Julia Zalenski: Minor Guardianships Created by the Probate Court When the Department for Children and Families is Involved: Problems with Possible Solutions

VPRC was fortunate to have a legal intern last summer to help identify the difficulties our families were having with minor guardianships in the Probate Court.  Julia Zalenski, a second year law student at the University of Iowa Law School, authored a position paper which was published by the Vermont Bar Journal in December 2011.

New policy and practice must work within the framework of the constitutional right of parents and children to maintain their family life free of government interference.

The challenging issue of minor guardianships when families are involved with the Department for Children and Families (DCF) has now been taken up by the Legislative Study Committee on Minor Guardianships.  Trine Bech, VPRC Executive Director, is a member of this committee.

Abstract: This article seeks to address the complex problems that arise when a minor guardianship is established in probate court under circumstances when DCF is also involved with the family. A dearth of empirical research on this subject means that this article will focus less on legal analysis of a statistically clear problem and more on clarifying the divergent and sometimes conflicting perspectives on use of minor guardianships in these cases through the lens of the fundamental legal elements at stake. I will first identify and analyze the basic legal elements of the question, to provide a foundation for further research and policy. Second, I will outline the fundamental differences between minor guardianships and the analogous state proceeding, Children in Need of Care or Supervision (CHINS), and will identify the key concerns about those differences. Third, I will provide several perspectives on the use of minor guardianships from individuals involved in various capacities. The article will conclude with recommendations for policy and action on this issue, as well as a note on the wider implications of the problem. Read more here.