1. (a) Requirements for establishing a permanent guardianship. The court may establish a permanent guardianship between a child and a relative or other adult per Sections 1-4-709 and 1-4-710 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes (10A O.S. §§ 1-4-709 and 1-4-710), if the guardianship is in the child's best interests and when all of the conditions listed in 10A O.S. § 1-4-709 are substantially satisfied. The conditions are detailed in paragraphs (1) through (7) of this subsection.
(1) The child has been adjudicated a deprived child.
(2) The parent has:
(A) consented to the guardianship;
(B) had parental rights terminated;
(C) failed to substantially correct the conditions that led to the adjudication of the child;
(D) been adjudicated as incompetent or incapacitated by a court;
(E) abandoned the child;
(F) failed to be identified or has not been located despite reasonably diligent efforts to ascertain the whereabouts of the parent; or
(3) The child consents to the guardianship when the court finds the child of sufficient intelligence, understanding, and experience to provide consent.
(4) Termination of the parent's parental rights is either not legally possible, not in the best interests of the child, or adoption is not the permanency plan for the child.
(5) The child and prospective guardian do not require protective supervision or preventive services to ensure the stability of the guardianship.
(6) The prospective guardian agrees not to return the child to the care of the person from whom the child was removed nor allow visitation without the court's approval.
(7) The child has been residing or placed with the proposed guardian for at least the six preceding months or the proposed permanent guardian is a relative with whom the child has a relationship.
(b) Home assessment for proposed guardian. An assessment of the proposed guardian's home is completed and a report is provided to the court regarding the proposed guardian's suitability and whether guardianship is in the best interests of the child. The CW specialist when the proposed permanent guardian is:
(1) a Bridge resource parent, updates Form 04AF003E, Resource Family Assessment - Bridge Family Profile; or
(2) not an Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) resource parent:
(A) completes Form 04PP008E, Proposed Permanent Guardian Assessment of Non-Resource Parent; and
(B) conducts a national criminal history records search in addition to the other background search requirements for each proposed permanent guardian and each adult household member; and
(3) includes in the report:
(A) information as to whether the proposed guardianship is in the best interests of the child; and
(B) other information requested by the court of jurisdiction; and
(4) provides the report to the court as directed by the court or no later than two weeks prior to the permanent guardianship hearing.
(c) Permanent guardian rights and responsibilities. A permanent guardian is vested with all the rights and responsibilities as set forth in Title 30 of the Oklahoma Statutes relating to the powers and duties of a guardian of a minor, other than those rights and responsibilities retained by the child's parent, if any, that are set forth in the decree of permanent guardianship.
(d) Termination of permanent guardianship. A permanent guardianship may be terminated or modified.
(1) Section 1-4-711 of Title 10A of the Oklahoma Statutes allows the child to be returned to OKDHS legal custody if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the permanent guardianship is terminated. Substantial change of circumstances includes, but is not limited to the:
(A) parent is presently able and willing to properly care for the child;
(B) permanent guardian is unable to properly care for the child;
(C) child has been abused or neglected while in the care of the permanent guardian; or
(D) child's permanent guardian is deceased.
(2) When the modification of the permanent guardianship results in removal of the child from the guardian's home, the court determines whether:
(A) the child's continuation in the guardian's home is contrary to the child's welfare; and
(B) reasonable efforts have been made to prevent the child's removal from the home; or
(C) an absence of efforts to prevent the child's removal from the home is reasonable due to an emergency.
2. (a) Process to determine guardianship funding type. Prior to considering supported guardianship, either through Title IV-E, supported permanency, or state-funded guardianship assistance, the child welfare specialist:
(A) facilitates a family team meeting (FTM), per OAC 340:75-6-31.1 and explains the differences between adoption and guardianship to the foster parent and child, as appropriate for the child's age, to ensure the child and foster parent understand the various forms of permanency available when considering the child's long-term best interests; and
(B) provides the foster parent with OKDHS Publication No. 01-40, Supported Permanency, and OKDHS Publication No. 03-18, Permanent Connections.
(2) When the CW specialist and supervisor determine permanent guardianship is the appropriate permanency plan and assistance is needed, the CW supervisor contacts the Permanency Planning Program Unit for guidance.
(c) Permanency protocol. When the Permanency Planning Program Unit notifies the CW specialist that the child is eligible for permanent guardianship assistance, the CW specialist:
(1) obtains court and when appropriate, the child's approval to proceed with guardianship as the permanency plan;
(2) assists the relative in locating an attorney to file an action for the relative to obtain legal guardianship when:
(A) the guardianship is not being filed in the deprived case where the district attorney or child's attorney have the responsibility to file the motion for a permanent guardianship; and
(B) it is necessary to file a Title 30 guardianship action;
(3) obtains authorization for the attorney's service and payment through the Finance system, obtains required signatures, and sends the authorization form to the attorney.
(A) The limit for the reimbursement of attorney fees and court costs is $2000. Special approval from the Permanency Planning Program Unit is required for any amount over $500.
(B) The CW specialist authorizes contingency funds for payment of attorney fees and court costs, per OAC 340:75-1-28, using the object code designated for attorney fees for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Supported Permanency program. These funds are only used for a relative obtaining guardianship for supported permanency;
(4) addresses visitation during the FTM with parents and siblings who are not placed together, if appropriate, and child support and provides recommendations to the attorney for inclusion in the guardianship order;
(5) emails the Permanency Planning Program Unit, the court order and completed From 04PP006E, Supported Permanency Referral, within five calendar days of the relative assuming legal guardianship to obtain an authorization letter to attach to Form 04PP006E, Supported Permanency Referral;
(6) attaches information regarding each child's identified needs and suggestions for continued services for the family and attaches the:
(A) order transferring legal responsibility to the guardian;
(B) email authorization from the Permanency Planning Section; and;
(7) holds a staffing with the Adult and Family Services worker;
(8) informs the relative to contact the local human services center to complete the TANF application for supported permanency if the relative has not had a personal contact from an FSS worker within ten calendar days of assuming legal guardianship; and
(9) closes the CW case upon completion of the custody transfer and referral to TANF.
3. Types of guardianship. The transfer of legal custody may be through a permanent guardianship under Title 10A or traditional guardianship under Title 30 of the Oklahoma Statutes.
4. Fees for attorneys representing a proposed relative guardian in a Title 30 guardianship. The district attorney or child's attorney files motions for permanent guardianship in the deprived case. When a Title 30 guardianship is necessary, attorney fees for the Title 30 guardianship require special approval from the Permanency Planning Program Unit, and apply to each transfer of legal responsibility but not to each child.
5. Monthly payment standard. The monthly payment standard for guardianship payments is based on the child's age and current foster care rate.
(1) When the child enters a different age category, the payment standard is automatically adjusted to an amount consistent with the applicable foster care maintenance payment for the same age foster child.
(2) Difficulty of care rate payments are not included in the supported permanency monthly payment standard.
(3) Other income, such as Social Security disability, death benefits, and child support, reduces the amount of the payment standard, or, if in excess of the payment standard, eliminates the child's eligibility for supported permanency, per OAC 340:10-3-26.
6. Medical coverage during guardianship. The child's medical coverage remains SoonerCare Choice while the child remains in a legal guardianship. Transportation for medical appointments is available through the SoonerRide program.
7. Deputy director for programs review of a guardianship funding request when child is 11 years of age or younger. The selection of guardianship as the permanency plan is not appropriate for the child 11 years of age and younger unless, the deputy director for programs determines the child's best interests are met by a funded guardianship and termination of parental rights is legally impossible or adoption is not an appropriate permanency option.
8. State-funded guardianship protocol. The Child Welfare Services director reviews each state-funded request for guardianship assistance. After notification that state-funded guardianship funding is available and that, when applicable, the CWS director has approved the guardianship, the CW specialist:
(1) obtains the child, when the child is age-appropriate, and the court's approval to proceed with guardianship as the permanency plan;
(2) assists the prospective guardian with locating an attorney to file the legal action for the prospective guardian to obtain legal responsibility for the child;
(3) requests the purchase authorization form from Permanency Planning Program Unit for the reimbursement of attorney fees and court costs not to exceed $500;
(4) during the FTM develops recommendations to present to the district attorney for inclusion in the guardianship order that include:
(A) parent-child visitation;
(B) visitation between siblings who are not placed together, when visitation is appropriate; and
(C) child support;
(5) obtains final approval from the Permanency Planning Program Unit for state-funded permanent guardianship assistance prior to requesting the court order of guardianship;
(6) notifies the Permanency Planning Program Unit no later than five days after the transfer of legal responsibility and provides a copy of the guardianship order;
(7) informs the relative to contact the Permanency Planning Program Unit when the legal guardian has not received a guardianship payment within 10 calendar days after the month the legal guardian assumed legal responsibility; and
(8) closes the CW case upon completion of the transfer of legal responsibility and notification to the Permanency Planning Program Unit.