What does Guardianship mean?

The court may appoint a caregiver as the guardian of a child, which allows them to make decisions for the child and provide for the child's shelter, education and medical care. The guardian will also have physical custody of the child. The guardianship arrangement does not, however, terminate the parent's rights. Guardianship may be assigned to a caregiver who is not the child's parent when the state determines the child cannot return to their birth family. If a caregiver is appointed the guardian of the child the state is no longer involved in the child's care, supervision or legal custody of the child.

Guardianship lasts until the child reaches the age of 18. State laws vary, but families who receive guardianship may receive certain types of financial and non-financial support to care for a child. A guardian may also manage the financial assets of a child, although it is common for another person called the guardian of the state to be appointed by the court for this purpose.

Guardianship differs from adoption. Adoption actually terminates the parent's legal rights and transfers all the rights and responsibilities of the child to the adoptive parents. Rights which are given adoptive parents include the right to consent to major medical care, to marriage, and to enlistment in the armed services. Adoption is only allowed if the court deems the parents unfit and terminates their rights or the parents give up their parental rights voluntarily.

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