Caring for a Child: Caregivers, Foster Care, & Kinship Care

Law

Sometimes people take care of children who are not their own. This could be for loved ones, or even for strangers.

See the sections below to learn what the law in Alberta says about:

  • generally taking care of someone else’s children;
  • providing care under the Alberta government’s Kinship Care program; and
  • providing care under the Alberta government’s Foster Care program.

Please read “Who is this Information Page for?” just below to make sure you are on the right page.

LegalAve provides general legal information, not legal advice. Learn more here.

Last Reviewed: November 2016
Who is this Information Page for?

This Information Page has information about the law that applies to adults taking care of children, when the adults are not the legal guardians of the children.

There are different ways that people may end up caring for children who are not their own. This Information Page describes the legal rights and responsibilities of people who:

  • generally help care for a loved one’s child;
  • take care of children under the Alberta government’s Kinship Care program; and
  • take care of children under the Alberta government’s Foster Care program.
Tip

If you want to become the legal guardian of a child you have been taking care of, you can do so under Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. For information about that, see the “Applying for Private Guardianship of a child in care” section of the Child Protection Information Page.

In general, the law and processes described on this Information Page are about children and caregivers who live in Alberta.

You are currently on the Law tab of this Information Page, which has information on what the law says in Alberta. There is also important information in the Common Questions and Myths tabs above.

The first topic is What the words mean. Please read this section even if you think you already know what the words mean. In order to understand the resources on this page, you will need to understand the legal terms.

What the words mean

These words are not listed alphabetically—they are in the order that makes it easiest to understand the complete legal picture.

If you are looking for a specific term, you can use the Glossary, which is in alphabetical order.

guardian (of a child)

A person who has the right to make decisions for a child, and the responsibility to care for that child by providing the “necessaries of life,” such as food and shelter. Alberta’s Family Law Act describes the decision-making powers, rights, and responsibilities of the guardians of children. This role is called “guardianship.”

In Alberta, a child is a person under the age of 18, and every child must have at least one guardian. A child may have 2 or more guardians. A person does not have to be a parent to be a guardian, and not all parents are guardians (although most are).

kinship care

When it is not safe for a child to stay in his or her home, Child and Family Services may place the child with relatives or close family friends. This is called “kinship care.”

When it is not safe for a child to stay in the care of a parent/guardian, Child Protective Services may place the child with relatives or close family friends. This is called “kinship care.”

Kinship caregivers:

  • give the child a safe and stable place to call home while the child is in government care; and
  • get support from the Alberta government to make sure the child is provided for.

foster care

When it is not safe for a child to stay in the care of a parent/guardian, Child Protective Services may place the child with temporary caregivers who are not known to the child. Sometimes a child is placed in a group home setting with other children. This is called “foster care.”

Foster families:

  • give the child a safe and stable place to call home while the child is in government care; and
  • get support from the Alberta government to make sure the child is provided for.

best interests of the child

The factors that parents, guardians, and/or the Court must consider when making decisions about a child. The best interests of the child “test” is made up of many considerations that focus on the well-being of the child.

For example:

  • the physical, psychological, and emotional safety and well-being of the child;
  • the child’s need for stability, taking into consideration the child’s age and stage of development and attachment;
  • the child’s cultural and religious background; and
  • the child’s opinion (if the child is mature enough to form an opinion).
The laws that may apply to you

As you work through your legal issues, you may wish to read the laws (also called “statutes” or “acts”) that apply. The laws included on this Information Page are:

When reading laws, you also need to know about the “regulations” associated with those laws. Each of the links above takes you to a page that lists the laws as well as the regulations that go with them. For more information on laws and regulations, see the Our Legal System Information Page.

If there has been family violence

Has there been any domestic abuse in the family—whether it was toward you, the children, or both? It is very important to recognize and admit this, both to yourself and to any organizations you approach for help. Everyone involved must be kept safe.

Also, family violence is often a critical factor in what happens in family law proceedings.

If you are the victim of domestic violence, there are a few places to start.

  • Be honest and upfront about it. Violence does not go away on its own. See the What is Family Violence? Information Page for more information.
  • Know that it is never your fault, or the fault of the child. The responsibility belongs only to the abuser.
  • There is no single right way to proceed—it will depend on the exact details of your case. Sometimes, mediation and other collaborative processes may not be possible. On the other hand, sometimes going to court may not be the best option. Learn about Family Violence and the Legal Process.
  • There are criminal laws and protective laws that might be able to help.
  • Depending on your location, there may be ways that general family law can help to keep you and the child safer, such as safe transfer and supervised access. For more information about these, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.
  • Abusive situations are complicated. Consider talking to a lawyer (or another person who is helping you with your legal issues) about the best way to proceed. For more information, see the Family Violence: Resources to Help and Working with a Lawyer Information Pages.

How to use this website

Many of the resources on this Information Page have both general family law information as well as how that information applies in situations of family violence. Where appropriate, resources specific to situations of domestic violence are noted with this icon:

Family Violence

 

Be sure to read these resources thoroughly, because it is sometimes difficult to understand what to do in situations of violence without understanding the legal picture in general.

More information

For more information on how domestic violence can affect your family law issues, see the Family Violence and the Legal Process Information Page.

There are both legal and social services that may be able to help you. See the Family Violence: Resources to Help Information Page.

Informally “taking care” of a child

Sometimes, relatives or friends help take care of a child. For example: they may take care of the child every day after school until the parent gets home.

Or, relatives or friends may have full care of a child. For example: a grandparent may take care of their grandchild for months or years because the parent is suffering from drug addiction and cannot take care of the child themselves.

In such cases, the caregivers often have to make day-to-day decisions for the child. Despite this fact, the caregivers are not the guardians of the child. They are not legally responsible for taking care of the child.

This is an important difference, as not being a guardian means that the caregiver has no right to continue taking care of the child. At any time, the child’s legal guardian can refuse to continue letting the caregiver care for the child. Depending on the situation, this can be harmful for both the child and the caregiver.

As a result, a person who has been the primary caregiver for a child may want to take steps to ensure their relationship to the child is recognized by law. There are 3 options for caregivers who want to do this:

  • kinship care (see the “Kinship care” section below);
  • foster care (see the “Foster care” section below); or
  • becoming the guardian of the child. For information about this option, see the Becoming the Guardian of a Child Information Page.

For more general information about being a caregiver for a child, see the following resources.

PDF Raising a Family Member's Children
Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Parent Support Services Society of BC
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here. This resource is written for grandparents, but the same general concepts apply to other loved ones raising children who are not their own.

You may be eligible for financial help from the Alberta government if:

  • you are the primary caregiver for a child who is not your own; and
  • you are not a kinship caregiver or foster parent.

To use this program, you will need the consent of the guardian(s) with whom the child lived before coming into your care. For more information, see the following resources.

Web Child & Youth Support Program
Government of Alberta
English

Web Other child care subsidy options
Government of Alberta
English
See “Kin Child Care Funding Program.”
Be Aware

If you live on-reserve, you may not be eligible for the Child & Youth Support Program. You can contact your Delegated First Nation Agency for more information.

Web Delegated First Nations Agencies
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Delegated First Nation Agencies map
Government of Alberta
English
Kinship care

Kinship Care is a program of the Alberta government. Through this program, children who have already come into the care of Child and Family Services are placed with extended family members. For example: children may be placed with grandparents, or a family member that the child already knows.

Kinship caregivers must be at least 18 years old, and be residents of Alberta.

Kinship caregivers cannot be the biological parents or anyone who has taken guardianship of the child.

The role of the kinship caregiver is to handle the day-to-day decisions related to the child. However, the child remains a “ward of the province.” This means that the Alberta government is the legal guardian of the child. All of the decisions related to the child are subject to the approval of the government. In other words, the government has the final say over these decisions.

See the following resources for more information about Kinship Care, including:

  • the requirements to be a kinship caregiver;
  • what is expected of you as a kinship caregiver;
  • the education, training, and financial help available to kinship caregivers; and
  • how kinship care is different from foster care and guardianship.
Web Kinship Care
Government of Alberta
English

Web Kinship Care: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Web Kinship Care: Financial Support
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Financial Support
Government of Alberta
English
The “Current Compensation Rates” apply to kinship caregivers as well as foster parents.

Web Kinship Care
The Family Centre
English

Web Permanency
The Family Centre
English

Web Alberta Government Kinship Care 2015
ALIGN Association of Community Services
English


PDF Grandparents' Rights in Alberta
Centre for Public Legal Education Alberta
English
This resource was written for grandparents, but much of the information applies to other caregivers too.

Audio Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Kinship Care.”

PDF Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren
Parent Support Services Society of BC
English
This resource is from outside Alberta. Learn more here.

PDF Kinship care
Canadian Child Welfare Research Portal
English

PDF Transitioning from care: A guide for caregivers
Alberta Foster Parent Association
English

 

Foster care

Foster Care is a program of the Alberta government. Through this program, children who have come into the care of Child and Family Services are placed in temporary homes with people they do not know. Children may stay in a foster home for only a few days, or many years.

Foster parents get financial help and training from the government. However, the amounts are different than for Kinship Care.

See the following resources for more information about the Foster Care program, including:

  • who can be a foster parent;
  • what is expected of you as a foster parent;
  • the education, training, and financial help available to foster parents; and
  • how foster care is different from kinship care and guardianship.
Web Foster Care
Government of Alberta
English

Web Becoming a Foster Parent
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Web Screening and monitoring foster parents
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Parents: Resources
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Financial Support
Government of Alberta
English

PDF Entitlements of Foster Parents
Government of Alberta
English

Web Foster Care: Training and Support
Government of Alberta
English

Audio Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Foster Care.”

Web Foster Parent Resources
Alberta Foster Parent Association
English

PDF Transitioning from care: A guide for caregivers
Alberta Foster Parent Association
English
Aboriginal matters and on-reserve considerations

If you are informally caring for a child and you live on-reserve, you may be eligible for financial help from the government. Contact your Delegated First Nation Agency for more information.


PDF Delegated First Nation Agencies map
Government of Alberta
English

Whenever possible, the Kinship Care program and Foster Care program try to place Aboriginal children in homes that will allow them to stay connected to their communities and cultures.

For more information, see the following resources.

PDF Every child needs a family: Aboriginal foster and kinship care providers
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English

Web Aboriginal Caregivers
Government of Alberta
English

Web Aboriginal Caregivers: Frequently Asked Questions
Government of Alberta
English

Video Becoming a Foster Care Family - Alberta
Native Counselling Services of Alberta (via YouTube)
English

Audio Podcasts
Native Counselling Services of Alberta
English
Choose “Kinship care” and “Foster care.”

Web Foster Care
North Peace Tribal Council
English

Process

For basic information about what it means to be a kinship caregiver or foster parent, see the Law tab of this Information Page.

To become a kinship caregiver or foster parent, you will need to contact a caseworker at Child and Family Services. The caseworker will give you the forms you need.

See the following resources for more information.

Interactive Child and Family Services
Government of Alberta
English

Web Becoming a Kinship Caregiver
Government of Alberta
English

Web Becoming a Foster Parent
Government of Alberta
English

Last Reviewed: November 2016

Provincial Court

Queen's Bench

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