What is kinship care?
“Kinship care” is a term used to describe an arrangement when relatives or close family friends, step forward to offer their home, food and love to a child or children, whose parents cannot care for them. Kinship care is a common practice in all cultures and locales, from big cities to rural towns and suburban communities. The kinship care arrangement may be formal or informal, depending on the situation.
Who can become a kinship caregiver?
Ohio law allows for many individuals, with different types of relationships to children, to be considered for a kinship placement arrangement. These relationships include:
* Grandmother or grandfather (great, etc.)
* Brother or sister (adult)
* Aunt or uncle ( great, etc.)
* Cousins (first, second, etc.)
* Family friend (from place of worship, neighborhood, long time friend, etc.)
Is there a “screening process”?
Yes. Kinship care homes must pass the minimum requirements for providing care for children. Caregivers must be able to adequately care and provide for the children placed with them. The home must be safe and free from health hazards. The child must have some type of emotional tie to the kinship caregivers. The kinship caregivers must be willing to work with Summit County Children Services when necessary and to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the social workers involved.
Why do children need "kinship care"?
Children need kinship care when they have been removed from the care of their parents. Removal may become necessary due to a parent's illness, incarceration, lack of housing and/or income, or because of abuse or neglect. Regardless of the reason for kinship care, most children fare better when connections to family and loved ones are maintained.
What are the different types of custody?
Temporary placement occurs when children have been removed from a parent's home and placed in the custody of Children Services by the court. Children Services may place children in a suitable kinship home instead of a licensed foster home. Placement is temporary in the hope that the parents will rectify the problems that put children at risk, and the children will then be able to return home.
Legal custody is granted by a formal order of the Domestic Relations or Juvenile Court within the county.
Kinship caregivers with legal custody of a child have all of the rights and responsibilities of a parent. They can register children for school, obtain medical care and access certain financial assistance for children. Parents retain some legal rights and may be entitled to regular visits.
A court shall not modify or terminate an order granting legal custody of a child unless it finds, based on facts that have arisen since the order was issued or that were unknown to the court at that time, that a change has occurred in the circumstances of the child or the person who was granted custody, and that modification or termination of the order is necessary to serve the best interest of the child. Ohio Revised Code 2151.42
Legal guardianship is granted by the Probate Court. Guardianships usually come about through a cooperative process between parents and the kinship caregiver. When a parent realizes that a situation is serious enough to prevent themselves from adequately caring for their children, they may choose to approach the Probate Court and voluntarily give full custody to the kinship caregivers. This arrangement provides legal guardianship to the kinship caregiver. Again, parents retain some legal rights and may arrange for regular visits with the children. Parents may approach the Probate Court to relinquish guardianship at any time.
Adoption can occur only after parental rights have been terminated. This can occur in several ways. Children Services may obtain permanent custody from the Juvenile Court, thereby ending a parent's rights and responsibilities toward their children and freeing the children for adoption. Parents may also voluntarily relinquish all parental rights through the Juvenile or the Probate Court, thereby allowing adoption by the kinship family. Adoption is a permanent arrangement, entitling a child to all of the benefits and rights of a biological child within the adoptive family. Adoption may entitle the children to certain adoption subsidies, social security, insurance and/or pension benefits.
What kind of custody is best?
Each case is different. Deciding which type of custody fits a child's situation requires cooperation between the parties involved. Open and clear discussion, communication and commitment, from everyone involved, is needed to do what is in the child's best interest.
Will someone be available to help along the way?
Yes. Social workers from the Summit County Children Services Kinship Care Units will be available to answer questions, identify community resources and provide information and emotional support. Social workers are aware of the issues and challenges facing kinship caregivers.
How can I find out more?
Contact the Summit County Children Services Kinship Care Department at (330) 996-1799.