February 24, 2011,
R.R. asks from Burleson, TX on February 23, 2011
Temporary Custody of Grandchild
I could write pages to explain all of this back story. In a nutshell, my son and a now-ex GF have a 20 month old baby girl. The mom recently decided that she was "tired of being a mother" and just gave the baby over to my son. My son is a non-working, non-car owning, mooch off friends person. He is 28 years old and should be grown up and responsible but is not. His latest mooch friend kicked him out last night with the baby and nowhere to go. No one in the family will allow him to live with them because he burned bridges long ago with drinking, drugs, and couch surfing. We've all basically handed him job leads, which he either doesn't follow up on, or screws around and gets fired. So - with that said, I'm considering taking in my grandaughter temporarily. After all, this is not her fault. I do NOT want her to end up in foster care, either.
My question is, if I get him to sign something granting me temporary custody for "X" amount of time, in order to let me put her on my work insurance and enroll her in daycare, and make medical decisions; and then have the form notarized, would it be legal? I know the answer to this is to see a family law attorney, but I can't afford to see an attorney, or file any sort of paperwork. What can I do to take proper care of a sweet little girl who happens to have two very screwed up parents?
K.P. answers from New York on February 23, 2011
No, that will not be enough for you to do any of the above. What you need is a "Care, Custody and Control" document and it has to be filed through the court system by an attorney.
Call social services and ask for a list of attorneys with sliding scale fees or who do pro-bono work. Your insurance company will need a copy of the document as will anyone else providing a service to your grandchild.
If your son is willing to sign the paperwork, then go for it. I have known many families who have done this on limited resources. It's not time-consuming or overly expensive b/c it's not permanent.
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M.L. answers from Houston on February 23, 2011
I would contact CPS/ social services and they can help you sort it out legally. CPS places the child with willing family members, so don't worry about the foster system if you contact for guidance.
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P.F. answers from Dallas on February 23, 2011
You poor thing. Your granddaughter is really lucky to have you! I wonder if you called a social worker of child services and ask them. I am sure they would prefer the baby to be with you rather than in the foster care system.
I hope it works out for you!
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S.B. answers from Redding on February 23, 2011
Contact your local legal aide office. They might be able to give you a referral or get you a consultation with a family law attorney for a nominal fee.
Also, many courthouses have family law self help centers and workshops.
Find out if you have a center for child advocacy in your area.
If your son is willing to sign something allowing you custody, if he if fact has custody to the extent he can do so, it shouldn't be that difficult.
They may want to check you out to make sure you can adequately provide for the child. I'm sure she'd be better off with you than in foster care.
Check around and find resources that can help you.
Sometimes children are granted guardian ad litems, which means they are appointed to assess the situation for the child's best interests and make a recommendation to the court.
I would ask around and see what you can find out and then go from there.
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S.B. answers from Dallas on February 24, 2011
You do need to do some legally to protect yourself and the child. Mom or dad could decide to waltz in at anytime and decide they want baby back. After the child is settled in your home and your heart, do you want her wrestled out of your arms and being put in a less than satisfactory environment? Also if both are involved with drugs, they could use the child as a bargaining chip to have you "fund" their bad behavior in exchange for "keeping your grandchild". Good luck- do join some of the groups suggested so you can get assistance from other grandparents that have found themselves in that situation
H.H. answers from Dallas on February 24, 2011
I understand the situation. I've been there. One way is to talk to child protective services (no cost). They won't take the baby away if you pass back ground check, but they will help you get the paperwork you need. They won't even take custody of the baby from her parents, just give you the help you need to take care of her until they can. The reason they may take custody would be if the parents weren't a safe placement for her, but took her from you. And they would still place her with family (you). They always try to place children with family first. I know it's scary.
N.J. answers from Los Angeles on February 23, 2011
Sorry to say to make it "legal" for medical and schooling the guardianship does have to be processed via the courts and with that I'm sure it entails an attorney of some sort. My parents have permanent guardianship of my nephews that started out as temporary. The hard part for them was that both the mother and the father to sign the documents.
I think the recommendation to contact CPS for advice would be your best option at this point. There are some non legal binding paperwork online that can get you started for at least emergency situations, and I believe even tho' its not the best health insurance you should be able to get some type of government funded insurance in the meantime for her!
Good luck story sounds all too familiar!
E.D. answers from Seattle on February 23, 2011
I am a kinship care provider for our three year old niece.
I'd actually suggest that you do not involve CPS, if at all possible. I do recommend calling anonymously and asking questions. Great information/advice can come from those conversations. Just as a note: they are incredibly underfunded and, as with most bureaucratic systems, complicated to navigate. Once in 'the system', a child stays in the system. Don't get me wrong, I am not against CPS, and it may be necessary to involve them at some point (or in your specific circumstance). However, if a child is removed from their bio parents, they will often end up in foster care even if there is a person of kin willing to take them. Not permanently, but for a period of time while they deem you a responsible candidate for guardianship. That can be emotionally difficult for a child and the family.
I would actually suggest that as a first step, you get a power of attorney for your grandchild. That will allow you to make medical and educational decisions. It *may* even be enough to get her on your insurance. You might call your insurance company and ask what documentation is necessary.
I would also suggest you contact your local DSHS office. Though it might be different in Texas than in Washington (where we are), I was able to get my niece medicaid and child support through TANF (the state gives us a small stipend to go towards her needs, and 'bills' her parents...though neither has paid as of yet). Because we don't have custody of her, and because she is not our biological child, they don't look at our financial situation. Instead, they look at *her* income - which is nothing.
Should I go back to work or go to school, we would also be illegible for subsidized childcare for her. This is only if and when me and my spouse are out of the house - it gets complicated - but it is something.
The document that you are talking about is called non parental temporary custody. In order to get that you file a petition for non parental temporary custody. You would then go to court and prove both her parents unfit (and you fit). Should they not show at the court date, you would be granted custody. Alternatively, if they are both willing to sign their rights over, you may be able to forgo the petitioning steps. I believe a judge would still need to approve it. I would not try to either without a lawyer.
Just on that note. What we originally did was get recommendations (from a child and family therapist) for a reputable family law attorney. Many are willing to give a free consultation meeting. 45 minutes with a professional is GOLD. We were told by our lawyer to avoid CPS unless in an emergency (i.e. one of her parents showed up and wanted to take her away). Many (like ours) are willing to set up payment plans. So. Worth. It. Also, phone meetings are cheaper than sit down meetings. I have called our lawyer several times, at $ 00.40 a minute and chatted for fifteen minutes. Often, it lays my worries to rest.
One last suggestion. Strengthen your network and support system. Look up Kinship care meetings in your area. The folks there will be of great help, emotionally and practically. It really helps to talk with families who are one step in front. Alanon is also very helpful (on the emotional side) when dealing with addicted family members.
Good luck. The journey ahead is difficult, but so worth it. (((Hugs)))
If you want, send me your e-mail via Private Message and I'll send you a copy of the power of attorney we used.