If there is a reason that a child cannot live with his or her parents, then a guardian may be appointed or chosen for the child. A guardian is a person who takes care of the child in a variety of ways, from managing the child’s finances to providing medical care, food and education. Guardianship can end if a judge determines it is not longer necessary in those cases.
Since guardianship is a legal relationship, someone who takes care of a child isn’t automatically a guardian. He or she needs to have the legal right to make decisions granted by the court, either by being a biological parent, by adopting the child or through other means. Guardianship isn’t the same as adoption, because it doesn’t break the bond between a child and his or her parents. On the other hand, an adoption permanently relieves a parent from his or her duties to the child.
If you plan to take care of a child, it’s a good idea to consider becoming a guardian or adopting the child, depending on the circumstances. Without having a legal guardianship, it will be hard for you to do many of the things the child needs, like seeking medical care for him or her or enrolling him or her into the local school system. Being a caretaker doesn’t automatically give you the right to make decisions for the child.
If you’re not sure if you want to be a guardian, you should look into the legal obligations the law would require of you. It’s a major step, but it could be an important one in the life of a child. Our website has more information.