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Q: What is a guardianship?

A: Legal guardianship means that someone (or in some cases, more than one person) who is not the child’s parent is in charge of taking care of the child. Legal guardians have most of the same rights and responsibilities as parents. They decide where the child lives and goes to school, make decisions about the child’s health care, give permission for the child to join the armed forces or obtain a driver’s license, and take responsibility for any misconduct of the child. Legal guardians have access to programs and aid through Social Services, and they can cover the child under their insurance policy. At times, guardians may be entitled to child support from one or both of the biological parents.

Q: What is the difference between guardianship and adoption?

A: The biggest difference between guardianships and adoptions is that unlike an adoption, a guardianship is not permanent. At the most, a guardianship lasts until the child turns 18. A guardianship does not permanently sever the legal relationship between the child and his or her parents. With an adoption, the child is now legally part of a new family and his or her biological parents will never have any legal rights to the child again.

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