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    If a child has been a victim of abuse or neglect is and is under the authority of the family court, often times, extended family members often are willing to care for the child.  This in theory is believed to be the best arrangement for the child because they would feel comfortable in their new home, however, not all relatives who are willing to care for the child, have the funding to provide the child without some financial assistance.  Unlike foster care providers, legal guardians are not offered financial support from the government.  On February 17, 2009, Senate Bill Number 227 was introduced in the Senate to amend the "Subsidized guardianship assistance act," to rename it the “Guardianship Assistance Act.” (Best)

    In 2008, the Subsidized Guardianship Assistance Act was never implemented but recent changes to federal law have made it quantifiable for states, like Michigan, to obtain federal matching funds to support guardianship assistance programs as long as they conforms to the federal requirements.  In order to meet the requirements to qualify, amendments were made to the Subsidized Guardianship Assistance Act, and Bill 227 was created. 

    This bill would do the following:

    ·                      Rename the Act the "Guardianship Assistance Act", and replace references to "subsidized guardianship assistance" with "guardianship assistance" throughout the act.

    ·                      Revise the criteria for a child to be eligible for guardianship assistance.

    ·                      Require a guardian to be a licensed foster parent, and to undergo a criminal background check and a central registry check for child abuse and neglect.

    ·                      Require the DHS to enter into a written, binding, guardianship assistance agreement with a prospective guardian.

    ·                      Require the DHS to pay up to $2,000 for the total cost of nonrecurring expenses associated with obtaining legal guardianship of an eligible child.

    ·                      Require the DHS, if a child's permanency plan included placement with a guardian and the receipt of guardianship assistance, to include in the case plan the steps taken to determine that reunification or adoption was not appropriate, among other information.

    (www.legislature.mi.gov)

     

    “The bill specifies that only a relative who was a licensed foster parent caring for a child who was eligible to receive Title IV-E-funded foster care payments for six consecutive months would be eligible for federal funding under Title IV-E for guardianship assistance,” however, if a child is not eligible for Title IV-E funding “who was placed with a licensed foster parent could be eligible for state funding” (Best).  The Title IV-E "is the federal assistance, provided through the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which will reimburse states, who meet federal criteria, for foster care, adoption assistance payments, and now guardianship assistance payments” (www.legislature.mi.gov). 

    Under this bill, a “child” means a person less than 18 years of age.  A child is eligible to receive guardianship assistance if:

    ·                      The child has been removed from his or her home according to a voluntary placement agreement or as a result of judicial determination that the allowing child to remain in a home would be contrary to the child’s welfare. 

    ·                      The child has resided in the home of the prospective guardian for minimum, 6 consecutive months. 

    ·                      It has been determined that returning the child to the home or place the child for adoption is not an appropriate permanency option.

    ·                      The child demonstrates a strong attachment to the prospective guardian and the guardian has a strong commitment to caring permanently for the child. 

    ·                      If the child has reached 14 year of age, he or she has been consulted regarding the guardianship arrangement. 

    (www.legislature.mi.gov)

     

    This act currently will be effective April 9th, 2009.  (ICLE)

     

    Sources:

    Best, E. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2009-2010/billanalysis/House/htm/2009-HLA-0227-3.htm

    http://www.icle.org/contentfiles/milawnews/Rules/Legis/legis-new.htm

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2009-2010/billintroduced/Senate/htm/2009-SIB-0227.htm

     

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    Jocelyn Cutean serves as Morality and Family policy correspondent for the Michigan Policy Network. She is a first-year student at Michigan State, majoring in Theatre and English. Jocelyn has experience working on the executive board of the Waterford Chapter Coalition for Youth. She has also piloted a grant funded city wide public service announcement entitled, "It Just Wasn't Worth It" which exposes the repercussions of driving while intoxicated. Jocelyn enjoys art of all forms, from writing to performance.