Guardianship is a legal term referring to the relationship between a minor child and someone other than a parent who is caring for that child. It can describe the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents who parent them, although its use is not limited to grandparents. Generally speaking, child guardians have legal custody and the right to make decisions about the children in their care. If parents wish to regain custody, they must go to court. In some states, guardians have additional rights, including the right to name alternate guardians for the children in their care. Some states offer an option called subsidized guardianship, in which grandparents or others can be granted guardianship of children and can receive benefits similar to those that foster children receive. Subsidized guardianship keeps children out of an overburdened foster care system and keeps grandparents from having to qualify as foster parents.
Guardianship is the form of grandparent custody that gives grandparents the most rights without actual adoption of the grandchildren.