As recently as last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court, set a high proof standard for parents seeking to regain a child taken from them and placed with a relative or friend. The Court held that the parents must show by clear and convincing evidence — not by a mere preponderance — that the reason for removing the child no longer exists and that ending guardianship is in the child’s best interests.
The decision, which was by a unanimous ruling, N.J. Division of Youth and Family Services v. L.L., A-68-08, clarifies the Kinship Act, N.J.S.A. 3B:12A-1 to -7, enacted in 2002 as an alternative form of permanent placement for children who cannot safely remain with their parents. This is a way for the children to keep in touch with their relatives without be adopted outside of the family. Also, kinship legal guardianship does not require termination of parental rights or that the caregiver adopt the child. This helps reduce the childs stress and anxiety from being displaced from their parents and home.
There are steps for removal however, before DYFS can place a child with a relative or family friend, that must first happen:
- DYFS must conduct a thorough home inspection. of the prospective relative or family member the child will ultimately be staying with.
- DYFs will contact the local police to conduct a check-up on all household members who are age 18 years and older.
- DYFS will initiate a Child Abuse Record Information Check (CARI) on all household members.
Furthermore, within at least five business days of the child’s placement with the relative and/or close family member, DYFS must work with that individual to obtain and complete the application to become a licensed resource parent. As of July 1, 2005, and required by the State of New Jersey, all relatives and family friends caring for a child or chileren who are under DYFS supervision are required to be a licensed resource parent. This ensures that the relative or family friend who is now caring for the child on a daily basis, will be eligible for a monthly board payment, a clothing allowance, health coverage for the child and other support services.