If you have a family member that suffers from drug or alcohol addiction, be careful before you call the police and child protective services. Make sure to take appropriate legal steps ahead of time to safeguard your grandchildren and/or nieces and nephews to make sure they will never be taken into foster care. The LA Times newspaper has written numerous articles about the problems with foster care and how children have been abused by foster families after being taken from their parents due to abuse or neglect.
Once you get the police or child protective services involved, the matter is out of your control and you may not be able to take custody of your grandchildren or nieces and nephews due to several factors if they apply to your case. This is because under federal and state laws, child protective services is required to do criminal background checks on all adults that live in the potential caretakers’ house. If anyone living in the house has any arrests or convictions, they must get an exemption approved before they can have the children placed with them.
If a grandparent had a history with child protective services, it usually means they will not be granted an exemption and they will not be able to take custody of their grandchildren. The family can apply for a probate guardianship and while they still have to have a background check and prove that they are safe, because there are no federal funding issues, the background check is not as stringent as the dependency court.
This is because of federal law, AFSA, (Adoption and Safe Families Act) requires states to incorporate AFSA to receive federal funding. I’ve seen perfectly suitable grandparents lose custody of their grandchildren because one of the grandparents had a 30 year old criminal conviction which included violence. Since that conviction, the grandparent had no other criminal arrests or convictions, however, the children could not be placed with them and the kids were split up and adopted by different families. I realize this is an extreme example, but I’ve seen it happen numerous times.
If you have a relative that leaves their children with you from time to time due to their inability to adequately take care of their children, but who refuses to give you legal rights for medical or school decisions, be prepared to go to court to get legal guardianship of the children.
A probate guardianship is the best choice for children of parents who suffer from addiction. If the parents agree to the legal guardianship with a relative of their children, the probate court does not need to report the parents to child protective services. Otherwise, the probate court is required to report the neglect or abuse of children to CPS and CPS decides if they are going to investigate and take the case over.