Kinship Care in Pittsburgh
While having your child with you and remaining a family unit may be the ideal situation, it is not always possible. There may simply come a time when you are not capable of taking care of your child as well as you would like. For instance, if you are the subject of a child protective services (CPS) investigation, the authorities may remove your child from your home. In these challenging situations, placing your child into a kinship care situation may be the best decision.
If a relative or friend is willing to help, our domestic attorneys at Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC can help you create the safest and healthiest decision for your child. We can help you establish a kinship care situation. If you are under investigation by local authorities for abuse or neglect, we are also here to defend your rights and help you prove your innocence.
Contact us at (412) 471-5100 to speak with an experienced and compassionate Pittsburgh family lawyer.
What is Kinship Care?
Kinship care is when your child lives with a relative or close family friend full time. During this arrangement, you are not their primary caregiver. Instead, the other family member or friend cares for your child on a daily basis. They make the day-to-day decisions like what your child has for dinner and when they go to bed. They may also make larger decisions for your child, including where they go to school or regarding medical care. However, you still have your parental rights during kinship care. Depending on your unique situation, you may be able to visit with your child and participate in making the larger decisions for them.
Types of Kinship Care
There are a few types of kinship care: informal, voluntary, and formal. Informal kinship care happens all of the time. You may send your children to live with other family members or close family friends without going through any legal or administrative proceedings. During this type of casual relationship, you retain custody of your kids, can take them back at any time, and have the right to make all decisions for them.
If CPS becomes involved, you may end up involved in a voluntary or formal kinship care situation. During a voluntary kinship care arrangement, CPS does not remove your children from the home. Instead, you work with social services and agree to give temporary physical custody of your children to someone else. This may come about with or without court involvement, it all depends on your situation. During a voluntary kinship care arrangement, you retrain your parental rights and legal custody. Only physical custody goes to the caregiver.
Formal kinship care can occur when CPS removes your child from your home, either immediately due to your child being in imminent danger or after an investigation finds evidence of abuse or neglect. If CPS determines it is in your child’s best interests to be removed, then the state takes over legal custody of your child and must provide another living arrangement. The state always prefers to keep a child with family, so a formal kinship care arrangement may be made with a family member or family friend who has a relationship with the child. The caregiver will have physical custody of your child during this time while the state has legal custody. While you retain your parental rights, you do not have legal or physical custody. This is essentially a foster care arrangement but with someone you know instead of a stranger.
The Benefits of Kinship Care Compared to Foster Care
There are many reasons to move forward with a voluntary or formal kinship care arrangement instead of letting your child be placed in foster care. While a majority of foster parents want to provide a safe, healthy, and happy home for your child, they are still strangers. Your child may have a great deal of difficulty settling into a new environment with new authority figures. A kinship care situation avoids this trauma by placing your child with someone with whom they already have an established emotional connection.
Kinship care enables a child to remain connected with their immediate and extended family, which may not be possible during a foster arrangement. If your child goes to live with a grandparent, aunt or uncle, they may be able to see their other family members on a regular basis and during normal family events like holidays and birthdays.
If you have two or more children, a foster care situation may require them to be split up. Not many foster families are capable of taking on multiple children at a time. However, if you arrange for a kinship care situation, then you have a greater likelihood of keeping your children together, which can reduce the shock of the situation.
Your Rights During a Kinship Care Arrangement
When you agree to a kinship care arrangement or it is forced upon you by CPS, you should be aware of your rights and obligations toward your child, which will depend on the type of kinship care arrangement and what type of custody you maintain. Even if you lose physical and/or legal custody, you retain your parental rights. This gives you the right to keep in contact with your child on a regular basis, such as through phone calls, email, and texting, and to visit with your child, unless a court orders otherwise. If you have legal custody as well, you have the right to make major decisions for your child, including where they go to school, their physical and psychological health care, and their religion.
Contact Our Pittsburgh Domestic Attorneys for Help Today
At Pittsburgh Divorce & Family Law, LLC, we understand you do not want to lose your kids. You are their parent and the best place for them is with you. We want your family together as much as you do. However, we know that circumstances often force you into other types of situations. Allegations of abuse or neglect will get CPS involved and could result in your children being removed from your home. If this is happening, you are put in the position of doing the best you can for your children while you fight to get them back.
We can help you work with CPS, fight for your rights as a parent, and try to establish a kinship care arrangement with your family. Call us today at (412) 471-5100.