History of Kinship Legal Guardianship
Beginning in January 2002, New Jersey will provide $250 monthly stipends to certain relatives and other caretakers caring for children in their homes under a new "kinship legal guardianship" law, signed by acting Gov. DiFrancesco on October 11. Three new programs are being created to provide these benefits--two are exclusively for families involved with DCP&P; the third is available to financially eligible caretakers who become legal guardians under the new law. Funding for the three programs--$19.1 million-- is expected to serve 13,000 of the 85,000 New Jersey children estimated to live in kinship care arrangements. Kinship benefits and legal guardianship are not restricted to relatives; family friends and people having a legal relationship with a child can also apply. Eligible caretakers, however, will have to complete the process to become a legal guardian, which, as explained more fully below, will require the caretaker to pay for and undergo an assessment process with a home review and record checks, as well to prove that the child's parents are incapacitated. Grandparents, relatives and other caretakers who have custody of children--but not kinship legal guardianship--will not be eligible for benefits unless DCP&P has placed the children in their homes.
Kinship legal guardianship expires when the child becomes 18 or is no longer in secondary school, whichever occurs later. The guardianship will most likely be difficult to revoke otherwise. Parents will only be able to have their children returned home if they can prove that they are no longer incapacitated or that the guardian is unable to care for the child and the children's interests will be best served at home. Clear and convincing evidence is required to get or reverse kinship legal guardianship.
Applications for kinship benefits are not available yet, but should be by January. Before the program can begin, the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) must adopt new forms and procedures to implement the legal guardianship law and the Department of Human Services must develop regulations to administer the programs. Questions about the programs can be directed to the Kinship Navigator under the Department of Human Services (877-816-3211), and clients can put their names on a list to be contacted when the program takes effect.
To learn more about how to become a legal guardian click here.