PA 16-124—sSB 187

Committee on Children

Judiciary Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING TRANSFERS OF GUARDIANSHIP AND SUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT BY A GUARDIAN

SUMMARY: This act expands the categories of people who may (1) assume legal guardianship of a child or youth when a court revokes his or her commitment to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) or (2) adopt a child or youth when a court terminates parental rights.

It expands the categories of people eligible for DCF's subsidized guardianship program while at the same time (1) requiring that these people be licensed or approved to provide foster care services and (2) limiting the program to children for whom neither reunification with a parent nor adoption is an appropriate permanent option.

It allows the DCF commissioner to transfer guardianship subsidies to successor guardians not named in subsidy agreements and makes other changes affecting guardianship, including conforming changes.

The act also requires DCF to notify the probate court when a DCF investigation substantiates an allegation of child abuse or neglect against a guardian the probate court appointed. (The act includes an incorrect statutory reference ( 4 (e)), which previously would have applied to children who have non-accidental or inadequately explained physical injuries. )

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2016

LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP AND FOSTER CARE

Relative Caregivers and Fictive Kin Caregivers

The law presumes that it is in the best interests of a child or youth for certain caregivers to (1) assume legal guardianship when a court revokes the child's or youth's commitment to DCF or (2) adopt the child or youth when a court terminates parental rights (CGS 46b-129(j)(3)). Under prior law, this presumption applied only to a relative licensed as a foster parent for the child or youth or appointed as his or her temporary custodian.

The act terms a related foster parent a “relative caregiver” and requires that he or she be (1) licensed or approved to provide foster care; (2) at least age 21; and (3) related to the child by birth, adoption, or marriage.

It also expands the categories of people who can become legal guardians or who may adopt a child or youth (“caregivers”). In addition to relative caregivers, the act requires the court to also consider fictive kin caregivers and other people licensed or approved to provide foster care in these situations.

By law, a “fictive kin caregiver” is a person age 21 or older who has an emotionally significant relationship with a child akin to a family relationship but who is not related to the child. Under prior law, a fictive kin caregiver was not approved or licensed to provide foster care by DCF.

The act requires that (1) fictive kin caregivers be licensed or approved to provide foster care and (2) fictive kin caregivers and relative caregivers be licensed or approved in order to participate in DCF's subsidized guardianship program (see below).

Child-Placing Agency Approval

The law allows the DCF commissioner, when certain conditions are met and it is in the child's best interest, to place a child with a relative or fictive kin caregiver who has not been licensed by DCF or approved by a child-placing agency. By law, a relative or fictive kin caregiver who accepts such a placement is subject to DCF licensure. The act also subjects these caregivers, as an alternative, to approval by a licensed child-placing agency.

Home Placement

The act allows the commissioner to place a child or youth committed to DCF care in a suitable home of either a fictive kin or relative caregiver. Prior law required that such a home belong to a person related to the child or youth by blood or marriage. By law, unchanged by the act, the commissioner also may place the child or youth in (1) a suitable foster home; (2) a licensed child-caring institution; (3) the care and custody of any accredited, licensed, or approved child-caring agency; or (4) a DCF-maintained and -operated receiving home.

SUBSIDIZED GUARDIANSHIP PROGRAM

DCF's subsidized guardianship program provides subsidies for the benefit of children who have been in foster care for at least six consecutive months and who have been living with caregivers or approved foster care providers.

The act expands the categories of people eligible to receive the subsidies at the same time it restricts the circumstances in which they are provided.

Under prior law, the subsidy was available to two types of caregivers: (1) fictive kin caregivers and (2) licensed foster care providers caring for a child relative because the child's parent had died or was otherwise unable to care for the child for reasons that made reunification with the parent and adoption not a viable option in the foreseeable future.

The act expands the categories of caregivers eligible for the subsidy by (1) allowing a licensed foster care provider to receive the subsidy even if caring for a child who is not a relative and (2) creating a third category of “relative caregiver,” as defined above, to include those caregivers caring for a child relative.

It requires that to receive the subsidy, all three types of caregivers (fictive kin, relative, and foster care) be either licensed or approved to provide foster care.

The act limits the subsidy program to caregivers of children for whom neither reunification with a parent nor adoption is an appropriate permanent option. As under prior law, the children must have been in foster care for at least six consecutive months.

Prior law required foster care providers to be licensed by DCF. The act allows, as an alternative, that the provider be approved by a child-placing agency.

Subsidy Transfers

Under prior law, when a person receiving a guardianship subsidy died or became seriously ill or severely disabled, the commissioner could transfer the subsidy to a successor guardian who (1) was identified in the subsidy agreement or an addendum to it, (2) met DCF's foster care safety requirements, and (3) was appointed legal guardian by a court.

The act eliminates the first of these requirements, allowing the commissioner to transfer the subsidy to a successor guardian who meets DCF's foster care requirements and is a court-appointed legal guardian but is not named in the subsidy agreement. But it requires the commissioner to request that the caregiver identify the successor guardian in the subsidy agreement or addendum in order to maximize federal reimbursement for the subsidized guardianship program.

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