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Sometimes people will want to find other people to be parents for their child. If a child protective services agency (also known as child welfare, department of family services, or family regulation system) is involved, your choices are more limited. Rise and Movement for Family Power are two places you can go for information and support. Laws that govern these agencies are different depending on where you live.  

If family regulation agencies are not involved with your pregnancy or child, you have more options.

What is family preservation?

If you want to parent, but you’re worried that you don’t have enough money or emotional resources, you may have support options available to you. 

These types of support are often called “family preservation” resources because they can help preserve, or keep together, the parent(s) and the child. For example, you may qualify for public assistance or other government support.

Everyone has their own unique and valid reasons for choosing to have and raise a child. Parenting can be joyful, rewarding, and life-changing — many parents say it’s the best decision they ever made. But having a child is also a lifelong commitment that takes lots of love, energy, and patience. It’s normal to have lots of different feelings about whether you’re ready to take on the challenge of parenting.

Parenting resources and support vary by state, county, and city. The Family Preservation Project has a list of parenting resources. 

Here are some of the most common resources pregnant and parenting people need:

  • Food assistance / SNAP (food stamps)
  • Affordable housing
  • Cash assistance
  • Childcare
  • Baby items such as car seats, strollers, etc.
  • Baby formula
  • Diapers
  • Health insurance
  • Postpartum care

Read more about considering parenthood.

What is informal temporary care?

If you’re having doubts about the resources available to you, it might help to explore temporary care for after the child is born. This is different from foster care, which is when the state takes custody of your child and makes decisions. Temporary care can help if you feel that you need a few weeks or months to access resources to be able to meet the needs of your child. 

Placing your child in temporary care means finding a supportive person in your life who you trust to make good decisions, either on their own or with you, to care for your child for a short period of time. This person might be someone in your immediate or extended family, a friend or loved one, neighbor, or someone else you believe would be a safe, responsible, and loving temporary caregiver to your child.

If the person or people you’re choosing will be taking physical custody of your child, for example, which means your child will live with them temporarily, you may want to consider signing a caregiver authorization, which could allow them to get medical care for your child or enroll them in daycare. 

What are crisis nurseries?

If there isn’t anyone in your life who you trust to take care of your child, a few areas in the United States have short-term care options provided by non-profits. These are often called “crisis nurseries,” but they’re not very common. 

If you’re considering using a crisis nursery for temporary physical care, it’s important that you understand exactly what your options are for taking your child back, under what circumstances the crisis nursery would report you to child welfare, and if there are any costs involved. 

What is legal guardianship?

Legal guardianship is a legal process that gives legal and physical custody of a child to a designated caregiver. A guardian has full legal and physical custody of the child, and is entitled to make decisions about their care. They can provide health insurance coverage, enroll a child in school, and make medical decisions for the child. Legal guardianship is different from adoption because it doesn’t require a person to give up their parental rights forever.

There are two kinds of guardianships: temporary and permanent. A temporary guardianship is for a shorter, predetermined amount of time, while a permanent guardianship remains until your child turns 18, unless you reverse it. 

Legal guardianship laws, processes, and costs vary depending on the state you live in. A lawyer who specializes in guardianship is the best person to help you understand your rights and responsibilities as well as those of the guardian. If the intended guardian(s) are close relatives of yours, the process may be different than if they’re a friend or acquaintance.  

In some states, filing a guardianship petition will start an automatic child welfare investigation of the child’s parents and the potential guardians. The guardians may need to agree to a criminal background check. Having a past criminal charge does not automatically mean that a person can’t become a guardian — it depends on what the charge is and how long ago it happened. A judge will decide whether guardianship is in the child’s best interest. If guardianship is given, regular reports about the child’s well-being may be required. Read more about background checks for potential caregivers. 

The steps to reversing a guardianship agreement depend on the laws of your state, but in most cases you’ll need to file a petition to terminate the rights of the guardian with the court. The court will consider what is in the “best interest of the child” when making that decision. 

What is temporary legal guardianship? 

Temporary legal guardianship is when someone can legally parent your child for a limited amount of time. If you’re giving temporary care of your child to someone outside of your family for more than a few days, you could consider setting up a temporary legal guardianship. Each state has its own process to file the paperwork.

What is kinship care?

Kinship care is when your family member or friend agrees to provide full-time care for your child. 

Long-term informal kinship care is when you’re able to make arrangements for the care of your child without involving a child welfare agency or the courts. As a parent(s) who still has all legal rights and responsibilities, you get to decide who cares for your child, where your child lives, and how their needs are met. You’re still legally responsible for the care, safety, and health of your child. 

If you (and the other parent, if involved) want to permanently end your parental rights and give those rights to a kinship caregiver, you can get a kinship adoption. Kinship adoption can allow your child to maintain a relationship with you and their extended family and community, as well as preserve their cultural identity through family relationships

The process of kinship adoption could require a child welfare agency, the courts, and a background check. There are some costs for the family member(s) adopting your child, as they might need to pay for a home study and lawyer fees, although most states will help pay those fees for families with low incomes. Kinship adoption laws vary by state. For more information, check out kinship care contacts and programs by state.

Kinship adoption is a permanent legal adoption, and involves the same permanent end of your parental rights and responsibilities as in a private adoption. Your rights and responsibilities will be legally transferred to the kinship parents/caregivers. 

What is anonymous surrender?

A parent or person with lawful custody can anonymously surrender a baby in specified locations without fear of legal prosecution within a short time after the baby’s birth. This is also known as “safe surrender,” “safe haven,” “baby Moses laws,” or using a “baby box.” 

Child welfare and adoption professionals recommend that anonymous surrenders only be used as a last resort. This is for several reasons:

  1. Not every state has an anonymous surrender law. If your state doesn’t have an anonymous surrender law and you abandon a baby, even in a public place where you think your baby will be safe, you may be subject to abuse or neglect charges or more serious criminal charges. Learn about your state’s laws
  2. Anonymous surrender means you won’t have any information about your child.  
  3. It will likely be difficult for your child to have little or no information about their origins and their family/medical history. 
  4. Private adoption will allow you to have the option to exchange information in the future.

A child who is surrendered anonymously may still be able to find you using a home DNA test such as Ancestry.com or 23andMe. You don’t need to have taken a DNA test yourself for this to happen. 

If you believe you have no other option but to surrender your baby anonymously, consider leaving non-identifying information with your child such as your family medical history; your racial, ethnic, cultural, or religious background; the circumstances that lead to their birth and surrender; and any thoughts and feelings you’d like to share with them.


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