Opioid addiction in the U.S. has highlighted a problem that grandparents face, when they attempt to step in to support their grandchildren. There are some legal actions available for grandparents, according to an article in the Chillicothe Gazette concerning legal tips from a Southern Ohio Legal Services attorney “Need to help care for grandchildren? Here’s some legal tips.”
Depending on the state and the circumstances, these steps may also be useful for others seeking to help young children in their families:
Visitation rights: Grandparents can file to get visitation with their grandchildren in most states. The court will determine whether it is in the best interest of the child.
Grandparent power of attorney: In most states this requires the consent of the parent. However, it is a means by which grandparents can legally perform certain actions for their grandchildren, such as getting medical treatment or enrolling them in school. Parents have the right to revoke this at any time, although it is a faster process than other options.
Caretaker authorization: If the parent has left the children and no one knows where they are, but legal authorization like seeking medical treatment or interacting with the school is needed, a caretaker authorization can be granted by the court. The parent can revoke this at any time. However, in some situations, grandparents might be able to delay the parent taking the kids for up to two weeks. This delay also requires filing for custody.
Kinship placement: When children are removed from the care of their parents, courts and agencies often look to a relative for emergency placement. If grandparents can agree for a longer placement, a background check and a class may be the next step for evaluation. If approved, Child Services will retain legal custody, but you have rights to care for your grandchild in the meantime.
Custody: This is an emotionally challenging process because grandparents have to show that their adult children are not suited to rear their own children. It can be a difficult thing to attain and parents can push back in many ways. However, once custody of grandchildren is attained, it makes applying for medical assistance, cash assistance and food stamps possible. The parents may not qualify for some benefits, but the children may. That also includes Social Security and child support.
Adoption: This is the final step, since it permanently severs the legal rights of the parents. Parents can agree for their children to be adopted or a court order can allow adoption.
Reference: Chillicothe Gazette (Oct. 8, 2018) “Need to help care for grandchildren? Here’s some legal tips”