Question by : How do I gain legal guardianship/custody of my sister’s children in foster care?
My sister’s 11 year old daughter was taken by CPS and has been in California foster care for a year (I had custody of this child for 3 years before she was 5). Her 16 year old son was placed in a group home for addicted boys with psychiatric disorders (bipolar). The baby she had in January was placed into foster care at birth. I lived in Colorado when the 11 year old went into foster care; therefore, the laws prevented me from having custody. My sister is addicted to meth and insists on staying with her boyfriend that has multiple felonies and children already in foster care. She is estranged from the family because she wouldn’t let us anywhere near the children when we wouldn’t give her what she wanted to fuel her addiction. My mother and grandmother called CPS. Unfortunately, CPS would not allow us to have the children because my mother is a functional addict with two previous, serious, suicide attempts (6+ years ago). My grandmother is 86 years old. I lived out-of-state and my aunt lives in Mexico six months out of each year.
The goal was to reunite my sister and the children. My sister is not doing what the courts require. She sees the children infrequently. My mother never misses a visit and wants the children to live with her. Unfortunately, she will not pass the drug screening or pscyh-stability measures. I still live 5 hours away in California and would move closer but the area hospitals are laying nurses off (I am an RN). My sister has refused to agree to let us take custody of the children, until this June.
During a visit with the 11 year old in June, she threw her arms around me and asked me to take her home with me with tears in her eyes. I gave the 11 year old my contact information and asked her to give it to her mother and ask her to call me. Two days later, I received that call. My sister asked me to take custody of her children and followed through with my request of her to tell the case worker this and have her contact me. I am meeting with the case worker on 8/4/10. I will most likely gain custody of the 11 year old because my sister and the child wants it; I’ve had custody before; and nobody else can. The baby is in a different program called Concurrent Home setup to secure a foster family willing to adopt her if the mother does not fulfill court requirements. The baby has bonded with the foster family. The 16 year old boy is now 17 and refuses to go anywhere but with my mother. Well, I caught him smoking pot when I visited with the children in June.
Here are my issues, concerns, and questions: Do I need to get a lawyer even though the case worker told me she is considering me for custody of the girls when she is not legally obligated to consider me for the baby? What type of financial resources will the state require of me? My children are grown and moved out so I’ve been living in a much-too-expensive place on the beach. I have a great income but spending much more than I have to on living expenses. What does the case worker look for or need from me to assure the children will be well cared for? My daughters are grown, responsible (one in college now), and don’t do drugs or have legal problems. What type of bonding plan should I seek with the baby? I live 5 hours away but only work 3 days per week. I could travel there each week. I am concerned about childcare for the baby, if I do get custody, while I’m working in relationship to the bonding concerns. My daughter is in college in the same town where the children live. She could attend the bonding sessions with me. She wants to move here with me and transfer to a 4-year college. Since I only work 3 days per week, we could easily work out a childcare plan that prevents us from needing outside childcare for at least 2 – 3 years.
I appreciate any advice and responses.
Answer by Motherhood is cool!
My best advice is to leave YOUR daughter out of this. This isn’t her battle and she has yet to start her life, don’t drag her down by this.
I respect and admire your wish to do right by the other children, good for you, you will need to move to a home that allows you more free cash, and closer would be better. CPS will want to make sure you are stable and can handle the kids. They would much rather have kids with family than in the system. Work close with the case worker, if she denies your request you need a lawyer, if things are going too slowly you need a lawyer, other than that ride it out, CPS should foot the bill.
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