Parent Support Services Society of BC

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Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Legal Guide - Revised 2014

The GRG Legal Guide was originally published in 2009. We have updated chapters of the Guide, to reflect new law and policy.

Do not use this guide for legal advice. It provides information only, and that information only applies to British Columbian law, services, and benefits. Consult with a lawyer for advice related to your specific situation.

Laws, benefits, policies, and procedures are always changing. Always double-check the information you intend to rely on with the appropriate agency or with your lawyer.

Indigenous people’s traditions and customary laws are outside the scope of this guide; however, we want to acknowledge those customs and traditions and emphasize that nothing in this guide should be misinterpreted as superseding or taking away from them.

Please let us know if you found the Chapters below easy to follow, accurate, and/or helpful. We are looking for feedback before we reprint the whole guide. Contact "Communications"via office@parentsupportbc.ca with your feedback.

Click on the highlighted chapter headings to download that chapter.

Child Protection and the Ministry - Chapter 1 - PDF - Downloadable

This chapter assists the grandparent (or kinship caregiver) in navigating the Ministry and delegated Aboriginal authorities. It covers the basics of child protection,  the role of social workers, and issues of guardianship, restricted foster care and custody. 

Youth and the Law - Chapter 2 - PDF - Downloadable

Having a grandchild who is in trouble with the law can be a stressful and confusing experience. The best thing that you can do for your grandchild is to seek professional legal advice
immediately. There are many resources available in the community to help you, many of them free.
This chapter provides a general overview of issues and resources relating to youth justice in British Columbia. You will also find brief responses to a few frequently asked questions.

Custody and Guardianship - Chapter 3 - PDF - Downloadable

Many of the grandparents we spoke with expressed anxiety over not knowing what it meant to have custody or guardianship of their grandchildren. For many, no one ever explained to them what these words mean, or what rights and responsibilities come along with them. This chapter will explain some of the different legal relationships you can have with your grandchild. Later chapters have information about other arrangements, such as adoption and access or contact (the right of a child to visit with important people in his or her life).

Access and safety - Chapter 4 - PDF - Downloadable

Access is a legal term that means the right of any person (a parent, grandparent, other relative, or non-relative) to spend time with a child for the purpose of maintaining a meaningful relationship. Often people associate access with the rights of a child’s parents or relatives to see the child, but it is better understood as the right of the child to have a relationship with another person. This chapter will explain access—how to get it if you want it, how to try to block another person’s access if you think it is not in your grandchild’s best interests, and how to go about arranging supervision for visits. There is also information for those who need protection from someone in the child’s life (see pages 5-6 for information on protection orders). 

Adoption - Chapter 5 - PDF - Downloadable

Creating a stable home for their grandchildren is a priority for many grandparents. The most permanent way to do so is through adoption. Once the adoption is final, there is no legal difference between the rights you have as an adoptive parent and the rights you would have if you were the birth parent of that child. For that reason, this is the most legally secure relationship you can have with a child you are raising. However there are reasons why you may choose not to go this route. This chapter outlines the processes and challenges involved.

Child protection and the court process - Chapter 6 - PDF - Downloadable

If the social worker, during a child protection response, finds that there are concerns over your grandchild’s safety or well-being, you can try to make one of the agreements described in the preceding chapters. If you do not find out about the ministry’s concerns early enough, or if you do not succeed in getting an agreement with the ministry, the social worker might decide one of two things:

  • that your grandchild’s care needs to be supervised by the ministry, or
  • that your grandchild must be removed from the parental home.

If the social worker decides either of these things, your family will have to go to court. This chapter outlines this process.

(For information about finding a lawyer and other legal advice see Chapter 8 of this Guide – Getting Legal Help. Also check out Legal Services Society of BC http://www.lss.bc.ca/, or http://www.clicklaw.bc.ca/)

Alternatives to court - Chapter 7 PDF - Downloadable

Using the courts to settle family disputes can often add to everyone’s pain and frustration. Some grandparents feel like their lives are no longer under their control when they have to leave major decisions to a judge. Whether you have had to file a case yourself or the ministry has become involved in your grandchild’s care and you are trying to resolve the situation, you should know that there are alternatives that can help you to resolve family issues without going through the entire court process. This chapter explores those alternatives.

Getting Legal Help - Chapter 8 PDF - Downloadable

Decisions you make about legal issues are very important, and a lawyer can help you understand your options and risks, as well as how your choices will affect your family. It is always a good idea to consult with a lawyer before making a major legal decision. Sometimes you can qualify for free help from a lawyer through legal aid. There are other people who may be able to help you through your legal matter, such as legal advocates. 

Using the Courts - Chapter 9 - PDF - Downloadable

Some grandparents get custody and guardianship of their grandchildren easily, with helpful advice and direction from family lawyers and legal advocates. Other grandparents have frustrating experiences, receiving little help or sympathy, and have to return to court many times before their issues are resolved. This chapter explains how the courts work and how you can prepare yourself. It also has a list of helpful resources.

Financial Assistance and Benefits - Chapter 10 - PDF - Downloadable

If you are raising a grandchild or a relative’s child, you may be entitled to government benefits. The amount of help you can get to pay for the child’s needs depends on whether you have a custody or guardianship or adoption order. It will also depend on whether your grandchild has been diagnosed with special needs.

This chapter will provide details on these benefits and links of where you might go for more information.

Arranging Your Affairs - Chapter 11 - PDF  - Downloadable

This chapter deals with documents you need to travel with your grandchild, and arranging affairs in case you become ill or die. Much of the legislation in this chapter has recently changed, and we are awaiting more updated information links that are helpful. Thank you to Lawyer Peter Bonny for his updates to this chapter. 

You can view the 2009 version of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Legal Guide, please click here.

RESOURCES FOR GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN AND OTHER KINSHIP CAREGIVERS

Publications:

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Legal Issues and Resources Pamphlet
To view the pamphlet, please click here.

The New Family Law and Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
To view the handout, please click here.

Criminal Record Check for Out-of-Care Care Providers
To view the handout, please click here.

Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: Resource Booklet (2007)
This resource book is available online only.

Other Useful Legal Links:

Legal Services Society of BC  has a special section for grandparents.

JP Boyd on Family, written in plain language and provides practical, in-depth coverage of family law and divorce law in British Columbia.

Clicklaw Wikibooks help the public in British Columbia find and use legal information.

Family Justice Centres Family Justice Centres operate across BC to provide services to British Columbians going through separation or divorce. Each centre is staffed by accredited Family Justice Counsellors, specially trained to help families with parenting arrangements, contact with a child, guardianship, and support issues. They can help parents resolve disagreements without going to court. They provide short-term counselling, mediation, emergency and community referrals and other free services.

"Your Rights on Reserve - a Legal Tool-kit for Aboriginal Women in BC.

Led by Atira Women’s Resource Society’s legal advocate Amber Prince, this tool-kit was created by Aboriginal women, for Aboriginal women.  Click here to download: Your Rights on Reserve - a Legal Tool-kit for Aboriginal Women in British Columbia

 

Legal Seminars

LEGAL SEMINARS FOR KINSHIP CARE PROVIDERS - GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN

Parent Support Services Society of BC has developed  informative, interactive, legal information seminars that will outline Kinship Care facts and options, relevant legislation, government and community resources, benefits and services available for grandparents and other relatives raising family members. For more information: call us at 604-669-1616 or toll free at 1-877-345-9777.

GRG Book List Recommended Titles

Many of these titles can be found at your local library: a list of BC libraries and links to their online catalogues.

To buy, check with your local independent bookstore, or if absolutely necessary go to amazon.ca

Grandparents as Parents: A Survival Guide for Raising a Second Family - by Sylvie de Toledo LCSW, Deborah Edler Brown

Grandparenting & the law/child protection & the dependency system/government aid, etc.  How to cope with unexpected parenthood, from the court system to finding support groups.

To Grandma's House, We--Stay: When You Have to Stop Spoiling Your Grandchildren and Start Raising Them - Sally Houtman

To Grandma's House, We....Stay is a timely road map that guides grandparents through the uncharted territories of parenting a second generation of children. It offers practical solutions to real-life problems that families face when traditional roles and relationships are redefined.

Raising Our Children's Children

Although grandparents as parents are becoming more and more common, our society does not understand all the issues involved. Here grandparent/journalist Deborah Doucette-Dudman and family therapist Jeffrey LaCure explore the social, legal, and emotional issues faced by grandparents as parents, such as custody battles, housing issues, and prior mistreatment of the children.

The Second Time Around: Help for Grandparents Who Raise Their Children's Kids 

This book offers information and emotional support. The author, Joan Callandar, describes the book as a "tool kit" she put together from her years of experience. 

Children's books about Granparents Raising Grandchildren (Burnaby Public Library) - Link

 

Resources for GRG LGBTQ Families

Resources for LGBTQ Families and Children

There is a wonderful resource for LGBTQ families & service providers at BC Council for Families website. https://www.bccf.ca/bccf/programs/qt-resources-for-families/qt-tip-sheets/

Other great resources can be found at: 

PFLAG Canada - Vancouver  An organization that provides support for all family members and friends. They work to create an environment of understanding so our gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children can live with dignity and respect. Resources 

Vancouver Coastal Health has a fantastic resource page for parents and caregivers of Trans and Gender Variant children and youth - http://transhealth.vch.ca/support/families/parents-and-caregivers#.VHNc4ovF-ul

The BC Teachers Federation - http://bctf.ca/SocialJustice.aspx?id=6106

Qmunity - has resources helpful for parents and youth  http://www.qmunity.ca/education/qmunity-publications/ and also has resources for older members of the LGBTQ Communtiy http://www.qmunity.ca/older-adults/

American Library Association GLBT Roundtable

Adult books - http://www.glbtrt.ala.org/overtherainbow/

Books for kids and teens - http://glbtrt.ala.org/rainbowbooks/

Resources specific to Gender Inclusivityhttp://bcsaferschools.com/

More kids books reflecting LGBTQ Families - http://www.pinterest.com/torontolibrary/tpl-life-rainbow-families/

GRG Family and Children's Recreation

Active for Life

As a grandparent, you can help your grandchild develop physical literacy to give them the right start in sport, school, and life. Learn how by visiting ActiveForLife.ca

Summer Camp opportunities for low income children-

Burnaby - http://www.burnabycommunityconnections.com/camping.shtml

New Westminster - http://fraserside.bc.ca/living_well/camping_bureau.htm

Elsewhere - for Camp Jubilee - http://www.campjubilee.ca/financial-assistancecampership-program/

Family Services of Greater Vancouver

Family Services of Greater Vancouver

 

FSGV's Family Support page includes: Resources for: Intensive Family Support; Child Development; and Foster Family Support (Also available for GRG Families)

Representative for Children and Youth

Since 2007, British Columbia’s Representative for Children and Youth has supported our province’s young people and their families in dealing with the provincial child and youth welfare system.

The Representative also provides oversight to this system and makes recommendations to improve it.

The Representative is a non-partisan, independent officer of the Legislature, reporting directly to the Legislative Assembly and not a government ministry.

There are many important resources and reports available on their website. http://www.rcybc.ca/

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Support Line

This toll-free line assists grandparents and other relatives raising a family member's child(ren) to navigate complex services systems such as MCFD; to find the answers, assistance and resources they need to prevent or solve problems; and to learn about benefits and services that will support the whole family.

The GRG Support line is staffed by two part-time advocates with training in advocacy, social work, family law, and government services pertaining to kinship caregiving.

GRG Support Line Hours:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday
11:00 am-3:00 pm
At all other times callers are encouranged to leave a voicemail message or send an e-mail, which will be returned as soon a possible.

GRG Support Line Contacts:

By phone toll-free province-wide: 1-855-474-9777

By phone in the Lower Mainland: (604) 558-4740

By confidential e-mail GRGline@parentsupportbc.ca.

PDF of GRG Support Line poster here.