4340. Guardianship

Approval:            Jennifer Strus, Assistant Secretary

Original Date:    February 2004

Revised Date:    October 31, 2016

Policy Review:  October 31, 2020


Guardianships as defined in RCW 13.36  Guardianship are a permanent plan that allows for and supports a continuing relationship between the parent and child, while providing permanency, safety, and well-being for the child with a legal guardian until he or she reaches the age of 18.


This policy applies to Division of Children and Family Services staff.


RCW 13.36 Guardianship

RCW 13.34.030 Definitions

RCW 13.34.145 Permanency Planning Hearing and Guardianship Petition

RCW 13.34.232 Guardianship for Dependent Child

RCW 13.34.234 Guardianship for Dependent Child and Dependency Guardianship Subsidies

RCW 13.36.070 Guardianship Termination Petition

RCW 74.13.031 Duties of the Department

RCW 74.15.020 Definition of Relative


  1. Before a permanent plan of guardianship can be considered for a dependent child, a shared planning meeting must be conducted.
  2. During the shared planning meeting, a guardianship can be considered as the child’s permanent plan when:
    1. Reunification is not likely in the foreseeable future;
    2. Guardianship rather than adoption is in the child’s best interest;
    3. Continuing the parent-child relationship is beneficial to the child and would not disrupt the stability of the guardianship;
    4. The proposed guardian is available to make a commitment to the child until adulthood with the intention of a lifelong commitment;
    5. The proposed guardian has a completed home study with a recommendation for placement;
    6. The child will have been placed in the proposed guardian’s home at least six months prior to the guardianship being established; and
    7. The child (as developmentally age appropriate) has been consulted regarding the guardianship and a discussion of the potential benefits and risks of other permanency plans has occurred.
    8. If the child has a sibling in the same placement and the permanent plan for the sibling has been considered in selecting a permanency plan of guardianship.
    9. If a parent is incarcerated.
  3. Guardianships can be subsidized, based upon eligibility requirements.
  4. CA case management and funded services provided to the child and caregiver prior to the establishment of the guardianship will be terminated when it is finalized.
  5. All guardianships must be approved by the regional administrator or designee prior to the worker filing a guardianship petition.
  6. Any dependency guardianship established prior to June 10, 2010:
    1. May be converted to a guardianship under the when the guardian and the department have both agreed to convert the existing dependency to a guardianship.
    2. Will remain open for subsidy or services payments but must be closed when the child reaches 18 years old.
    3. Will not receive any additional services on converted guardianship cases.
  7. A guardianship will not be vacated or a Voluntary Placement Agreement (VPA) accepted in order to make a child eligible for foster care or extended foster care services.
  8. When the guardianship is established by the court, the child’s dependency will be dismissed.


The caseworker will:

  1. Conduct a shared planning meeting prior to making permanency planning recommendations to the court. During the shared planning meeting:
    1. Discuss and consider the following permanent planning options:
      1. Return home
      2. Adoption
      3. Guardianship
      4. Non-Parental Custody
    2. Determine if guardianship as the permanent plan is in the child’s best interest. This determination includes documenting the:
      1. Reasons why a guardianship is in the best interest of this child.
      2. Proposed guardian’s:
        1. Commitment to be a permanent home for the child.
        2. Understanding of the requirements to receive guardianship subsidy per the 43401 Relative Guardianship Assistance Program (R-GAP) policy.
        3. Ability to meet the child’s existing connections to family, friends and community.
        4. Agreement with the plan of guardianship with the specific child.
  2. Confirm that the proposed guardian has a completed home study that recommends placement.
  3. Verify and document the caregiver has been provided with an explanation of both adoption and guardianship.
    1. Provide and discuss the Permanency Planning Matrix DSHS 16-231 with caregiver, youth as appropriate and the parents. Document these discussions in a case note.
    2. Discuss and document in a case note or Shared Planning Meeting DSHS 14-474 form that the following elements were explained to the proposed guardian:
      1. The following services are not available under a guardianship, including but not limited to:
        1. Mileage reimbursement
        2. Travel reimbursement
        3. Respite care
        4. Clothing vouchers
        5. Child care
        6. Case aid services
        7. Tutoring
        8. Case management services
        9. Educational support
        10. Parent-child visitation support
      2. When a guardianship is established, the child is not in foster care and all CA funded services including case management are no longer available.
      3. He or she may request additional services through community resources or Family Voluntary Services, Family Reconciliation Services or referrals to other services through CA. Available services are dependent upon program eligibility criteria.
      4. The difference between subsidized and unsubsidized guardianships:
        1. Subsidized guardianships may be established if the proposed guardian is a foster licensed relative and the child is Title IVE eligible, per 43401 R-GAP policy. If the guardianship is subsidized, the caseworker must:
          1. Notify the R-GAP gatekeeper.
          2. Verify that the R-GAP agreement is signed prior to establishing the guardianship.
        2. Unsubsidized guardianships can be established. The caseworker must provide the proposed guardian with information on the benefits available to him or her and how to request benefits through the Community Services Office in the Economic Services Administration.
  4. When a determination has been made to establish a guardianship, prior to submitting a guardianship petition to the court, the caseworker will:
    1. Collaborate with the proposed guardian and the child’s parents to establish a visitation plan.
    2. Complete the Guardianship Approval Checklist DSHS 15-324 and attach the following required documents to the checklist:
      1. A copy of the completed shared planning meeting form.
      2. A copy of the proposed visitation plan between the child and parents.
      3. The signed Declaration of Proposed Guardian form.
    3. If the proposed guardian is a relative, provide him or her with the R-GAP paperwork to complete and submit to the R-GAP gatekeeper. The R-GAP agreement must be signed prior to entry of a guardianship order per the 43401 R-GAP policy.
    4. Provide disclosure to the proposed guardian, as required on Guardianship Approval Checklist DSHS 15-324.
    5. Obtain approval of the Guardianship Approval Checklist DSHS 15-324 from his or her supervisor, area administrator and regional administrator or designee.
    6. Submit a request to the assistant attorney general (AAG) to file a guardianship petition. Provide the AAG with the signed Declaration of Proposed Guardian court document and proposed visitation plan. This can only occur after the checklist has been approved by all parties.
  5. When a guardianship is established, the caseworker will:
    1. Contact the AAG to request that the court dismiss the dependency.
    2. Terminate all services and placement when the guardianship is finalized.
    3. Terminate case management and the borrowed bed fees, if applicable when the guardianship is finalized on families that are licensed by a private agency.
    4. Transfer guardianship cases eligible for subsidy to the R-GAP gatekeeper.
    5. Close the case, if the guardianship is unsubsidized.


Shared Planning Meeting DSHS 14-474

Permanency Planning Matrix DSHS 16-231

Declaration of Proposed Guardian Court Form Title 13 Guardianship

Guardianship Approval Checklist DSHS 15-324


Q&A Caregivers

Q&A Social Workers