Subsidized Guardianship Program

“Family Connections are Always Strengthened and Preserved.”

Purpose: The Subsidized Guardianship Program provides financial assistance to caregivers who agree to be the legal guardian for a youth who is in foster care. Guardianship is a safe alternative to adoption, providing permanency for the youth without requiring formal termination of parental rights. The program became effective on July 1, 2019.
Benefits: Guardianship may be the preferred permanency option for a youth when it has been determined that reunification and adoption are not fitting or acceptable to the child. There are times when the teenage child in foster care resists getting “new” parents and the termination of rights required for the youth to be adopted may do more harm than good. A guardianship arrangement allows a caring relative to provide legal and emotional permanency for the child, without terminating parental rights. Further, a guardianship with family is often preferred, because the youth is also able to maintain extended family connections that may be lost with traditional stranger adoption. The guardianship subsidy provides financial assistance to committed adults who may not have otherwise had the financial means to care for the child. Ongoing case management from DHS becomes unnecessary once guardianship is established. 
Eligible population: The Subsidized Guardianship Program is a consideration for a youth who is age 14 or older who will not be able to return to his or her birth parents in the foreseeable future, is currently under juvenile court jurisdiction, and is in DHS custody. Additionally, this may be an option for a youth who is age 12 or older. The child must be a part of a sibling group where the child will be residing in the same home as a 14 year old or older sibling, who is in a guardianship arrangement with the family. Adoption and reunification must have been ruled out as appropriate permanency options. The youth must agree to the guardianship. 
Guardian eligibility: The proposed guardian must be a relative as defined in 441-201: “A person to whom a youth is related by blood, marriage, or adoption, or a person who has a significant, committed, positive relationship with the youth.” The proposed guardian must be a licensed foster family. The proposed guardian must have the youth placed in the home for licensed foster care for six consecutive months prior to a guardianship order being entered by the court.
Process: Once a youth has been identified as eligible for the program, the assigned DHS case manager will discuss the option of guardianship subsidy with the youth and the person(s) interested in becoming guardian for the youth. Both must agree to the relationship. The DHS case manager will have the proposed guardian sign the Guardianship Subsidy Application (form 470-3632). DHS will determine if all eligibility criteria has been met and will then negotiate a Guardianship Subsidy Agreement (form 470-3631) with the proposed guardian. A Notice of Decision approving or denying the guardianship subsidy will be issued to the proposed guardian. Once a guardianship order is entered by the court DHS supervision of the child and family will discontinue. The guardian must provide an annual report to the court until the terms of the guardianship agreement are concluded.
Payment to caregiver: A monthly payment is provided to the guardian to assist in meeting the living expenses, including the cost of housing, clothing, and education, associated with providing appropriate care to the youth The rate of the payment cannot exceed the foster care maintenance payment. The negotiated payment can be lower than the foster care rate.
Special services: Guardianship subsidy may include special services reimbursement for: nonrecurring (legal fees) expenses up to $2,000, outpatient therapy when not covered by Medicaid, travel expenses related to a youth’s treatment needs when temporarily placed out of home, and supplies and equipment required to meet the youth’s special needs.
Medicaid: Youth eligible for guardianship subsidy are automatically eligible for Medicaid if they reside in Iowa. Medicaid can be provided to eligible youth and guardians regardless of receipt of a subsidy payment, but must have a valid guardianship subsidy agreement.
Guardians out of state: To be eligible for subsidy, the prospective guardian may reside out of state. The guardianship must be established in Iowa juvenile court, not probate court. If the family resides in a state other than Iowa, the subsidy will be based on Iowa rates, not the rates where the family resides. The guardian must provide an annual report to the court. Youth living with guardians out of state will be determined to be eligible for Medicaid of the State they are residing in or Iowa Medicaid after the guardianship is established.