It’s been estimated that more than 600,000 children in Texas are living with a grandparent or an aunt, uncle or sibling. This arrangement has been called “kincare.”
A family member may be providing care because the parents are in prison, seriously ill, chemically dependent, or otherwise unable to care for their child. Whatever the reason, the role of caregiver is an important one and the family member who takes on that role needs and deserves support.
Be Sure You Have Legal Authority
A relative caregiver does not need to adopt a child in order to act in a parental capacity. But you do need to have a legal right to make decisions on behalf of the child. You can go to court to get child custody in the form of a “managing conservatorship.”
Be sure to keep one or more copies of this document. You will need to provide it to prove that you have legal authority to make decisions for the child.
Other legal forms that will help establish your right to make decisions for the child include:
- A power of attorney giving you authority to manage the child’s finances
- Forms of consent to authorize medical care
If non-custodial parents want visitation rights but there have been problems with their visits in the past, it may be time to involve the Texas Family courts. A court-approved visitation agreement can set boundaries for how a visit will be managed.
- Will the visit be supervised? Who will be present?
- How often will the person visit and for how long?
- Where will the visit take place?
Do You Need Financial Support for the Child You Are Caring For?
A family member acting as a parent can apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid or CHIP (children’s health insurance) on behalf of the child. If granted, the state may pursue a child support order against the biological parents, and can also seek an order establishing the grandparent’s child custody (managing conservatorship) and the parent’s visitation.
If you only want to apply for food assistance (WIC), the state won’t automatically seek child support.
Because there are so many grandparents caring for grandkids in Texas, Area Agencies on Aging often provide benefits counseling and parenting support groups. Call your Area Agency on Aging to learn what resources are available to assist your family.
The Texas Legal Services Center and the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services have developed a primer for grandparents and family members caring for a related child. See their website to download the 2020 Texas Kincare Primer.
Finally, the overriding policy in Texas is for a parent to raise their children. However, grandparents can gain standing to file in court by having primary actual possession of grandchildren for a period exceeding six months, or if an emergency exists. This is a critical step and does require legal assistance from competent counsel unless in some cases Child Protective Services have intervened. Please seek the appropriate legal advice before making decisions that may alter what you consider is the best interest of the child.
Call the Law Office of V. Wayne Ward for Help At the Law Office of V. Wayne Ward, we are pleased to help families meet the needs of vulnerable children. Whether you need help with child custody, child protection, or another legal matter, call a Ft Worth family law attorney at 817-789-4436. We are here to help.