By: Sarah Stewart Legal Group
In 2016, it is estimated that 2.7 million grandparents, nationwide, are raising their grandchildren (US Census). If you take into account other family members who foster children that are not their biological children, that number is even higher.
Oklahoma is one of the top states for kinship foster placement (children living with family members other than their parents). So, if you find yourself in this situation, you are far from alone.
What options do family members have to legally take custody of a child that is not their biological child? That depends on the family’s situation and the goal of the foster parents.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney will only work if at least one of the parents is available, and willing, to sign the document to allow a family member to care for the child. A Power of Attorney allows the family member to take a child to medical appointments, enroll them in school, and step in for the parent to help the child in any way in which the parent agrees. A Power of Attorney does not take any parental power from the parent and the parent can revoke or overrule the Power of Attorney at any time.
Guardianship is a court process where someone files pleadings and appears in court to take custody of a minor child. Parents must be informed by sending notice to their last known addresses. Parents do not have to consent. However, if they do not consent, there can be a fight in Court.
Guardianship is stronger than a Power of Attorney because the person receiving guardianship of the child steps into the parent’s shoes until the parent can prove he or she is capable of caring for the child or has cured the circumstances surrounding the guardianship. The Guardian is the child’s custodian. The parent cannot revoke the guardianship or take the child out of school, or make other parental decisions without going through the Court process.
This option works well when Mom and/or Dad have disappeared and cannot be found.
Adoption is a custody option wherein the foster parents take full parental responsibility for the child. Adoption requires terminating the rights of the biological parents. The biological parents must receive notice of the adoption proceedings. If a child is adopted, the biological parents will have no further rights to the child. The adoptive parents are the parents of the child. The name and birth certificate of the child can be changed.
In order to adopt a child in Oklahoma, you will usually need a home study, medical and social history, and background check on all adults in the home. Adoption is the most complicated and lengthy procedure.
If you are caring for a child who is not your biological child you have several different legal options to ensure you can meet the child’s needs. Consider what option works best for you and your family. Then, be sure to implement one of the options so that you and the child are protected.