As in most states, family courts in Arkansas have the power to award the custody of children to relatives when parents are unable to retain custody of their children. In many cases, however, nonparental custody creates financial burdens that are hard for people to shoulder without some outside help. Fortunately, in these cases, the state can provide kinship guardianship assistance payments.
What does a guardianship agreement do? A written and binding kinship guardianship assistance agreement establishes the amount and manner of payment and other forms of financial help guardians can receive during guardianship. The agreement remains valid regardless of the state in which the guardian lives. The full payment amount, however, cannot exceed what it would cost to financially support a child in a foster care home. If the guardianship will be permanent, the agency must explain why its decision is in the best interests of the child.
Is a guardian’s background checked? Yes. Every guardian is checked by fingerprint against the national crime database. Checks on other adults living in the home may also be done.
When are guardianship payments available? A foster care payment is available only if the child spends more than six months in a relative’s or guardian’s home and if the chances are low that the child will return to live with his or her natural parents or be adopted. Children older than 14 must be consulted before custody can be awarded to a relative. Siblings can also be placed with the same guardian and be eligible for the same financial assistance.
Are children themselves eligible for assistance? Yes. Children 16 and older are also eligible for vouchers for their education and training, thus ensuring they can live independently. They are also eligible for Medicaid benefits. A legal professional can explain all of the options available.
Source: NCSL.org, “Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act,” Accessed on May 14, 2015