Q: Since it’s 2018 and marijuana is legalized in most States as recreational and medical, will they still take the child if she is born with marijuana in their system? I am asking for a friend. (Forest Hills, PA)
A: Marijuana is still illegal in PA. CYF can remove a child with drugs in her system at birth, especially where there are other signs of parental abuse or neglect. I think the issue is more complicated and not so black and white if the mother has a medical marijuana card, but CYF can still remove. I would suggest that your friend obtain a parent advocate attorney.
Q: My mother and father had full parental rights of my two nephews. They were removed from their custody 1 month ago and placed with their step grandfather. I told CYS I would take them but was denied. They said it was because my spouse has DISMISSED charges in his past (driving without a license, no insurance, assault), and because they feel it would be too hard to do monthly checks if they were in my care. I live in PA the children are in WVA. They are being removed from their step grandfather’s care today and being placed in a foster home. Is there not anything else I can do to get them in my care? (Mt. Pleasant, PA)
A: Normally this child protective law is administered by each state but is under federal guidelines, so every state runs a similar program. It sounds like you are offering yourself as a kinship placement resource and the child agency is telling you that you are not a suitable placement resource. Dismissed criminal charges should be no problem and the monthly check things sounds suspicious. The child agency in WVA can work out an agreement to transfer the case to PA through the Interstate Compact Law, assuming WVA is a member which I believe they are. In that case, Charleston would communicate with Harrisburg, and the local agency in PA (your county) there would do a home study on your house and get the case ready to transfer. If you are serious about this, you can hire a lawyer in WVA to file a petition with the court asking for you to be considered as a placement resource by CYF and to be heard at the next court hearing. If you do not hire an attorney, you will need to appear at the hearings and tell the judge who you are and what you want. The judge may order the agency to investigate you as a potential placement resource and do a home study on you and get things moving with some supervised visitation.
Q: CYF made us sign safety plan and our baby is home. Can they say the safety plan is gone based on criminal no contact order? Cops were called and told us last time they would call CYF if they were called again (stupid fights never violent). Our baby was never in any danger. This incident they arrested both of us, but he is STILL in jail on a non-violent probation violation. His “violation” is the new Simple Assault charge. There was automatic court ordered no contact order and after 60 days they checked our home, and he said he doesn’t really see why CYF is involved, etc. He said the safety plan was “over” yet it isn’t a closed CYF case. He said it was over and seemed to hint that is based upon the “no contact order” the court put against my boyfriend, so he couldn’t contact me. We are getting married when he gets out, we are a FAMILY and I want to know if CYF is legally allowed to base a safety plan or decisions about it on the sole fact of the no contact order that has nothing to do with CYF. Please help? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If you are asking if CYF can put a safety plan in the home because of a criminal court no contact order, my answer would be yes. CYF can act based on the threat of harm to a child in the home. Domestic violence is such a threat. A no contact order will help keep the child in the home, but if CYF believes it is not being followed they can remove the child for safety concerns. I would follow the no contact order and cooperate with CYF to keep my child. A child witnessing even “stupid fights…” between parents can be harmful to the child’s development and mental well-being. My advice would be for the father to complete anger management and both of you complete parenting. This will give CYF added assurance that this will not happen again, and the child is safe. I advise you to get counsel. If you cannot afford counsel, call the Allegheny County Juvenile Court Project and sign up for a parent advocate. They are good attorneys and will give you proper advice.
Q: CYF called me about bruises on my son from school. He plays soccer. Now they want to do a drug and alcohol evaluation. Do I have to take it? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: No, you don’t have to comply. The question is, will CYF pressure you more, perhaps by filing a dependency petition if you do not comply? No one can answer this question without knowing more facts. I would advise speaking with an attorney who is experienced in Juvenile Dependency. You can call the Allegheny County Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (412-261-6161) for a referral to a private attorney who is experienced in that type of law. If you cannot afford a private attorney, call the Allegheny County Bar Association and ask for the Juvenile Court Project. They will put you in touch with the Parent Advocates. They can advise if you qualify for representation, and if so, advise you how to proceed.
Q: My daughter is 17 and will be 18 in six months. She has serious behavioral issues. She has been in and out of hospitals her whole life. She is in a psych ward now for locking herself in a teacher’s lounge at school and threatening harm. My ex-wife, who have full custody of her and my 15 year-old son, doesn’t want our daughter released to her and has said a court will force me to take her. I don’t want her. Can I be forced to take her? We can’t have her issues in our house. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: You cannot be forced to take custody of her. If your ex-wife will not let her in her home, or refuses to take her home from the hospital, CYF will be called to take temporary custody of her. You will be called and offered temporary custody as well. if you don’t want her, she will be placed in a shelter and eventually placed in foster care if found to be a dependent child. As a biological parent, you and the mother will be responsible to reimburse CYF for all the money it spends on her care if she remains in foster care. I suggest you and your wife seek help for her whether it is through the courts, the school, CYF, etc. My suggestion is to call KIDS VOICE in Pittsburgh.
Q: My child was taken out of my care and placed with her grandmother on some fake allegations by my ex. I’m still receiving child support for said child. Can I get in trouble if I take the money? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If this child is dependent and CYF is paying this caretaker, then the child support should go to the county and not you. I would need more details, but I think it is possible you can be ordered to pay this back after the county attorneys get involved. Normally, if a child is in a paid placement, the parents can be sued by the county for support. I would call the Family Division or visit them and get behind this early.
Q: A friend of mine’s daughter, age 15, was dating a 20-year-old. My friend did know about the relationship and was okay with it. Her daughter got pregnant with this gentleman. Now the thing is, she’s afraid since CYF became recently involved with them, they will take her daughter away who is now 16 and press charges on the gentleman who is now 21. Can he be charged with statutory rape even if the relationship was Allowed by her mother?
A: Yes, I am afraid that is a violation of the law. At a minimum, he can be charged with Statutory Sexual Assault and Corruption of Minors. Children, Youth and Families cannot press criminal charges but can refer the matter to police who will interview her and decide whether to file. Additionally, if your friend, the parent of the girl was “okay with it”, and the police find out, he can be charged with Endangering the Welfare of Children, commonly known as EWOC in the trade.
Q: The mother of my child is hiding a wanted homicide suspect and has drugs out in the open. CYF goes in takes custody of my daughter. THE CYF lady calls me a day later tells me there is a shelter hearing. At the shelter hearing CYF said they don’t recommend me because my background checks haven’t come back yet. The judge awards me physical and legal custody anyway now they are basically bullying me into visits after mom threatened to take my daughter. Also, they are saying I have to do classes a “community conference” drug tests and a few other things. Do I have rights as a parent and person or do I have to go along with the show also can I fight so my daughter doesn’t go back to mom or is it up to CYF. (North Braddock, PA)
A: You absolutely have rights as a parent in the juvenile dependency action. You will do better with an attorney asserting those rights for you at the next shelter hearing or review hearing. There are not many attorneys who handle juvenile dependency but there are a few who know that system well. You may want to find one. If you are drug free let them test you as much as they want. Unless your clearances come back with child sex offenses or child lines, as a biological parent, you cannot be denied custody due to a criminal history. As pointed out by my colleague, you can file for custody as well. You can always go through Generations but you may want to initiate Family Division custody with a motion to your assigned judge.