This section explains when children and youth who are not living with their parent or legal guardian can access services and benefits without the authorization of their parent or legal guardian. We refer to children living away from home as children living with “kinship caregivers”. A “kinship caregiver” means any person who has taken primary responsibility for a child whose parents are unwilling or unable to care for them.

How can I access healthcare for a child who lives with me if I am not her legal guardian?
If the child is age 14 or older she can consent to health care on her own under the Uniform Healthcare Decisions Act because she is not living with her parent or legal guardian.

If the child is under age 14 and her parents are either unwilling or unable to sign a Power of Attorney, you can use a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. A Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit functions like a Power of Attorney except that you do not need the signature of a parent. For more information about how to use a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit call the Guardianship Legal Helpline: in the Albuquerque area call 505-217-1660; Statewide call 1-800-980-1165.

For more information go to the section on this website about Health Care: Minor’s Rights to Consent and Confidentiality.

How can I get counseling for a child living with me if her parents will not cooperate?
All children have rights under the children’s mental health code. Youth 14 years and older can consent to outpatient therapy and therapy is confidential.

Children under age 14 need their parent’s consent to see a psychologist or other mental health care provider. However, a child under 14 can see a mental health care provider to get an evaluation without their parent’s consent. The mental health care provider can see the child for up to two (2) weeks before he needs to get parental consent. For more information see the section on this website on Mental Health Care.

Can a child living with me take medication prescribed for a mental health problem (psychotropic medication) without parental consent?
Children under age 14 must have parental consent in order to take psychotropic medication.

Youth 14 years and older can consent to psychotropic medication. The doctor must give notice to the youth’s parents, but the parents cannot override the youth’s decision unless they can show that the youth does not have the capacity to consent. For more information see the section on this website on Mental Health Care.

I cannot afford to put the child living with me on my private health insurance policy. Is she eligible for Medicaid?
Yes. If the child is living with you, apart from her parent or legal guardian, she is eligible for Medicaid as a “family of one”. You do not need to be her legal guardian, and your income will not be considered to determine her eligibility.

Can I get TANF cash assistance to help me support a child who is living with me?
Yes. You may apply for yourself and the child and your income will be considered, or you can apply for “child only TANF” where your income won’t be taken into consideration. For more information, see the section on TANF Benefits.

Can I get help to pay for Childcare for the child while I am at work?
You may be eligible for childcare assistance depending on your income. For more information, contact the Income Support Division office in your area.

Can I get Food Stamps for a child who is living with me?
If your household qualifies for Food Stamps you can add the child to your household. However, if the household does not qualify you cannot get Food Stamps for the child.

I am retired and receiving social security benefits. Can I get benefits for a child who is living with me?
You can only get social security retirement benefits for a child that you have legally adopted.

The child’s parent receives social security benefits that should be used to support her. What can I do?
Social security (SSI, SSDI, Survivor’s Benefits) benefits should follow the child. Children must have an adult who receives their check as “payee”. You can apply with the social security office to become the “payee” for your grandchild’s social security benefits.

Can I put a child who is living with me on my subsidized housing?
Federal subsidized housing, Section 8, requires that the caregiver have legal guardianship. However, Section 8 will usually accept a letter from a legal services agency saying that guardianship proceedings are being initiated.

Can I enroll a child who is living with me in school?
Yes. Because the child is not living with her parent or legal guardian she is considered homeless for the purpose of enrolling in school. The school must enroll her immediately without parental authorization, immunization records or school records. For more important information about enrolling a child living with you in school see the section on this website on Getting Into School on Your Own.


The Guardianship Legal Helpline: Albuquerque area – (505) 217-1660; Statewide – 1-800-980-1165.

DISCLAIMER: This website is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing on this website shall be construed as legal advice nor does the information provided constitute the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. We take no responsibility for errors.