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Stepping Into Some Big Shoes: Understanding Child Guardianship Responsibilities

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When a parent is no longer able to care for a child, a guardian may be appointed. Whether it's because of illness, incarceration, or even death, the state will endeavor to place a child with a relative or friend of the family in an effort to disrupt the child as little as possible. Read on and learn more about the duties and responsibilities of a child guardian.

Who Should Take Guardianship On?

Almost anyone associated with a child under the age of 18 can be a guardian. To satisfy the family court system that a person is fit, a background check may be performed to check criminal records. You should be ready to fulfill the duties of guardianship at least until the child reaches the age of 18. In some cases, however, temporary guardianship may be appropriate. That might be the case if the biological or legal parent of the child is only temporarily unable to parent the child. In most cases, though, guardianship is considered permanent. If the parents are living, they can petition the court to take custody back but usually, these parents have permanently lost their parental rights, and that is not easily undone. Before that happens, the court gives a great deal of consideration before removing parental rights. If the biological parent is living, losing parental rights can often be associated with criminal activity, child abuse, incarceration, and more.

What Do Child Guardians Do?

Legally-appointed guardians have the same rights and powers as biological parents do. They also have all the responsibilities of a parent to ensure the child is well taken care of. As with any parenting job, duties depend on the age and personal characteristics of the child. In basic terms, though, guardians may be held responsible for:

  1. Proper nutrition
  2. Appropriate living conditions where the child feels safe and comfortable
  3. Clothing appropriate for the child and the climate
  4. Educating the child according to state laws
  5. Medical appointments as scheduled by the medical practitioner along with any needs for emergency care
  6. Mental health care as needed
  7. Exposure to recreational, social, cultural, and other aspects of life that growing children need

Taking on the job of being a child guardian is a noble but difficult thing to do. In some cases, guardians are expected to take on these tasks with little or no extra financial resources. To find out more about guardianships and how they might apply to you, speak to a family law attorney.