Dear Dr. Michelle:
My 3-year-old granddaughter lives with her mom across state lines in Wisconsin. She has been taken away from her for a 2nd time and now my granddaughter lives with a foster family. We were her foster family the first time. We are trying to get her back with us because there is no reason for her to be with a strange family. My son has been trying to get her back as well, but his lawyer has not been helpful. We need to drive several hours for very short visits and the last time we visited it looked like her hair was not brushed. She is also potty-training and had an accident, but it was the case manager who had brought a change of clothes, not the foster family. When we took her to the bathroom to change her shorts, she was not wearing underwear. What can we do to help get her back with our family?
I am sorry that your granddaughter does not live with you during this difficult time. When it is safe to do so, it is better for children to live with family, and I am glad to hear that you are advocating to keep your family together.
Communicate With the Case Manager
If you have not already done so, you need to contact the case manager that has been assigned to your granddaughter and explicitly state your desire to take care of her full-time. While there may be more paperwork to have children live with family across state lines, this is not usually a barrier in keeping children with family members.
It appears you have contact with the case manager during visits, so if this person is not responsive, use this time to inquire why you are not an option to care for your granddaughter. Most states are following federal guidelines to place children with a child’s extended family (referred to as kindred care) instead of having them live with a foster family. Wisconsin is a state that is committed to kindred care. You can learn more about this specific state by following this link. For information on other states, search the state name and “kinship care”.
Since you have fostered your granddaughter in the past, there must be a reason they are not giving you this option again, and you have the right to know why. Usually, reasons are related to concerns about the child’s safety. If the case manager is not direct with you, call the social service department and speak to a supervisor.
Don’t give up until you get an answer. If they are not involving you in the process, nor sharing with you the problems, hire an attorney who specializes in fostering and adoption and have them pursue kindred placement on your behalf. An attorney should at least be able to find out the reasons why the state is not using you as a placement option. If you do learn of concerns that the state has with you or your home, take their concerns seriously and try not to minimize their perspective even if you disagree. Do everything you can to follow any requirements they have for you and be sure to document your efforts.
Take Legal Action
Regarding your concerns for your granddaughter’s care – report your concerns to the case manager, and do not hesitate to call the Wisconsin abuse hotline and report any concerns you have about neglect or abuse. Here is the information to make a report in Wisconsin.
Just be aware that making a report does not automatically mean something will be done. State authorities will determine if your concerns require investigation. But do not let their lack of investigating deter you from calling and making a report if you have legitimate concerns about your granddaughter’s safety.
In relation to your son, I am glad to hear he is trying to get his daughter back. To support his success, help him follow the requirements set forth by the state, the same as suggested above in your case if applicable. If his current attorney is not helping, hire a different one. It’s important that you find a good fit.
Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature. The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.