Can a child pick their guardian?

Q: We know a 14-year-old child who has been living with her mother and grandmother, but the mother lost custody and it was given to the grandmother. However, the mother still stays in the home when she is not allowed to and is still on drugs, but the child is treated poorly for reporting her mother and is too afraid to do it again. Can she choose to go to a non-relative that has been helping her? Her grandmother is telling her if she reports them, she will go to a family she doesn’t know, and she can’t choose the person who has been helping her. (Brookline, PA)

A: There is a general rule in PA that at age 14 a child can decide where they wish to live (if reasonable and safe). Also, if the family friend is willing to take her, and would meet a background check and home assessment from Children Youth and Families of Allegheny County, and if no other appropriate placement person came forward, CYF may very well place the child with that person. CYF will not place the child with her 18-year-old boyfriend or someone with a deplorable home or lengthy criminal history. I would speak with an attorney in your area versed in child custody and juvenile dependency.

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