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adoption, permanent guardianship, kinship care, poverty, juvenile law, human rights, access to justice


An increasing number of children are being cared for exclusively by grandparents or extended family. The majority of these caregivers are raising children outside of the foster care system without a formal legal status. In fact, kinship diversion, placing children whose parents cannot or will not care for them with family or friends outside of the foster care system, is encouraged by state and federal law. Informal kinship caregivers face many obstacles to providing care for children and they are more likely to be unemployed, receive government benefits, and be less educated, as compared with parents raising their own children. In addition, the majority of these caregivers live in poverty, and few receive adequate subsidies or other support for the children in their care. When an informal kinship caregiver living in poverty wishes to move for permanency, through adoption or permanent guardianship proceedings, the out-of-pocket expenses are an obstacle — the costs of a private adoption or permanent guardianship proceeding top $3,000, not including attorney’s fees. While adoptions and permanent guardianships are at least partially subsidized when the children are in foster care, the subsidies for these legal proceedings for informal kinship caregivers living in poverty are inadequate in many states. In those states, informal kinship caregivers living in poverty who wish to move for permanency for the children in their care are barred from doing so for lack of funds. Using a human rights lens to analyze the applicable law, regulations, and practices of all fifty states and the federal government, this article argues for the subsidization of private adoptions and permanent guardianships for kinship caregivers living in poverty.