2020 Florida Statutes
Guardianship Assistance Program.
Guardianship Assistance Program.
39.6225 Guardianship Assistance Program.—
(1) The department shall establish and operate the Guardianship Assistance Program to provide guardianship assistance payments to relatives who meet the eligibility requirements established in this section. For purposes of administering the program, the term:
(a) “Child” means an individual who has not attained 21 years of age.
(b) “Relative” means fictive kin, relative, or next of kin as those terms are defined in s. 39.01.
(c) “Young adult” means an individual who has attained 18 years of age but who has not attained 21 years of age.
(2) To approve an application for the program, the department shall determine that all of the following requirements have been met:
(a) The child’s placement with the guardian has been approved by the court.
(b) The court has granted legal custody to the guardian pursuant to s. 39.6221.
(c) The guardian has been licensed to care for the child as provided in s. 409.175.
(d) The child was eligible for foster care room and board payments pursuant to s. 409.145 for at least 6 consecutive months while the child resided in the home of the guardian and the guardian was licensed as a foster parent.
(3) A guardian who has entered into a guardianship agreement for a dependent child may also receive guardianship assistance payments for a dependent sibling of that dependent child as a result of a court determination of child abuse, neglect, or abandonment and subsequent placement of the child with the relative under this part.
(4) The department shall complete an annual redetermination of eligibility for recipients of guardianship assistance benefits. If the department determines that a recipient is no longer eligible for guardianship assistance benefits, such benefits shall be terminated.
(5) A guardian with an application approved pursuant to subsection (2) who is caring for a child placed with the guardian by the court pursuant to this part may receive guardianship assistance payments based on the following criteria:
(a) A child eligible for cash benefits through the program is not eligible to simultaneously have payments made on the child’s behalf through the Relative Caregiver Program under s. 39.5085, postsecondary education services and supports under s. 409.1451, or child-only cash assistance under chapter 414.
(b) Guardianship assistance payments are not contingent upon continued residency in the state. Guardianship assistance payments must continue for court-approved permanent guardians who move out of state and continue to meet the requirements of this subsection and as specified in department rule. Relicensure of the out-of-state guardian’s home is not required for continuity of payments.
(c) Guardianship assistance payments for a child from another state who is placed with a guardian in this state are the responsibility of the other state.
(d) The department shall provide guardianship assistance payments in the amount of $4,000 annually, paid on a monthly basis, or in an amount other than $4,000 annually as determined by the guardian and the department and memorialized in a written agreement between the guardian and the department. The agreement shall take into consideration the circumstances of the guardian and the needs of the child. Changes may not be made without the concurrence of the guardian. However, the amount of the monthly payment may not exceed the foster care maintenance payment that would have been paid during the same period if the child had been in licensed care at his or her designated level of care at the rate established in s. 409.145(3).
(e) Payments made pursuant to this section shall cease when the child attains 18 years of age, except as provided in subsection (9).
(6) Guardianship assistance benefits shall be terminated if:
(a) The child has attained 18 years of age, or the child has attained 21 years of age if he or she meets the requirements of subsection (9);
(b) The child has not attained 18 years of age and the guardian is no longer legally responsible for the support of the child; or
(c) The child no longer receives support from the guardian.
(7) The department shall provide guardianship nonrecurring payments. Eligible expenses include, but are not limited to, the cost of a home study, court costs, attorney fees, and costs of physical and psychological examinations. Such payments are also available for a sibling placed in the same home as the child.
(8) A child receiving assistance under this section is eligible for Medicaid coverage until the child attains 18 years of age, or until the child attains 21 years of age if he or she meets the requirements of subsection (9).
(9) Guardianship assistance payments shall only be made for a young adult whose permanent guardian entered into a guardianship assistance agreement after the child attained 16 years of age but before the child attained 18 years of age if the child is:
(a) Completing secondary education or a program leading to an equivalent credential;
(b) Enrolled in an institution that provides postsecondary or vocational education;
(c) Participating in a program or activity designed to promote or eliminate barriers to employment;
(d) Employed for at least 80 hours per month; or
(e) Unable to participate in programs or activities listed in paragraphs (a)-(d) full time due to a physical, intellectual, emotional, or psychiatric condition that limits participation. Any such barrier to participation must be supported by documentation in the child’s case file or school or medical records of a physical, intellectual, emotional, or psychiatric condition that impairs the child’s ability to perform one or more life activities.
(10) The case plan must describe the following for each child with a permanency goal of permanent guardianship in which the guardian is pursuing guardianship assistance:
(a) The manner in which the child meets program eligibility requirements.
(b) The manner in which the department determined that reunification or adoption is not appropriate.
(c) Efforts to discuss adoption with the child’s permanent guardian.
(d) Efforts to discuss guardianship assistance with the child’s parent or the reasons why efforts were not made.
(e) The reasons why a permanent placement with the prospective guardian is in the best interest of the child.
(f) The reasons why the child is separated from his or her siblings during placement, if applicable.
(g) Efforts to consult the child, if the child is 14 years of age or older, regarding the permanent guardianship arrangement.
(11) The department shall adopt rules to administer the program.
(12) The department shall develop and implement a comprehensive communications strategy in support of relatives and fictive kin who are prospective caregivers. This strategy shall provide such prospective caregivers with information on supports and services available under state law. At a minimum, the department’s communication strategy shall involve providing prospective caregivers with information about:
(a) Eligibility criteria, monthly payment rates, terms of payment, and program or licensure requirements for the Relative Caregiver Program, the Guardianship Assistance Program, and licensure as a Level I or Level II family foster home as provided in s. 409.175.
(b) A detailed description of the process for licensure as a Level I or Level II family foster home and for applying for the Relative Caregiver program.
(c) Points of contact for addressing questions or obtaining assistance in applying for programs or licensure.
(13) The Florida Institute for Child Welfare shall evaluate the implementation of the Guardianship Assistance Program. This evaluation shall be designed to determine the impact of implementation of the Guardianship Assistance Program, identify any barriers that may prevent eligible caregivers from participating in the program, and identify recommendations regarding enhancements to the state’s system of supporting kinship caregivers. The institute shall submit the report to the Governor, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives no later than January 1, 2021. At a minimum, the evaluation shall include:
(a) Information about the perspectives and experiences of program participants, individuals who applied for licensure as child-specific foster homes or program participation but were determined to be ineligible, and individuals who were likely eligible for licensure as a child-specific foster home or for the program but declined to apply. The institute shall collect this information through methodologies including, but not limited to, surveys and focus groups.
(b) An assessment of any communications procedures and print and electronic materials developed to publicize the program and recommendations for improving these materials. If possible, individuals with expertise in marketing and communications shall contribute to this assessment.
(c) An analysis of the program’s impact on caregivers and children, including any differences in impact on children placed with caregivers who were licensed and those who were not.
(d) Recommendations for maximizing participation by eligible caregivers and improving the support available to kinship caregivers.
(14) The program shall take effect July 1, 2019.
(15) The department may adopt rules necessary to administer this section.
History.—s. 10, ch. 2018-103; s. 8, ch. 2019-142; s. 15, ch. 2020-138.