California’s Relative CareGiver Law Recognizes Guardianship Over Adoption by Non Family Members

Even though this was made public in 2007, this bit of legislation – now is California Law – has just come to my attention (bold emphasis added): 


Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed the Relative Caregiver Bill (AB298) into law, allowing foster children greater access to permanent placement with extended family members. The statute allows for extended family members to be given legal guardianship as a preference over adoption by non-family members. In addition, the law – enacted in October – requires relative caregivers to be given information regarding the options of legal guardianship and adoption, including the long-term benefits and consequences of each option. To read the law, go to: http://www.legislat port-bilinfo. html and search by bill number.

            When I searched for the Bill under the above number, I could not find it. Fellow adoption reformer, Cully Ray, confirmed the correct Bill name and number to be Relative Caregiver Bill AB12 (  

             There have been recent amendments made to his law (269 pages can be found at:

            There is even a newsletter. Again, I am late to this, but the information, though late to me, is valuable: Kinship Quaterly: A Resource Newsletter for Relative Caregivers in LA County Written by Relative Caregivers in LA County (PDF – Issue 1 Vol 1 Year 1).
            This is hope for the children NOW who are faced with temporary family crisis of poverty, job or home loss, parental death of one or parents, or foster care placement, to not only stay together as a sibling group and a family, but to have the decency and respect of care-giving adults to acknowledge that a child’s family of birth comes before ANY consideration of coerced relinquishment to adoption, ANY “placement” for adoption, and that LEGAL GUARDIANSHIP is preferred BY LAW before adoption by a stranger is even considered.
            Imagine that: human compassion, respect, dignity for children who suffer family stress and loss, especially children who have lost one or both parents by death. Real, domestic, half and full orphans in California (USA) from the legal separation by adoption, and protected from the seizure and seal of their birth certificates, and protected from the falsification of facts on a “new” and “amended” birth certificate issued upon the finalization of every adoption.
              If the adults involved in coercing my father (in 1956) into relinquishing me, a newborn infant, to a closed adoption of distant relatives of my deceased mother, had been faced with a law to prevent such coercion, I would have been raised perhaps by my father, or by the distant cousin and his wife who actually adopted me — in a totally open and honest relationship with my father and my siblings.
             Instead, the resulting trauma of losing my mother of birth to her early death was compounded by my loss of my father and my full blood siblings because people thought that they were doing the right thing by: taking me off of my father’s already full plate of worry and obligation, giving me to a loving married couple who were childless for the first 18 years of their married life.
            My idylic childhood of 18 years as the only child of these loving parents in no way is a fair trade-off of the losses I, and my siblings and our father, had to endure for the sake of closed adoption. The love of my adoptive parents and most of my extended adoptive family, was conditional: I was never to know I had siblings, or blood kin, living in the same city. And to be socially shunned and mocked because because I accepted a reunion with my natural family…to this very day…
            Thank you, California, for officially recognizing the sanctity of a child’s family and birth identity.
           Added Information: NOTE — Bill number is AB 12, not AB 298:


ASSEMBLYMAN Bill Maze, R-Visalia, has heard too many disturbing stories about relative caregivers being “strong armed” by social workers to either adopt a child — or risk having him or her taken away.

It’s not right.

“Relative caregivers should be our first line of placement,” said Maze.

The source of these horror stories is no mystery. California judges who are determining the fate of a child are guided by state law to give preference to adoption by a stranger over guardianship by a relative. Also, the federal government rewards the state with a $4,000 incentive payment for each adoption of a foster child above a baseline rate.

“Given the difficult task of finding adoptive homes for the many foster children who do not have a relative caregiver, it is hard to understand why we would want to threaten to remove a child rather than accepting a relative guardianship as a permanent plan and placement … yet existing law allows this exact scenario to arise on a daily basis,” the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, which represents 20,000 abused and neglected youth, wrote in a recent letter to Maze.

As the law center noted, there are many reasons why a relative caregiver may prefer legal guardianship over adoption. “A grandmother or aunt might view adoption as ‘taking the child away’ from her own daughter or sister,” the law center wrote.

The law center is leading the push for Maze’s AB298, which would adjust state law to make clear that a child living with a relative guardian should be allowed to stay in that home when possible. The best interest of the child should be the guiding principle of these often excruciatingly tough custody decisions — and AB298 helps advance that goal.


4 thoughts on “California’s Relative CareGiver Law Recognizes Guardianship Over Adoption by Non Family Members

  1. Marlene

    I live in Napa, CA. Relative’s being denied consideration for placement is common practice here. YOu are told it’s out of thier hands , nothing they can do. The more you know about your rights and demand that they reconize your rights, they seem to get bent out of shape. CPS raves about how Collen Clark is one the best public defenders in Napa in family court. Maybe for them cause they usually win when up against her. Her clients are yelled at if they seek any advice from anyone other than the people the court has set up for them. Which are the parent advicate from Parents Can, her self, CPS Social Workers & thier attorney, and the judge. She tells them the case is confidential and they are not to discuss it or show anyone thier court papers, not even thier own mother! She is representing a client right now that can hardly read and is struggling with uderstanting her court papers. So she gave her attorney a release of information for her daughter to know everything and recieve paperwork so she could help her mom Understand it. The daughter was looking at the paperwork with her mom in the court lobby before court. Colleen Clark saw her, and yelled at her in front of everyone else in the court house lobby about how they were confidential and she was not allowed to look at them. I’m a little confussed about their confidential policie. If they are so concerned with confidentiality, then why is it that every parent CPS takes to court, they have been given a white 3 ring binder that is labeled on the front cover to keep thier paperwork in order. THey are instructed to not forget to bring it to court with them every time to show they are prepared. Everyone not there for Family COurt knows exactly why the people with the white 3 ring binders are there cause it say’s so on the front of it. That doesn’t seem v ery confidential to me? Her clients daughter has let it be known she is wanting to adopte her brother form day one when he was 4days old. It has been five moths now and she only gets to visit with him once a month for 2 hours. They havn’t even mentioned her in court or the court paper work of her intrest to adopte. The foster mother told her after her visit with her brother, that she didn’t need to buy him any Christmas presents cause she already bought him some and he would be at her house for christmas any ways.

    What can a person do when they are being railroaded by CPS and your rights are being ignored by everyone including your own attorney? What should the Daughter do so the courts know that she is an interested party to adopt?

  2. Very true, flora. It is unfortunate that the general public seems to think of all the benefits of adoption without realizing the emotional burdens placed on the child, who grows up in a home life built on lies, deception, supposed love, and with foreign-born adoptees, identity issues that their loving adoptive parents don’t understand. That is why kinship care and guardianship are a great alternative to adoption.

  3. flora

    Until adults relaize that adoption is about loss not gain and that is tricky to live with rather than a favor to a child it will not work out. It’s daft to assign children to adults of another heritage because the arguments in favor of this are just too sophisticated for a child to get thier head around. Korean adoptees have been going on like this for along time. Adoption is not an end in itself, but a set of circumstances and chances (please don’t think of it as lucky like sweepstake wins) that are pre-arranged by people who have yet to realixe the inpact of thier actions.

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