Q: What are the child custody rights for grandparents? My grandchild was removed from my daughter’s care and placed in an interim foster home since is weekend. What should I do to get her back to us and stay with me? Thanks.
A: It is far better for your granddaughter to be in your care than in the care of foster parents. You will love her and care for her in a way that foster parents just cannot.
But, you have to act fast. I have done many of these cases. To get your granddaughter, you have to do these things immediately:
First, you must get in touch with a good lawyer who does child protection law – a lawyer that specializes in doing cases involving children’s aid societies and child custody rights. You want to be at the court for the first appearance to tell the judge that your granddaughter should be with you. There is a LOT to do to get that to happen at the first appearance, but it is important to ask the judge to do that right away. For more information on that see this page. The longer your granddaughter stays in care, the harder it will be to get her out. If the judge allows your daughter to stay in foster care at the first appearance, she will likely be there for at least a month before the matter is back before the court again. That is a long time for your daughter, a long time for you not to see her, and it makes it harder to get her out of foster care “once she has settled in.” Your case is an “emergency” so the lawyer should see you right away and start working on your case right away. (This may cost you some money, but your granddaughter is worth it. To understand how lawyer’s bill see this page.
Go to the police station closest to your home and ask for a “vulnerable sector check” in addition to a criminal record check. Before a judge or CAS will want to put a child in someone’s care, they will both want some assurance that you are not criminals who have hurt children before (think of the coroner’s case in Toronto right now involving Catholic Children’s Aid …). The vulnerable sector check is a more complete check, but to takes longer. The criminal record check may get done quickly, and you will want to give it to the CAS and the court right away to have your child placed with you.
Get some friends and neighbours together who will write letters, and eventually swear affidavits, saying you are good people and would be good parents for your granddaughter. You also want to get your doctor to say that you are healthy, don’t have any mental illness and that you would be excellent parents. You will want to give this information to the CAS and the Court right away, so you want it ready when you see the lawyer.
Call the Children’s Aid Society first thing on Monday and ask to speak to the worker handling your granddaughter’s file. Leave a voicemail message or email if you do not get through. Tell the worker that you want to “plan” for your granddaughter. That means you want your granddaughter placed in your care. Under section 50(3.1) of the Child and Family Service Act, the Court must giver preference to placing your granddaughter over leaving her in foster care. However, sometimes judges want the Children’s Aid Society to investigate you first, and sometimes they are slow to do that (which is why you should do all the steps above).
When you speak to the Children’s Aid Society, there are some things to remember:
You have to be really nice to them. Even if they are being obnoxious, they will not agree to place your granddaughter with you unless they feel they can “work with you.” So, you have to be cooperative, even more than you think you should, to convince the CAS workers that they can “work with you.”
You must express that your primary concern is your granddaughter, not your daughter. The CAS is concerned about protecting children, not their parents. If the CAS thinks you are more interested in helping your daughter, they will not place your granddaughter with you because they will assume you will not protect your granddaughter from whatever they think your daughter did.
You must tell the CAS that you accept that your daughter might have done what they allege, even if you don’t believe that she did. The CAS believes that your daughter did something terrible, that is why they took your granddaughter away. If you don’t express openness to the possibility that the CAS is right, then the agency will think you will not protect your granddaughter from your daughter, or the types of dangers to which your daughter exposed your grand-daughter. Keep in mind when you are speaking to the CAS that if there are criminal charges against your daughter, they will tell everything you say to the police. So you have to walk a fine line of accepting that the allegations might be true, without confirming that they are true, which will help the police in the criminal case.
Be prepared to open up everything about your life to the CAS. They will want to investigate every nook and cranny of your life, going back a long way. They will want to know how you could have raised a daughter who did the terrible things they say your daughter did. They will want to make sure you are very good people before they place your granddaughter with you. They will want references, police record checks, and authorizations to speak to all the professionals (doctors, therapists, etc.) that have helped you.
Make sure your house is suitable for your granddaughter to live in – before the CAS comes to visit. Make sure it very clean. If it has to baby proofed than do it. If you have to convert a hobby room into a child’s room or nursery, than do it. The CAS will not put your granddaughter into your care unless they are convinced that you are ready to care for her. The best way to show you are ready is to have your home ready.
There is a lot more to know about dealing with children’s aid societies. There are a lot of traps you can fall into. It can be very frustrating. You need a lawyer to be at your side. You may also want to get a copy of this $20, easy-to-understand book on Ontario Family Law. It has a chapter on children’s aid society cases and it describes the court process in detail so you know what you are in for. There will be a court order that places conditions on you if your daughter is placed with you, so you need to understand the law and your situation to protect yourself while you are protecting your granddaughter.
But, it is almost certain that your granddaughter will do much better in your care in than in foster care.
If you would like more information about child custody rights for grandparents, please contact Toronto Family Lawyer John Schuman at (416)-446-5080.