Permanent Guardianship in Vermont

Permanent guardianship is a legal relationship, created in Family Court, between a child and relative or family friend. The judge may establish a permanent guardianship during any hearing at which a legal disposition about permanence for the child can be made (e.g., during a child protection or delinquency proceeding).

Before a permanent guardianship can be established, the judge must find by clear and convincing evidence that:

  • The child is not likely to return home to the parents or be adopted within a reasonable period of time;
  • The child is at least 12 years old, unless the proposed guardian is a relative or permanent guardian for one of the child’s siblings;
  • The child has lived with the proposed guardian for at least a year (six months if the proposed guardian is a relative);
  • The proposed guardian is suitable;
  • The proposed guardian is able and willing to provide a safe, nurturing home for the child until he or she turns 18; and
  • Permanent guardianship is in the child’s best interests.

In a permanent guardianship, DCF is no longer involved; the guardian is responsible for the child’s day-to-day care, protection, and education; and the parents retain certain parental rights and responsibilities (e.g., the right to have contact with the child and the responsibility to pay child support).

Permanent guardianship provides children with a sense of permanency and home, while allowing them to stay connected — to family, tradition, culture, and community.

Support Available

If you are granted permanent guardianship of a child who is in DCF custody, you might be eligible for guardianship assistance. 

This could include:

  • A monthly stipend;
  • Medicaid for the child, and
  • Reimbursement of certain non-recurring expenses.

For More Information

If you are interested in pursuing a permanent guardianship for a relative or friend's child who is in DCF custody, contact the child's social worker.