I just wanted to say I totally understand why you handled things the way you did. I had friends when I was in school who had a similar situation a few times, they were better off staying at a friends house so they just stayed there for a few months informally. I actually don't think it is that unusual. I do think you should have called CPS right away but I understand why you didn't want to. I know CPS wouldn't love that you didn't call, but I wouldn't loose hope about getting temporary custody, a foster care situation or whatever. You can make it clear to them that you would be happy to care for her, it could still happen in the future.
You have already made a huge positive impact on her life, even if she never got to see you again you have made a big difference. she's very lucky to have your family to care about her!
As a follow up: I am taking her home this evening. Her mother is meeting us at the train station. Her mother was not and is not upset with me in any way. She does not seem to find it unusual that her daughter was here a month without my calling her. Great. Friend has expressed interest in coming back later in August for another visit. My wheels are turning. My original question was, how can I approach a mom about giving us custody? I think maybe "custody" was an incorrect term, as I am completely inexperienced with fostering or anything else. So, how can I approach her about the possibility of her daughter starting school here with us? What do I say? What points can I bring up that might soften my words, and have me appear non judgemental?
Certified Crazy™ Wife to my Spiderman husband (Aug '01)
Super proud Momma to DD (Jan'00), DD (Apr '02) and DS (Jun '04)
Always loving and missing our Baby James born sleeping at 19 weeks (July '03).
Then talk to the mom. You could say something like:
It seems to work better for everyone for x to say with us right now. I'd be happy for her to stay longer, but with school getting ready to start, I just want to make sure things are set up for. She could go to school here, but we would need to (whatever you learn from the attorney).
And then just see what happens. I would avoid saying anything negative about the mother, or anything permanent.
Good luck. I think you are doing a good thing. The city I live in has a large population of homeless teens. Some are from here, but some come here from other places.
but everything has pros and cons
That said, I really would contact CAS on behalf of this child's siblings. Remain anonymous. Call from someone else's phone. You do not need to mention anything about having the one girl for a month with no response from mom because a) that could interfere with your relationship with this family because they'll know it was you who called and b) from a child welfare standpoint, there is really nothing terribly wrong with this. Mom knew her kid was in a safe situation with a willing person taking care of her, and you were not leaving mom messages requesting she get this kid. It was essentially mutually agreed upon even if it's neglectful in the eyes of a normal parent. I don't know how things run exactly in Canada, but I'd be surprised if its considered neglectful by CAS to allow another person to care for your child when the other person is ok with that.
In terms of what to do next, I'd contact a lawyer first. I think it would be fine for you to approach the mom but you want to make sure you're considering all legal aspects. I think what you're doing is great. There are lots of people who work out informal arrangements like these and frequently when a child does come into the CPS system in the states, social workers will first look to these informal supports as a foster home placement for a child. Do know though that all kids who have been through what this kiddo has been through tend to go through a honeymoon phase prior to all hell breaking loose. Chances are, if this girl comes back, at some point you'll find yourself dealing with some emotional and behavioral issues. If you want to be proactive, I'd at least start reading up on this stuff so you're prepared when it happens. Good luck. Thank you for caring so much about this child. What a bright light you must be in her life.
I do hope you still contact the authorities about the other two children. You are doing all you can to look after your daughter's friend, but the other two girls also have the right to have a responsible adult taking care of them.
OP--as a social worker who has worked in child welfare, I don't think you've done anything particularly wrong. I would have handled things a bit differently, but I think your heart is totally in the right place, you had good reasons behind a lot of your choices, and a lot of the responses you've gotten are so totally over the top I can't believe it. No normal social worker in her right mind is going to think you kidnapped this kid as a sex slave. Come on.
I totally agree.
OP, i wish i wouldve commented earlier...but i dont think you did anything wrong and while personally i would have called the mom earlier, i get the feeling you wanted to see just how long it would take her to contact YOU. To see if she is as neglectful as you presume (which, apparently she is.)
If i were you, i'd not word it as asking the mom for "custody" which might be kind of a hot button for her, like you're wanting to "steal" her kid. Asking for custody is like telling her she's a bad mom and cant raise her child, that you're doing a better job (which we know you ARE but she wont want to hear that ;) ) I'd phrase it something like "Jane, little Susie has had such a great time here over the summer and my daughter is soooo happy she is here! The new school my kids are going to is a really great one, and i was wondering if there is ANY way you'd consider letting Susie stay here with us and going to school up here?? Of course you could see her whenever you want but its just been great having her around." and see what she says. If she says "wow yeah, you sure you dont mind? i'd hate to impose on you but she really likes it up there!" then you can go further "yeah...it would be great. only problem is of course in enrolling her in school. Theyre gonna want official paperwork, i cant just sign her up. I think if you signed some kind of temporary guardianship papers, that would let me do stuff like enroll her in school, get medical treatment if its necessary etc..." see what she thinks. Maybe let her sit with the idea for a few days and call her back and say "so i was talking with my legal guy, he says in order to do this the legal way we'd have to do xyz...i wouldnt want to get in trouble by trying to enroll her without proper documentation, and i wouldnt want to cause trouble for you by someone thinking i stole your kid LOL!" i would just avoid any kind of "you're neglecting your kid" talk....
to me the most important thing right now is getting this girl in your home legally. You can cross the bridge of what is going on with the other kids after you get those papers signed. Because honestly....if you call now, she isnt going to let you see any of the kids, and social services are likely to check in on her, she'll cover well, the kids will cover, there will be food in the fridge and the house will be tidy and nothing further will happen. Unless there is obvious drug use on the part of the parent or something happens and the police happen to be called while there is active neglect going on (like they come in when she's out of the country and the kids have no food) nothing will happen. Thats just my opinion but thats how i feel.
Maybe you can approach it like "I know how important school is to our girls and I have to tell you, this school district is amazing. What do you think about sending her to my daughter's school? She can stay with us and go to the same school with daughter. All I'd need from you is for you to give me authority to make decisions on her behalf like school stuff or heaven forbid medical - other than that - we wouldn't need anything other than you to call her and visit when you are able." How does that sound?
I like QJ and SF's suggestions. If it were me, I would take a step back from there, and say something like QJ mentioned about how great it would be for the kids to go to school together in the fall, and see how she reacts. If she seems like its a good idea, you can leave it at something non threatening like "oh I'll find out what paperwork and stuff I need to register the girls and I'll let you know when friend comes back in Aug". Then, when mom comes back next month to drop friend off, you'll have more info to give mom, sort of splitting the blow so to speak, and when you talk again you make it sounds like its the school that needs this legal paperwork and not so much that its coming from you. She might take it better that way and not feel as threatened.
Good luck, and please keep us posted on how things are going!
Proud mom of three! Special needs teen princess , 7 year old happy girl , and my flower toddler
Where is her father in this situation? Does he live at their house or somewhere else? It sounds like he is involved. he has a say in where his daughter goes. If the mom does let her stay with you then you need to get permission from him too.
I approached a mom about custody and got power of attorney, then guardianship and finally adoption in less than a year. I just said that I knew things were difficult and that he had expressed wanting to stay with us. We said that we were more than happy to do so and would be willing to arrange visits. She agreed.