Tina is raising her two granddaughters, ages 11 and 6. Her older granddaughter came into her care unexpectedly at 10 months old. Her mother was abusing drugs and was unable to care for her. Her younger granddaughter moved in and out of foster care for several years after she was born, but Tina was eventually able to gain custody of her as well. Tina found it hard to access supportive services for the children. She knew others must be facing similar challenges and wanted to find a way for relative caregivers to help one another, so she co-founded Grandparents United of Delaware, a legal advocacy and support group to help grandparents and other relatives raising children in the state.
When her older granddaughter reached school age, Tina took her to enroll in school. The school told her that grandparents are not allowed to enroll their grandchildren. Familiar with challenges other caregivers had faced, Tina was equipped with information about Delaware’s educational consent law. Delaware has a law which allows a relative to use an affidavit to enroll the children. Tina shared the law with the school personnel and was able to enroll her granddaughter and paved the way for other relative caregivers.
Relative caregivers often take on the care of children unexpectedly and without involvement of the child welfare or court systems. Without legal papers demonstrating that they have custody of the child, the caregiver is often unable to enroll the children in school. In some cases children go months without schooling because their parents’ whereabouts are unknown and their caregivers do not have the legal authority to enroll them. Several states have passed educational consent laws like the one Tina used, to help ensure children’s educational needs are met.