About the Relative Guardianship Assistance Program
The purpose of the Relative Guardianship Assistance Program (RGAP) is to reduce barriers for eligible children and youth in foster care so they can achieve legal permanency when reunification and adoption are not appropriate goals. RGAP provides assistance to relative guardians, non-relative guardians and legal custodians in a defined manner based on the individual needs of the child or youth.
Federal law requires that when relatives or kin are informed about their option to be a resource to a child or youth, they must be informed that RGAP is a potential option. In order to be considered for RGAP, the guardian must have a significant relationship with the child or youth and reasonable efforts must be made to rule out reunification or adoption as appropriate options.
Child or youth eligibility
- Reunification/adoption ruled out — reasonable efforts have been made to consider adoption and were unsuccessful and/or it was inappropriate
- Significant relationship with the prospective guardian
Prospective guardian legal custodian eligibility
- The prospective relative guardian/legal custodian has a strong commitment to care for and raise the youth or child
Relatives are those related by heredity, marriage, adoption, those ascribed by the family as family-like, and/or those who had a prior (to placement) significant relationship.
- Child or youth resided with a relative foster parent for at least six consecutive months in the fully certified foster home up to the time of guardianship through court appointment through the Probate Court/Probate matter or Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR) (Track 1)
Non-relative did not know the child or youth prior to the placement in the foster care home.
- Youth 12 or older with a non-relative foster parent youth must consent, youth resided with non-relative foster parent in the fully certified foster home for at least 12 consecutive months up to time of guardianship through Probate/Probate matter or the APR appointment (Track 2)
- The youth must be 12 years of age or older, must consent to the guardianship/APR, and the court must make specific findings in 19-3-702 (4) (e) (III), C.R.S.
- If there are younger siblings, findings in 19-3-702 (4) (e) (III), C.R.S. are required.
Legal requirements (must be in foster care in a foster care home)
- The county department is financially responsible
- The county department has custody and the most recent removal occurred through a court order with the appropriate findings, OR
- Through a voluntary placement agreement with the subsequent court hearing authorizing the placement
- Guardianship/legal custody must occur through Probate Court, as a Probate matter, or APR
- Necessary documentation
- Relationship of child/youth to foster parent
- The child/youth demonstrates a strong attachment to the relative
- Reunification and adoption are not appropriate permanency goal options for the child/youth
- The reason the child/youth should remain permanently with a prospective relative guardian/legal custodian
- Youth 12 or older with a relative foster parent(s) are consulted about their expressed wishes to be placed in a relative guardianship/APR
- Youth 12 or older with a non-relative foster parent(s), written consent for guardianship/APR
- Prospective guardian/legal custodian has a strong commitment to care for and raise the child/youth permanently
- There have been ongoing efforts to discuss adoption as the more permanent option for the child/youth
- Why a relative guardianship assistance payment is in the best interest of the child/youth
- The reasons that the relative is unwilling to adopt requires exploration
- Informed consent
Assure the prospective relative guardian/legal custodian makes a fully informed decision about the permanency options that are available. Discussions must include and are not limited to differences among adoption, guardianship, and APR.
As the case moves along there must be discussions about the following, understanding that each case is different and needs to be approached individually:
- The future relationship with the family
- Visitation with siblings and birth or custodial family
Youth 12 and older must be able to make an informed decision about relative guardianship/APR and there should be ongoing discussions about the differences among adoption, guardianship, and APR explained in an age-appropriate manner.
- Youth 12 and older with relative foster parent must be consulted (Track 1)
- Youth 12 and older with non-relative foster parent must consent (Track 2)
Parents/legal custodian: Efforts must be made to discuss the relative guardianship/APR with the parent(s). If this did not happen, there must be documentation identifying the circumstances. Parental support is important to sustain the stability of permanency.
- Assistance agreements
Assistance agreements are based on the needs of the child/youth and the circumstances of the prospective guardian/legal custodian and are reviewed every three years.
- If the child/youth is Title IV-E eligible, there is categorical eligibility for Medicaid.
- If the child/youth is non-Title IV-E eligible, the guardian/legal custodian must apply for Medicaid in the county of residence. The county department cannot guarantee Medicaid in the assistance agreement.
Types of assistance agreements
- Title IV-E: Core (no services needed at the time, however open-ended because services may be necessary for the future and Medicaid), Long-Term (partially assists in meeting the daily needs and Medicaid), Time-Limited (short-term services needed, i.e. start-up costs, therapies not covered by Medicaid, etc., and Medicaid, non-renewable)
- Non-Title IV-E: Dormant (no services needed at the time, however open-ended because services may be necessary in the future), Long-Term (partially assists in meeting the daily needs), Time-Limited (short-term services needed, non-renewable)
Federal law requires that children/youth in RGAP are receiving appropriate educational services. The guardian/legal custodian must send documentation to the county department annually verifying enrollment in educational services.
Termination of assistance agreements
- Relative guardian requests to end payments
- Youth reaches age 18-21** (OM-CW-2019-0001.02 & IM-CW-2020-001)
- The county department determines the relative guardian is no longer legally responsible for the support of the child or youth.
- Available assistance services
Case services not otherwise funded through the Relative Guardianship Assistance Agreement or Medicaid which may include transportation, respite, etc.
- Categorical eligibility for Title IV-E eligible children/youth
- Guardian/legal custodian applies in the county of residence for Medicaid for children/youth who are not Title IV-E eligible - the county cannot guarantee in the assistance agreement
One-time expenses for up to $2,000 for initial guardianship/APR and any successor guardianships for items needed to reduce barriers to permanency.
- Successor guardianship
Federal law requires that the prospective guardian/legal custodian be given the opportunity to identify a successor guardian(s) at the time of the assistance agreement or later, as long as it is documented in the assistance agreement or as an addendum to the assistance agreement prior to death or incapacitation.
Incapacitated means: The relative guardian is substantially unable to perform the duties of a legal guardian for the child(ren) or youth named in the Relative Guardianship Assistance Agreement.
- Substantial inability to provide care may be due to a physically debilitating illness, disease, or injury; or,
- A mental impairment resulting in a substantial inability to understand the nature and consequences of decisions concerning the care of the youth or child
Proposed successor guardian
- Foster care certification is not required
- The successor guardian must be named in the original Relative Guardian Assistance Agreement (or addendum)
- The successor guardian must have knowledge about the needs of the child or youth in the relative guardianship assistance agreement
- The successor guardian must be committed to raising the child or youth
- All adults in the home must meet background requirements applicable to foster care providers for fingerprint-based CBI and FBI
- The successor guardian and any adults (eighteen years and older) residing in the home are not registered sex-offenders
Following notification of the death or incapacitation by the prospective guardian/legal custodian – the county department suspends assistance agreement and:
- Reviews fingerprint-based history reports
- Sex offender checks on CBI and NSOPW
- Reviews Trails and child abuse/neglect databases in other states for any adult in home, when they have not resided in Colorado for five years or longer
County and proposed successor guardian collaborate for commensurate Relative Guardian Assistance Agreement – based on needs of child or youth and the circumstances of the successor guardian.
Non-recurring expenses are applicable. The Relative Guardian Assistance Agreements must be signed by all parties prior to Probate Court/Probate Matter or APR or it is not reimbursable with state or federal funds.
- Health care coverage at age 18 and older
For youth aged 18 and older health care coverage can be continued if an assistance agreement is closed.
- May be eligible for one year of continuous eligibility
- May apply for Medicaid on own behalf
- May apply through the Health Exchange
- Guardian or legal custodian may put a young adult on their medical plan
- A young adult may be eligible through employment
- Young adults in RGAP are not eligible for Emancipation Medicaid (18-21)
- Affordable Care Act: Youth in RGAP are not eligible for the new category of Former Foster Care Youth Medicaid to age 26
- RGAP quick reference guide
View the RGAP guide for a quick reference for eligibility and legal requirements in Colorado.
- RGAP questions and contacts
For additional information, contact Mary Griffin, program administrator for Foster Care and Relative Guardianship Assistance, at email@example.com or 303.396.3979.
For more information about a child/youth in placement in a foster care home, contact the county department with legal custody and authority for placement.