What does society offer for children whose birth parents are incapable of caring for them? Is foster care, with all of its drawbacks, the only remedy? The answer is that states such as N.J. have enacted laws to provide for the appointment of a kinship legal guardian.
The law authorizing such an appointment can be found at N.J.S.A. § 3(b)12A-1 et seq. It provides for an adult who is “typically…a caregiver with a ‘biological, legal, extended or committed emotional or psychological relationship with a child who [is] willing to assume care of the child due to parental incapacity or inability, with the intent to raise the child to adulthood.’” New Jersey Div. of Youth and Family Servs. v. D.H., 398 N.J.Super. 333 (App. Div. 2008). The issue of whether the parent or kinship legal guardian has the superior authority to make decision for the child was resolved quite understandably in favor of the kinship legal guardian. Obviously if the parent were capable of caring for the child there would be no need for the kinship legal guardian. Nevertheless the parent does have the right (a) consent to the adoption and (b) have contact with the child. N.J.S.A. § 3(b): 12A-4(a)(1).
The advent of kinship legal guardians is an important step to providing for the needs of children who would otherwise be abandoned. When utilized in the proper manner, it can be of tremendous benefit in raising a self-supporting responsible adult.