Grandparents Raising Grandchildren: A Legal Guide – Revised 2014
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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 email@example.com with your feedback.
If you have not done so already, we suggest you call our Kinship Care (GRG) Support Line 1-855-474-9777 and talk to our advocates and get advice on how to navigate the system. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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/)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.