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Can I get guardianship or custody of my younger cousins?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm not sure if this is the right thread for this. If it's not just let me know and I will remove it and put it somewhere else.

Since the beginning of June, I have been taking care of my two younger cousins. Their mom is my mother's youngest sister. My aunt is married to a man that has several mental issues, and because of them he can't work. He has a very bad temper. The parents asked me to keep the older one with me because she was very depressed and thought spending time with me would help. Of course, the three year old wants to be everywhere that her sister goes, so she stays with me as well. The older one has threatened to kill herself several times. They have her seeing lots of therapists for ADD and depression and she was taking 7 medications a day. Since staying with me, she's been able to go off of her medication completely and hasn't been depressed. After being around these girls all the time and the parents, I've learned that the parents curse at the kids. They don't bathe them. They don't spend time with them. The kids cry when it's time to go home.

 

This last time I came to pick them up, the three year old had a bruise on her arm. I asked her where it came from and she said Daddy, but Mommy hit him because he hit her. Obviously, she could be exaggerating.. But given his temper and his history, I wouldn't be surprised if he did. I just want what is best for the kids. They're happy with my husband and I. The younger one even calls me Mommy.

 

Is there any way for me to get guardianship of the girls so that I can keep them the majority of the time? I already have them 4-5 days a week, but school is starting up and I was looking for a more permanent solution.

If not, they'll stay at their parents' during the week and come to me on the weekend. Sorry to make this so long.

post #2 of 7

Hi littlelacrimosa. I'm not sure what state you are in but most states have an arrangement for temporary guardianship. YOu would have to either have the parents consent to this arrangement, or you would need to petition against them, with enough evidence on hand that they weren't "fit" parents. Not just hearsay, but proof. Because of this, most people end up sticking with an informal arrangement, because obviously a failed petition would ruin the relationship.

 

Are they looking to get out of parenting? If so, then they may give you guardianship.

 

I am not sure what profession you are in, or if you are a mandated reporter, but the story about the bruise on the arm and where it came from, should be reported to Child Protection. Even if you are not a mandated reporter, the child, if telling you accurate information, is being abused. Not reporting it is likely to lead to further abuse. A trained investigator would be able to sort out whether she is fabricating or telling the truth.

 

This is a difficult situation all around. :(
 

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Yes, it really is.

I live in Pennsylvania. I don't work, but my husband works full time. I was just told about the bruise today when I picked them up. I was happy with the informal arrangement, but now I'm worried that if they are being abused, something bad would happen one of these times I take them home. There's no way I would be able to live with that. So I definitely have to say something to someone. i know that my report to CPS would remain anonymous, which is what I would like. The last thing that I want is to upset the parents and them say that I can't see or take care of the girls anymore. The parents aren't willing to go to counseling or anything to deal with their family issues because the father has ADD and claims he can't sit through a session without threatening to kill the counselor. He's obviously very mature.
 

The father always wants me to take the kids. He even said that when school started and he had to be around them all the time, he didn't know what he was going to do. The mother likes to have them around because they make her feel good, but she doesn't take care of or pay attention to them. My husband and I have paid for everything for them for the last few months.

 

The mother says that she misses them when they're gone. But she said she'd rather let the girls stay with me if its better for their mental health..

I would like to ask them if they'd be willing to give me guardianship, but I don't want to push the envelope, so to speak, when it comes to their comfort level and them get offended, upset, or angry. Because they've been known to keep the kids away from people when they make them upset.

post #4 of 7

Are you related in any way (you don't have to reveal too much)? KInship care can sometimes be easier than if you are just acquaintances, in terms of placement, particularly if CPS gets involved. 

 

ETA: Gee not enough coffee!! Your OP says you are related!!  I think if I were you I might speak to a CPS worker without yet giving your name and see if they have any recommendations, or can direct you to the proper court in PA. I tried to do a search for PA and most of the links were for grandparents or divorcing wives. In my state we have a Probate Court that handles things like this outside of Family Court. It's been a long time since I lived in PA so I don't remember how they do this.

post #5 of 7

I think this is definitely a damned if you do/damned if you don't kind of situation.   But since kids are involved, I'd sacrifice for whatever I thought would be better for them in the long term.  I just want to commend you on your willingness to take them and love them as you are now or more full time.   We need more support for struggling families in whatever form it takes.  Even if you are just seeing them 5 days a week, they will learn that you are an adult they can depend on. 

post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the responses.

I spoke to both child services and a lawyer.

They told me that because my husband and I have been standing in loco parentis, we could file for custody. Also, because we have people that are willing to testify on our behalf.. There is a good chance we could get them.

The lawyer said we needed to start documenting things.

For instance, the older DD had a piece of her tooth break off last night because she didn't have to brush them at home and the parents haven't taken her to a dentist. He said I should take a picture and request a copy of the dentist's findings.

Does anyone know what else I'm supposed to document or get copies of?

post #7 of 7
Definitely keep a log of all the times you have them (pick up and drop off as applicable). And appointments and other parent type jobs you do. And how about money spent?

It sounds like you are doing the right things to get an answer.
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