Guardianship is the legal authority to make health and welfare decisions on behalf of a child, disabled adult or elderly person. A parent of a down's syndrome child may need to obtain guardianship of the child after he turns 18 years old. If the parents are unable to care for a down's syndrome minor child, guardianship may be awarded to an individual who has taken care of the child for an amount of time prior to the request to be appointed guardian.
Obtain guardianship petition forms from your county clerk's office. Complete the forms, indicating that you are seeking guardianship of a minor or adult child with down's syndrome. Sign before a notary, if necessary. Some applications will come with a waiver for court fees and costs. Complete this form to submit with your guardianship petition.
Gather documents that indicate why the child is in your care, such as medical documents or documented state removal. If the parents have given consent to your request for legal guardianship, ask for a written and notarized document indicating that consent for your appointment as the child's guardian is approved by the biological parents. Attach the relevant documents to the petition.
Make one copy of the completed petition and supporting documents. Keep this copy for your records.
File the completed petition with the county probate court. Check with your county for the procedures for filing the petition. In many cases, you can submit the documents in person at the clerk window, but others may require that you submit the petition by mail.
Obtain a hearing date. The hearing date will be written on a notice of hearing in accordance with the juvenile court calendar.
Serve a copy of the hearing notice, a notice and acknowledgment of receipt form, and forms related to waiving or consenting to the legal guardianship on the legal parents, if other than yourself. Service requirements vary from state to state. Consider hiring a service that specializes in serving legal papers to ensure that the documents are served.
Send a copy of the hearing notice as well as a written request for a home study or suitability evaluation to the department that handles social or family services in your state. Some states may have a form for making such a request. If not, you may simply write a letter requesting a background check. The background check will be presented in court.
Submit the signed forms received from the parents to the probate court. If no forms were received from the parents, submit documentation that shows the parents were personally served the paperwork.
Attend the court hearing. You may be asked to give additional details about the request to be appointed guardian of a child. If the parents are contesting the appointment, the judge will review the evidence and hear the parents' statement. The judge will decide whether to appoint guardianship or not. In many cases, the judge will base the award on "legal standing," which varies from state to state. In Texas, for example, prospective guardians gain legal standing with the court if the child has lived with caretaker for six consecutive months, where all decisions about the child's welfare have been determined by the caretaker.