Parents who welcome children into the world usually have quite a bit on their hands. They need to adjust their life to accommodate their new child, which includes taking a look at their future. Many new parents would rather not think about what could happen if they are no longer there to care for their child, but it is essential for both parents – as well as potential guardians – to be prepared.
So, what if you are asked to be the guardian of a loved one’s child?
Becoming a guardian is a great responsibility
Essentially, the guardian of the person would take over the duties and responsibilities of the parent. This would only be necessary if both parents:
- Pass away;
- Become incapacitated;
- Are unable or unsuitable to care for the child in any way; or
- Voluntarily request the appointment of a guardian.
It is rare that both parents would be unable to care for their child. Taking on the responsibility of a guardian is still a significant decision, and you must carefully think through the details before accepting it.
What should you consider before becoming a guardian?
Before agreeing to become a guardian, there are a few questions you should consider, including:
- Are you willing to take on the responsibility? The job of a parent, or a guardian, in this case, is often emotionally and physically stressful. Additionally, you may also have a busy professional life. Do your family and career obligations allow you to take on this role? Will you have the financial resources to support this child? California law requires guardians to complete annual status updates on the child, so you must be able to meet the child’s needs.
- Can you ensure the child’s best interests are met? Being able to meet a child’s needs, including food, shelter and safety, is different than meeting their best interests. Will you have the capacity to provide the child with a secure home, the support they need and continued contact with other family members and friends? Additionally, the loss of a parent (whether that loss is due to death, incarceration or inability) can often have a significant effect on a child’s emotional health. This can sometimes mean a child develops behavioral difficulties in coping with their loss. Do you have the patience and commitment to help the child get the help and support they need, whether through outpatient therapy or inpatient treatment?
- Do your values match the parents’ values? This is generally up to the parents to find a guardian who upholds their same values, but it can also be helpful for potential guardians to re-evaluate their values before becoming a guardian, since becoming a guardian might change one’s current values and goals significantly.
- Will you have the support you need? The adage “it takes a village” to raise a child exists for a reason. If you take on the role of guardian, will you have support from your family and friends if you run into challenges?
It is helpful to think about these questions and discuss them with the parents if they ask you to be the guardian of their child, so both the guardian and the parents are confident that they are making the right decision.