LANSING, Mich. — Bipartisan legislation sponsored by state Sens. John Damoose, R- Harbor Springs and Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, to expand access to the Guardianship Assistance Program was signed into law Tuesday afternoon.
“This is a commonsense fix to what I believe was an oversight in existing law and will create a significantly more equitable system for everyone who chooses to step up and into a guardianship role,” said Damoose, who sponsored Senate Bill 137.
The Guardianship Assistance Program provides financial support for families that offer permanent guardianship for children. A guardianship setting is often preferred to foster care because it maintains the familial relationship and the comfort and familiarity that comes with it.
Prior to the new laws being signed, the state of Michigan only recognized orders from a state court to provide support for a child to be placed with a guardian. Orders from a tribal court were not eligible, a problem that has caused children to be separated from their family and their communities.
Damoose said this fix will ensure the state recognizes the authority of tribal courts to provide the same resources and help keep more families together.
“Without this assistance, many people cannot afford to step into the guardianship role — which oftentimes is the best decision for the child — causing the child to be placed in foster care instead,” he said. “The goal was simply to reach an end-product that is in the best interest of the children involved.
“These bills were the culmination of many discussions between tribal representatives, lawmakers and other advocates on how we could solve this issue, and I am happy to see a solution was reached and the state law has been officially updated.”