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Being a Legal Guardian
I'm looking for advice regarding how I can get guardianship of my 3 very young grandchildren. The children have been living with me pretty much since they were born. There have been brief, very brief, periods of time when my daughter lived in her own home, but for the most part they have all lived with me.
I was in the middle of getting my BA from UCB, but my daughter put an end to that for me. The problem is that she keeps vanishing and leaving me to deal with her children. I had to drop my classes because I was left with the kids and had no one to take care of them when she took off.
At the present time, I am trying to find a job so that I can support us. I don't want my daughter in my home any more and I don't know how I can keep her out. I am willing to be the guardian of my grandchildren, but I don't know how to do it. I don't know if I can get guardianship of the kids since I am unemployed.
I've tried legal aid and the bar association. Neither can help me now. I can not get the preschool child registered for school (K this fall) nor can I take any of the kids to the doctor because I am not their legal guardian. I don't know where else to turn to for advice.
What I do know is that I am tired of dealing with my daughter coming in and out of my home and leaving me to deal with the kids by myself. She needs to get help for her drug/alcohol problems, but she refuses to admit that she has a problem.
Does any one have any advice for me? I am so ashamed to be in this situation, but I am at my wits end and could use any advice at all. Laura
If you don't qualify for their services you can do it yourself by petitioning the probate court in Alameda County for Guardianship. I would suggest purchasing a book on how to file for Guardianship in pro per (without a lawyer) from Nolo Press, a legal do-it-yourself book publisher in Berkeley (you can go to their store on Parker Street in Berkeley, or order online or even get it at Barnes and Noble). Their books are very user friendly, explain the whole process and usually have the forms you need in the book. If you get the petition filed, the court will work with you, many of the people in family/probate court are not represented by attorneys, the courts are used to this and they are usually pretty patient with people. You will have to give notice of the petition to your daughter and the kids' father and any adult siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles. As long as no one contests it, which seems doubtful from what you describe, it will be straight forward. A court investigator will interview you, visit your home, talk to the children, the court may appoint a lawyer to represent the children. Even if someone does contest it, don't panic, see it through it will come out the way it should. Once you have legal guardianship I believe that you can apply to social services for benefits for the children as a ''non-needy caregiver.'' Good luck. anon
There also is a nonprofit organization in Alameda County called Legal Assistance for Seniors that does grandparent guardianships. They may be able to you help you. Check out:
You have to show the court that 1) guardianship is in these children's best interest and 2) that you are the right person to be guardian. There will be a home visit, a criminal background check (of you), and an investigation from a court investigator. Obviously the stability of your own situation would always be an issue, but that doesn't mean you have to live in a mansion. If the children have a history of being in your care and are clean, clothed, and fed--those are great beginnings. There are resources such as non-needy relative caregiver support (or possibly need-based in your situation if you have no income) that can help as well.
Good luck! a court investigator from another county
Our family has just learned that my sister-in-law, L., has pancreatic cancer. She may have 6 to 12 months to live. Her husband was killed in an acident 8 years ago, so she is the single parent. Her 13 year old daughter (only child) has epilepsy and a severe developmental delay. This is unbearable bad news, and I really need some advice quick. L. has a sister, and it will be either me (and my husband and 2 young boys) or L.'s sister who will adapt the daugher. It is L. strong will that I adapt her daughter, because L. and her sister have had a very rocky past. While I am willing and able to do this, I feel her sister is really a better choice because she lives in the area (so daughter would not have to leave everything familiar), and has 4 grown daughters of her own that have a great realationship with the daughter. Also, they are of the same culture as L., and i would not be able to provide any of this cultural richness. How do we all, as a family and of course including L., decide what is best for the daughter? What type of person can help us with this? Social workers? Psychologist? Daughter's doctors? School? What legal issues do we need to deal with, such as adpot or become legal gaurdians before or after mothers death? And, if anyone has adopted a teenage disabled girl, do you have any advice or considerations? And also, I am in my 40s and have been through cancer twice with my parents generation, but never with someone my age, let alone a single parent. Is there anything I can say or do that would help L. feel better, at least for a few moments? It seems so hopeless and so sad. We are all really in shock and cannot believe this is really happening, but I am so worried for the daughter- who will have lost both parents! Thank you for any help. Mom in shock
You did not say what sort of developmental disability the daughter suffers from.. Is she capable of taking care of her daily needs (eating, walking, etc..)? I think that the arrangement might differ based on the disability.. It sounds cold but what about the financial angle? Are you financially able to take care of her? A big factor here should be what the daughter(if she is able to make that decision)wants. Make sure that her mother, with help from the family, sets up a trust or something like that for the girl so that she is at least financially supported. Whereever she ends up, atleast she won't also be considered a financial liability.. I am so sorry for you her and Lynne. I would suggest talk to an estate planner to cover the financial angle. And go with what the girl wants for guardianship.. I think that if she really wants to go live the Lynne's sister, Lynne would probably come around to it. Kids ! don't generally like adults unless they are liked back. My two cents.. Best wishes Life can be so unfair sometimes
2) The Mother's Living Stories Project ''brings compassion, support in parenting, and dignity to mothers living with cancer while raising children by helping them record life stories and living legacies.'' A highly trained ''listener'' works with the mother to process her parenting-related issues in order to put together a legacy of her life for her child when she's gone. The listeners are quite booked but the Director, Linda Blachman, said they may have someone available in Berkeley/Oakland or Danville/LaMorinda to help Lynne record her story and give some support. There is no charge for these services. Linda couldn't promise, but was deeply moved by Lynne's situation and said you should call her at the Project at 510-466-5053.
3) The Project has published a Parenting Through Cancer Resource Guide that's available for viewing on their web site at http://www.motherslivingstories.org. Their video documentary of mothers and listeners is also moving and uplifting. There are so few parenting-specific resources for mothers with cancer. I would encourage those concerned about this to make a tax-deductible donation to the Mothers Living Stories Project at 2011 Cedar, Berkeley 94109 to help keep their doors open and further this remarkable work. Lenore
My husband and I are discussing whether to foster a 10-year-old son of a cousin of mine. This boy has not had a stable family life from the get-go. Now changes have occured in his life that make it possible to bring him to live with my family. Physically and logistically we can do it. We have the financial means and we have the room in our house. The big deal for my husband and I is, ''Do we want the drama?'' It sounds harsh, but we are concerned about how bringing in this boy, with all of his emotional needs, into our nice secure little family of four (we have two kids under 5). Past experience has shown that this boy's family is emotionally and physically abusive. Both my husband and I grew up in dysfunctional families and we escaped from that cycle. We would prefer to keep our children out of it. We are concerned that if we foster this boy, we will become inudated with hassle and drama from his family.
What to do? I feel like helping this little boy but I am also concerned with the effect it will have on my kids. I would appreciate similar experiences people have had and how it affected your family (both good and bad). Thank you. Anon
I applaud your good-heartedness in thinking about giving this child a loving home. Another Mom
In 1994, my partner's teenage niece attempted suicide after living in an alcoholic dysfunctional family for many years. At the time, we had no children of our own so we had an extra bedroom plus out of everyone in the extended family, we lived closest to the community where she attended high school.
We made the decision to ask her to live with us because we were convinced that providing a safe haven for her so she could complete high school and go on to college was paramount and, honestly, we were terrified that the next attempt at suicide would be successful.
During the five years she lived with us, we dealt with many of the issues step parents and/or foster parents live with:
(1) divided loyalty on the part of the child between dysfuntional/irresponsible bio parents and foster parents who are doing the actual day-to-day work of parenting. (If my niece's parents insisted on seeing her on major holidays, we felt obliged to agree for her sake but also felt unappreciated and hurt)
(2) divided loyalties on your part as you parent someone who you may not know or trust as much as your own children. (I often felt more comfortable disciplining my own children and sometimes felt that they respected/loved me more because they were mine)
(3) Potential conflicts within your own extended family. (We felt obliged to spend almost every Christmas with my partner's extended family and my niece's bio dad who we deeply resented was there too because we didn't want our foster kid to have to choose BETWEEN parents on major holidays)
Professional couseling, lots of tears, lots of communication during family meetings, and faith/hope that it would work out in the end kept us going.
My niece/foster kid is a wonderful adult now and we are great friends. She will be attending graduate school this fall.
It was maddening, exhausting, and exhilarating parenting someone who needs so much love and nurturing but it is the thing I am most proud of having done. anon
I would be happy to discuss this further with you, if you would like more detail. My best to you and your family. Cindy
I have taken in my 14 year old niece and would like some advice on legal guardianship. Her parents are divorced and are not contributing to her living expenses. I would like to add her to my health insurance and apply for any financial assistance available while she is under my care at least until her parents can get their act together. Does anyone out there know what I can do to seek legal guardianship? anonymous
Again, this service is for kids. Please don't call for a child custody modification order. You will be sent to the Bar Association referral number. Best wishes for a happy home. Jenifer
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