Pro Bono News

Arizona Tax Credit: Southern Arizona Legal Aid

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Arizona Tax Credit: Southern Arizona Legal Aid

"Suzie was born in June 2016 addicted to opiates. The Arizona Department of Child Safety removed Suzie from her birth mother immediately. Fortunately for Suzie, Jenna was waiting to take care of her.

Jenna is completely unrelated to Suzie; Suzie’s mom just happened to be dating Jenna’s son at the time that Suzie was born. Although Suzie is not her biological granddaughter, Jenna eagerly stepped up to care for the new baby.

Even though DCS placed Suzie in Jenna’s care, that did not automatically mean that Jenna was legally able to provide for all of Suzie’s needs. To do that, Jenna needed to file for legal guardianship of Suzie.

That’s why Jenna needed the help of Southern Arizona Legal Aid.

Both of Suzie’s biological parents were happy to give permission for Jenna to care for Suzie, but, to provide for basic needs like enrolling in school or seeking medical treatment, Jenna needed to become Suzie’s legal guardian.

Fortunately, SALA offers assistance in minor-guardianship cases.

First, Jenna attended a KARE (Kinship & Adoption Resource Education) minor-guardianship class at SALA. Then she received additional assistance at a SALA minor guardianship clinic. A SALA attorney reviewed Jenna’s paperwork, and then it was notarized, finalized and copied — all at the same clinic.

With SALA’s help, Jenna’s petition for guardianship was granted the first time she went to court.

In 2019, 318 people took SALA’s Minor Guardianship Class; 68 of those attendees actually filed for minor guardianship. More than 45 people have attended a Minor Guardianship Follow-Up Clinic, where they received legal information regarding minor guardianships.

Guardians who have not received help are nine times more likely to have to go to multiple court hearings than guardians who have attended a Minor Guardianship Follow-Up Clinic at SALA. The majority of minor guardianship cases are necessary because one or both of the biological parents are addicted to opiates or other illegal substances.

Although guardians will always have to be mindful of the effect these substances have had on the minors in their care, they shouldn’t also have to worry about a legal battle so that they can provide that care.

It is clear that Jenna cares deeply for Suzie, and she has become Suzie’s primary parent. Because of Suzie’s mother’s addiction, she only sees Suzie sporadically.

As Suzie’s legal guardian, Jenna has been able to get Suzie enrolled in school and can take her to the doctor..."

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