuse referrals when you were raising your kids. Maybe the parents do not want you to take their child and would prefer them go to another relative. If the minor is placed with you, you will have to be very careful not to do anything the CPS worker is unhappy with because they could come and remove the child from your home and place them with a foster family. Juvenile Court is all about reunifying minors to their parents. It could take many months, probably a year to two years, before a guardianship would be established in Juvenile Court. The preferred plan in Juvenile Court is for adoption of the minors if parental rights are terminated. There are legislative mandates and financial incentives for counties to promote adoptions. If a relative initially tells a social worker they are not prepared to adopt but are only willing to be a guardian, there is a realistic possibility they would not detain the minor with that relative as they want the minor in a home that if the parents do not reunify can adopt the minor/s.
Benefits of Juvenile Court Guardianship
1. The main benefits are financial. Initially, you are not hiring an attorney to file for guardianship. The social worker and the County Counsel who represent Social Services are doing all the work filing the petition, writing court reports, and appearing before the court. The parents will be appointed attorneys and the child/children will be appointed a lawyer. If your grandchild/minor relative is initially detained with you, you will not get foster home payments. At some point after reunification services have been terminated and the child has been with you for a certain period of time, you will be eligible for Kinship Benefits for taking care of your grandchild/minor relative. You are not eligible for Kinship benefits if you are appointed as a guardian through Probate Court. If guardianship has been established through the Juvenile Court and they are living in California, your grandchild may be eligible for AB 12 funding for foster children coming out of the Juvenile Court system at age 18. This could be of significant financial help to the grandchild/minor relative. It could provide free State University tuition. They are also eligible for monthly monetary stipends up to the age of 21. Grandchildren/minor relatives appointed guardians in the Probate Court are not eligible to AB 12 benefits or funding.
2. Assuming you have your grandchild/minor relative placed with you, the social worker could be very helpful in dealing with visitation issues, arranging for therapy for the grandchild/minor relative, getting the grandchild/minor relative on MediCal, assisting with evaluations that the grandchild/minor relative could benefit from both medically and academically.
3. The goal of the Juvenile Court is to reunite children with their parents. In nearly all cases, the Juvenile Court will develop a Case Plan for services for parents to follow to reunite with their children. If the parents have substance abuse issues, domestic violence issues, use excessive discipline, have mental health issues, have child neglect issues, and other issues requiring Juvenile Court jurisdiction, the Juvenile Court by way of Social Services will order the appropriate services available to assist the parents. The parents have to engage in their services or else their services will be denied, their parental rights terminated, and their child placed for guardianship/adoption or in a long-term foster home.
If your goal is to hope your son/daughter get the help they need and learn to be proper parents, the Juvenile Court can provide the needed services. The Probate Court cannot.
Detriments to Juvenile Court Guardianship
1. Control of your grandchild/minor relative is with the Juvenile Court and Social Services. You may not qualify for detention of your grandchild/minor relative with you. If you, your spouse/partner, any adult living in the home or any minor over the age of 16 living in the home has a criminal record or prior record with Child Protective Services you may not qualify to have your grandchild/minor relative detained with you. You would have to apply for a waiver and that takes time and may not be granted by Social Services. Your goal of having your grandchild/minor relative raised by you suddenly is in tatters and the grandchild/minor relative is likely to be placed in a foster home or with another qualifying relative. A large number of foster parents are fost-adopt homes. That means they are willing to adopt the foster child if the parents do not reunify. The longer your grandchild/minor relative remains with a foster parent the harder it will be to ever get them away from the foster parent because they will become bonded to them and if they qualify will want to adopt them. The parents are mandated visitation with their children. It may work out you don’t even get visitation with your grandchild/minor relative or, if you do get some, it will be very minimal.
2. Assuming your grandchild/minor relative is placed with you initially, the grandchild/minor relative can be removed by the social worker from your custody if the social worker is concerned you are not following all their conditions of detention of the grandchild/minor relative, such as allowing the parents visits that are not authorized or engaging in some behaviors with your grandchild/minor relative they do not approve of. If you, your spouse/partner, any adult in your home or child over the age of 16 suddenly runs afoul of the law while the Juvenile Court proceedings are taking place, your grandchild/minor relative could be suddenly removed from your custody. Parents sometimes claim you are abusing their child or interfering with custody, you are brainwashing their child, and want their child removed to a friendlier placement or another foster home.
3. If you are having problems getting your grandchild/minor relative detained with you, getting a waiver, having issues as the case goes on with Social Services, you will likely have to hire a juvenile court attorney to assist you. You will not be appointed an attorney; you will have to hire one just as you would in getting a probate guardianship.