Juvenile Court Guardianship

When Child Welfare IS Involved

Guardianship is one of the options available to the Department of Social Services (DSS) when they decide that the child will not be able to go home to their parents. It does not require termination of the child’s parents’ rights (TPR), which is a legal process that means that the birth parents no longer have the right to make decisions for their child. This type of guardianship is filed in Juvenile Court. The child has to be in the custody of DSS (in foster care). As the guardian, you have legal and physical control and the rights and responsibilities to make decisions about the child. At the same time, the child’s parents often retain some visitation or other rights. Unlike guardianship in civil court, the child’s parents are not required to be dead.


  • Guardianship does not require the court to terminate the parent’s parental rights (TPR). TPR is a legal process in which the court takes away the parent’s rights to make decisions for their child and changes the child’s last name. TPR is required for adoption, but not guardianship, making guardianship a good option when it is in the child’s and the family’s best interests not to terminate parental rights. 
  • Guardianship is more secure than custody because to take the child away from the guardian, the child’s parents must go to court to prove that the guardian is unfit. 


  • Currently, no formal post-guardianship services are available to kinship caregivers, such as those available for post-adoption. (However, the youth may be eligible for financial support under KinGAP.)
  • Because parental rights have not been terminated, it can be costly to pursue adoption later. If you think you ultimately want to adopt the child, you should do it now because the Department of Social Services (DSS) will be responsible for the cost of terminating parental rights, thus, saving you time and money. DSS ultimately decides whether to pursue adoption or guardianship, but you can tell them your preference.
  • The child will not inherit from you if you die without a will.

*Not Intended as Legal Advice