"Informal kinship care" is a living arrangement for a child who is not in the care, custody, guardianship of the local department of social services where a relative of the child provides for the child's care and custody due to a serious family hardship. A "relative" is an adult related to the child by blood or marriage within the fifth degree of consanguinity.
"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.
In Maryland, children must attend public school in the county where the child is domiciled with the child's parent, guardian, or relative providing kinship care. If a child lives with a relative providing informal kinship care, then the county superintendent must allow the child to attend a public school in the caregiver's county of domicile, provided that the relative caregiver verifies the informal kinship care through a sworn affidavit.
The form for the affidavit is printed in the law itself. It is also available for free from each County Board of Education, local Department of Social Services, and local Area Agency on Aging. These agencies also must attach written instructions to the form.
The relative submitting the affidavit may be required to provide supporting documentation for the serious family hardship(s), including, when possible, the telephone number and address of any authority who is legally authorized to provide information that can verify the statements in the sworn 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.
- The school board 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.
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 will make the full range of educational decisions for the child.
- The relative providing informal kinship care must 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 has 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).
- If a child fraudulently attends a public school in a county where the child is not domiciled with the child's parent or guardian, then the child's parent or guardian is subject to penalty payable to the county for the pro rata share of tuition for time the child fraudulently attended a public school in the county.
- Any person who willfully makes a material misrepresentation in the affidavit is 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.
Read the Law: Md. Code, Education § 7-101