Substitute Senate Bill No. 113

Public Act No. 99-251

An Act Concerning Subsidies to Guardians of Children Appointed by the Probate Court.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 17a-126 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof:

(a) As used in this section, "relative caregiver" means a person who is caring for a child related to such person because the parent of the child has died or become otherwise unable to care for the child for reasons that make reunification with the parent not a viable option within the foreseeable future and "commissioner" means the Commissioner of Children and Families.

(b) The Commissioner of Children and Families shall establish a program of subsidized guardianship for the benefit of children in the care or custody of the commissioner who are living with relative caregivers and who have been in foster care or certified relative care for not less than eighteen months. The commissioner, within available appropriations, may establish a program of subsidized guardianship for the benefit of children in the care or custody of the commissioner who are living with relative caregivers and who have been in foster care or certified relative care for not less than twelve but not more than eighteen months. A relative caregiver may request a guardianship subsidy from the commissioner. If adoption of the child by the relative caregiver is an option, the commissioner shall counsel the caregiver about the advantages and disadvantages of adoption and subsidized guardianship so that the decision by the relative caregiver to request a subsidized guardianship may be a fully informed one.

(c) The subsidized guardianship program shall provide the following subsidies for the benefit of any child in the care of a relative caregiver who has been appointed the guardian or coguardian of the child by any court of competent jurisdiction: (1) A special-need subsidy, which shall be a lump sum payment for one-time expenses resulting from the assumption of care of the child when no other resource is available to pay for such expense; and (2) a medical subsidy comparable to the medical subsidy to children in the subsidized adoption program if the child lacks private health insurance. The subsidized guardianship program shall also provide a monthly subsidy on behalf of the child payable to the relative caregiver that shall be equal to the prevailing foster care rate. The commissioner may establish an asset test for eligibility under the program.

(d) [On or before January 1, 1998, the] The commissioner shall adopt regulations in accordance with chapter 54 implementing the subsidized guardianship program established under this section. Such regulations shall require, as a prerequisite to payment of a guardianship subsidy for the benefit of a minor child, that a home study report be filed with the court having jurisdiction of the case of the minor within fifteen days of the request for a subsidy, provided that no such report shall be required to be filed if a report has previously been provided to the court or if the caregiver has been determined to be a certified relative caregiver by the commissioner. The regulations shall also establish a procedure comparable to that for the subsidized adoption program to determine the types and amounts of subsidy to be granted by the commissioner as provided in subsection (c) of this section, for annual review of the subsidy as provided in subsection (e) of this section and for appeal from decisions by the commissioner denying, modifying or terminating such subsidies.

(e) The guardianship subsidy provided under this section shall continue until the child reaches the age of eighteen or the age of twenty-one if such child is in full time attendance at a secondary school, technical school or college or is in a state accredited job training program. Annually, the subsidized guardian shall submit to the commissioner a sworn statement that the child is still living with and receiving support from the guardian. The parent of any child receiving assistance through the subsidized guardianship program shall remain liable for the support of the child as required by the general statutes.

(f) A guardianship subsidy shall not be included in the calculation of household income in determining eligibility for benefits of the relative caregiver of the subsidized child or other persons living within the household of the relative caregiver.

(g) Payments for guardianship subsidies shall be made from moneys available from any source to the commissioner for child welfare purposes. The commissioner shall develop and implement a plan that: (1) Maximizes use of the subsidized guardianship program to decrease the number of children in the legal custody of the Commissioner of Children and Families and to reduce the number of children who would otherwise be placed into foster care when there is a family member willing to provide care; (2) maximizes federal reimbursement for the costs of the subsidized guardianship program, provided whatever federal maximization method is employed shall not result in the relative caregiver of a child being subject to work requirements as a condition of receipt of benefits for the child or the benefits restricted in time or scope other than as specified in subsection (c) of this section; and (3) ensures necessary transfers of funds between agencies and interagency coordination in program implementation. The Commissioner of Children and Families shall seek all federal waivers as are necessary and appropriate to implement this plan.

Sec. 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 1999.

Approved June 29, 1999