Caring for another person's child - A Guide for Guardians



Thousands of children in California live with caregivers who are not their parents. Most often, those caregivers are the child’s relatives. But, caregivers can also be friends or neighbors.

The child’s parents may be in drug or alcohol treatment programs, in jail, deceased, deported, homeless or terminally ill.  The parent may have lost custody because of child abuse, abandonment or neglect or the parent may be unwilling to care for the child. Family members who step in to care for children in these circumstances are called relative or kinship caregivers.

Being a caregiver is extremely rewarding, but it can be challenging. Some caregivers need to quit their jobs or take a leave of absence to care for a child.  Other caregivers have delayed retirement plans or taken a new job to pay for additional expenses. Sometimes the family needs to move into a bigger home or purchase a larger vehicle. Caregivers can be mentally and physically exhausted by their caregiving responsibilities. In addition, these caregivers are forced to deal with whole new sets of issues:  

  • Who can they call for financial help?
  • How can they register the child for school?
  • Where can they go for medical help?  
Public Counsel directs the Pro Per Guardianship Clinic at Stanley Mosk Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, where our staff and pro bono volunteers assist hundreds of children and families each year. Public Counsel also promotes laws and policies that protect the rights of guardians.

Our guide for California caregivers is designed to give practical information about how to access government programs and community services, and to explore:

The custodial options available to you for the child in your care, including informal care, foster care, legal guardianship and adoption;

The financial resources available to provide for the child in your care, including cash assistance from CalWORKs (California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids), foster care funding, adoption assistance program (AAP) benefits, child support, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and other Social Security benefits;

Government programs and community services providing health care, food, educational programs, housing and child care; and

Information on what to do if you are treated unfairly or do not receive what you are entitled to by law.

Click here to download the guide for California caregivers (pdf)


We help people who help children

Public Counsel helped Rocio Perez and Ruben Mendoza secure a guardianship for 8-year-old Valentina in 2012, so she can grow up with her sister Ilse and not in the Los Angeles foster care system. Every year Public Counsel assist hundreds of caregivers who are seeking legal permanent guardianship of a child.

Get help 

Public Counsel's Skadden Arps Pro Per Guardianship Clinic assists with legal guardianship petitions for adults caring for children. The clinic also assists with petitions for visitation and termination of guardianship. The Stanley Mosk Courthouse is temporarily closed, so the in-person Guardianship clinic is closed temporarily as well.

Due to the current health crisis, the court is only accepting probate guardianship matters that are an emergency. If you have questions about whether your situation is an emergency, please call 213-385-2977 ext 502 and leave a message.

Someone will call you back. If the matter is found to qualify for an emergency filing, Public Counsel will prepare the emergency pleadings and mail them to you to file with the court.


Useful Links

California Caregivers Guide


Pro Se Guardianship Clinic brochure


Peace of Mind Guardianship Program for terminally ill parents


National Resource Guide for Improving Legal Services and Supports for Kinship Caregivers


California Resource Guide for Improving Legal Services and Supports for Kinship Caregivers


Self-Assessment Tool for Improving Legal Services and Supports for Kinship Caregivers

Take Action for Families

Public Counsel is part of Step Up for Kin, a coalition of groups who support relative caregivers to children in the foster care system. But they receive less financial support from the state than other foster parents. Click here to learn more and join our effort.


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