"Informal kinship care" means a living arrangement in which a relative of a child, who is not in the care, custody, or guardianship of the local department of social services, provides for the care and custody of the child due to a serious family hardship.
According to Maryland Law, children must attend public school "in the county where the child is domiciled with the child's parent, guardian, or relative providing informal kinship care." Before this law was passed, it was very difficult, or sometimes impossible, for a relative who was caring for a child to enroll the child in school if the parents did not live in that school area.
The law also says, "A county superintendent shall allow a child who is a resident of this State to attend a public school in a county other than the county where the child is domiciled with the child's parent or legal guardian if the child lives with a relative providing informal kinship care in the county and the relative verifies the informal kinship care relationship through a sworn affidavit." Read the Law: MD Education § 7-101
The form for the affidavit is printed in the law itself, and is available, free, from each County Board of Education, each local Department of Social Services, and each local Area Agency on Aging. These agencies also must attach written instructions to the form.
The relative submitting the affidavit must provide "supporting documentation of one or more serious family hardships, and where possible, the telephone number and address of any authority who is legally authorized to reveal the information which can verify the assertions in the affidavit." If you are not sure what kind of supporting documentation the school will want, ask them to tell you in writing what they need you to bring to them. They cannot require anyone to reveal information about a parent or guardian of the child that would violate privacy laws, so they must accept reasonable documentation. For example, if the parent is in a drug treatment facility, the facility may not be able to reveal anything at all about the patient to the school board. Therefore, the school board will have to accept reasonable documentation.
"Serious family hardship" means:
- Death of a parent or legal guardian of the child;
- Serious illness of a parent or legal guardian of the child;
- Drug addiction of a parent or legal guardian of the child;
- Incarceration of a parent or legal guardian of the child;
- Abandonment by a parent or legal guardian of the child; or
- Assignment of a parent or legal guardian of a child to active military duty.
Some additional terms of the law are:
- If a change occurs in the care or in the serious family hardship of the child, the relative providing informal kinship care for the child must notify the local school system in writing within 30 days after the change occurs.
- An informal kinship care affidavit may be filed during a school year (so you should be able to transfer the child to your local school even if he or she started school somewhere else).
- The relative providing informal kinship care must file an affidavit annually at least 2 weeks prior to the beginning of the school year for each year the child continues to live with the relative because of a serious family hardship.
- Unless the court appoints a guardian for the child or awards custody of the child to someone other than the relative providing informal kinship care, the relative providing informal kinship care shall make the full range of educational decisions for the child.
- The relative providing informal kinship care shall make reasonable efforts to inform the parent or legal guardian of the child of the informal kinship care relationship.
- The parent or legal guardian of a child in an informal kinship care relationship shall have final decision making authority regarding the educational needs of the child (so, in case of disagreement between a parent and the relative providing care, the parent's decision must be followed).
- Any person who willfully makes a material misrepresentation in the affidavit shall be subject to a penalty payable to the county for three times the pro rata share of tuition for the time the child fraudulently attends a public school in the county.