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lm728
06-20-2009, 07:19 PM
In my WIP, the MC wins a scholarship to a boarding school.
Her mother refuses to sign the legally-binding contract, BUT she did sign the release form a few months back, stating that if MC were to win said scholarship, they would follow through and sign the other contract.
The MC talks to the school counselor (who she gave the scholarship application to), and explains her current situation (Mom is jobless, they're on welfare, Dad has stopped sending alimony checks, and MC has to work a part-time job). She also hints about mother being abusive/alcoholic.
So, I guess the counselor sets up a visit to home from some social worker/psychologist of some kind (ie CPA). House is dirty, unkempt, there are dirty dishes everywhere, mold, water cut off, etc.

If the social worker sees that the MC's mother is unfit to be a legal guardian (alcoholic, abusive), can she sign off on the contract instead (so MC gets scholarship to a boarding school), and appoint another guardian, at least temporarily?

Or is there any way in which the mother (firmly against the scholarship) can be forced to sign?

Is this situation reasonable?

Also, what would be the career agency the social worker refers the mom to, to find a job?

Thanks!

*Edited, since Tsu Dho Nimh already answered some questions.

Tsu Dho Nimh
06-20-2009, 09:02 PM
In my WIP, the MC wins a scholarship to a boarding school.
Her mother refuses to sign the legally-binding contract, BUT she did sign the release form a few months back.

The parent or legal guardian has to sign the admission forms - what was the release form for? To apply for the scholarship?


The MC talks to the school counselor (who she gave the scholarship application to), and explains her current situation (Mom is jobless, they're on welfare, Dad has stopped sending alimony checks, and MC has to work a part-time job). So, I guess the counselor sets up a visit to home from some social worker/psychologist of some kind (ie CPA agent).

The likely course would be for the counselor to call the mom and talk with her about the scholarship, because CPS is called when a child's health and safety are endangered, not when a school form isn't signed.

The tack I would take, as the counselor, would be to point out that having the kid with a full scholarship to a boarding school would be an economic relief, and give the mom a chance to get back on her feet.


If the social worker sees that the MC's mother is unfit to be a legal guardian, can she sign off on the contract instead (so MC gets scholarship), and appoint another guardian, at least temporarily?

Absolutely NOT without a whole passel of legalities, including court orders, hearings and such to have the mother declared unfit, and then the dad becomes guardian (whether he wants to or not) and only if they can't find family to take her does the MC get a court-appointed guardian.

Poverty does not equal "unfit"! Beating the MC severely enough to hospitalize her, making meth in the bathroom, turning tricks on the couch while the MC is trying to study ... even then it's not a fast decision. MC would be put into foster care before the hearings.


Also, what would be the career agency social worker/CPA agent refers the mom to, to find a job?

The welfare office would have employment counselors.

************
But a lot of this varies from state to state, county to county. I suggest you look up the social agencies in the state this takes place in and get a feel for what is real. I only know AZ.

suki
06-20-2009, 09:18 PM
In my WIP, the MC wins a scholarship to a boarding school.
Her mother refuses to sign the legally-binding contract, BUT she did sign the release form a few months back.
The MC talks to the school counselor (who she gave the scholarship application to), and explains her current situation (Mom is jobless, they're on welfare, Dad has stopped sending alimony checks, and MC has to work a part-time job).
So, I guess the counselor sets up a visit to home from some social worker/psychologist of some kind (ie CPA agent).

If the social worker sees that the MC's mother is unfit to be a legal guardian, can she sign off on the contract instead (so MC gets scholarship), and appoint another guardian, at least temporarily?

Is this situation reasonable?

Also, what would be the career agency social worker/CPA agent refers the mom to, to find a job?

Thanks!

First, I assume this is contemporary United States. Second, what the agency is called will vary from state to state, locality to locality, and what services they offer will also vary. So, you have some research to do, once you id the location.

And I think you'll need to find someone within the system to ask more detailed questions. But, I'll give you my impressions.

There's a lot to unpack in this question, but I will start with the most problematic for me:

"(Mom is jobless, they're on welfare, Dad has stopped sending alimony checks, and MC has to work a part-time job).
So, I guess the counselor sets up a visit to home from some social worker/psychologist of some kind (ie CPA agent).

If the social worker sees that the MC's mother is unfit to be a legal guardian,"

First, I don't see a school guidance counselor calling social services/child protective services merely because mom won't let her go to the school. Parents get to make those decisions for their kids, even when others think it's for the wrong reasons or not in the kid's best interest.

Second, I don't think you will have satisfied the burden to find mom unfit or the girl in need to placement in foster care with the facts identified. It's a higher burden than you think, and mom merely jobless, in many, many cases, isn't sufficient. Generally they only remove kids on emergency removals in the most dire of circumstances. Again, depending somewhat on locality and how stressed the system is (ie, a kid in NYC has to be in much worse situation sometimes than a kid in suburban NJ b/c of how overstressed the child welfare system is, but a kid in a rural town might get fast help or the need for help ignored, depending on how well-developed the services are and how intrusive they are).

BUT, in general, I'd think mom would need to be completely unfit - ie, abusive, alcohol/drug dependent, mentally or physically ill to the point of not being able to care for the girl, etc... before social services would try to remove the girl.

So, this doesn't sound like enough.

The third concern with the set up is what happens after the girl is removed (if that can be supported). If the girl is removed from her mother's custody, she would then be removed on an emergency placement and put in foster care or there would be a long process where the mother would be able to argue to keep her.

And, if she was removed, she'd likely go to a group home first, later maybe a foster family, assuming there is no other family to be guardian.

I find it unlikely the authorities would send her to a boarding school, and definitely not one outside their jurisdiction.

And even with a scholarship, there would be other costs usually that a foster system couldn't cover. Including the travel to and from the school.

So, I think the best way to make this work is that mom needs to be entirely unfit (incapacitated, abusive, missing, even temporarily sick or depressed to a sufficient standard that she can't care for the girl) OR she needs to voluntarily give guardianship to someone else - like a relative.

And then the relative or guardian - whether the mother signed over guardianship or the court removed the girl against mom's wishes - could be made her guardian by the court (even temporarily) and that person could sign off if they choose, I think.

But I think if you actually get her into foster care, the school would have to be local, and she would have to have a somewhat permanent foster placement - unlikely to happen in the span of months.

One of the difficult things for kids in the system not in long term foster families is being moved from placement to placement that keeps changing their school.

If you decide to pursue this plotting, find someone who has worked in social services and ask very specific questions to make sure it will work.

good luck.

~suki

RJK
06-20-2009, 09:19 PM
All good points above. If the true motivation for the mother's refusal to let the daughter go, is the loss of the income from the job, they could approach the problem from two angles. One the daughter's income only covers her expenses and her leaving would zero out the family income. Two, if all else fails, the daughter could threaten to quit her job and the mother would lose the income anyway.

Smiling Ted
06-20-2009, 09:37 PM
You might consider emancipation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipated_minor).

Aquilegia
06-20-2009, 09:44 PM
This idea might be way out there and all wrong for your story, but you did ask “Or is there any way in which the mother (firmly against the scholarship) can be forced to sign?” :-)

What if the daughter befriends a thug-type guy who comes over and forces the mother to sign? I mean he scares the bejeesus out of her, roughs her up, literally holds a gun to her head and forces her to sign. Then the daughter runs away under protection of the thug. The thug could be a soft-hearted Hell’s Angel the MC tells her story to (maybe he had an alki mom, too) and he feels bad for her and wants to help. Obviously this would have to be done carefully to avoid witnesses and the girl would have to pretend to have accepted the mother’s decision in order not to arouse suspicion. Plus the MC may well end up in way over her head with other problems.

Just a thought…

lm728
06-20-2009, 09:58 PM
Aquilegia--Haha, that's a solution. It's set in the South Bronx, so... :D

The problem with emancipation is that it would take too slowly, and affect the pacing.

The mom is mentally ill, yes. I guess I'll just...have the MC forge her mom's signature, threaten to cut her off completely from any money she may have made with the internship, and then run away.

Rabe
06-20-2009, 10:08 PM
In my WIP, the MC wins a scholarship to a boarding school.

I'm sorry, it seems some of the responses you've received have focused on the wrong thing you said about the counselor sending CPS to the girl's house to check up on them. It is NOT because the mom refused to sign the paperwork allowing her daughter to go to the school but because the daughter is alleging abuse and neglect.

Counselors keep many things private - but in the case of suspected abuse/neglect they have an obligation to report. The counselor should already be aware of this girl's history of absenteeism yet having decent (even above average apparently) grades and aptitudes. So the counselor hearing about the alcoholism or abuse from the girl would go a long way to suspecting that.

Then CPS wouldn't come and take the girl away because of the failure to sign the boarding school contracts but because of the conditions of the house. Completely filthy? Check. No running water (meaning unsanitary conditions)? Check. Mold, creating a health hazard? Check. How about food available in the house? What other conditions are there? Are there signs of abuse going on?

Based on these conditions any CPS worker that *DOESN'T* remove the MINOR child (and how old is she?) from these conditions is completely failing in their duty. Does that happen? Yep. But when the child gets worse, they're on the hook civilly as well as their department.

Another question here - what kind of parental rights does the father have? Does he still have parental rights? If so, why doesn't she just go to her father and have him sign? Or, depending on how the child is, go the route where she petitions the court for the right to have the contract considered valid and she be allowed to attend the school? I can't see any reason why the court wouldn't do it. There is no financial hardship for the child, it'll give the mother a break and the freedom to work on her issues and get her affairs in order as well. Plus, if it's a really good school then it could help set her up professionally later in life.

So, the beginning of your scenario is actually very valid. However CPS wouldn't be able to sign for the girl to go to the school as they don't have legal guardian status. The child becomes a ward of the court and the court can decide to have her 'placed' in the care of the school with the headmaster or dean responsible for her wellbeing while she is there.

Rabe...

dgiharris
06-21-2009, 03:24 AM
Or is there any way in which the mother (firmly against the scholarship) can be forced to sign?

Is this situation reasonable?

You know, this situation happened to a friend of a friend when I was in high school.

In a nutshell, depends on the age of the student. Many states recognizes a teenagers rights when a teenager is 16 or older. So unless your teen isn't some 13 yr old protege she should be alright.


You might consider emancipation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emancipated_minor).

You said that it takes too long?

Well, that depends on the circumstances. If the teenager is resilient and pleads their case to the DA in person and explains the circumstance, any DA worth their salt will get the system moving and get a hearing on this immediately.

Also, there is a difference between awarding a scholarship and accepting a scholarship. There are plenty of loop holes. You never need permission to award someone a scholarship (and in this case, it seems that the mother did sign the initial forms). So the agency awards the scholarship, now it is just a matter of the MC being able to accept it which is another matter.

Then throw in the law of whatever state the school is in. If that state recognizes the rights of teens at lets say 17, and the MC is 17, there's your loophole. Teen moves to that state, accepts the scholarship, problem solved.


In a nutshell, this situation is plausable and would allow for some great tension.

She can try the emanicipation route but then it at first appears too slow. She could try getting custody switched over, but again too slow.
Then she could find the backdoor loophole of the 'other states' laws, whereas she just runs away from home to another state that recognizes her as an adult (in this case).

Or, perhaps give your MC a job, a job in which she declares herself on her taxes thereby giving her some form of 'adult' status under the law and this is enough of a loophole for her to climb out of the mess and take the scholarship.

Or, she just forges her mother's signature, runs away, and by the time her mother figures out what's going on, she turns 18 and it is a moot point.

I think you could have a lot of fun building tension and finding creative problems to this mess.

good luck, hopefully, something in this rambling helps.

Mel...

TerzaRima
06-21-2009, 03:36 AM
15 is pretty young to emancipate a minor.

suki
06-21-2009, 03:57 AM
With some fleshed out details since my earlier post, I thought I'd come back in and respond...


In my WIP, the MC wins a scholarship to a boarding school.
Her mother refuses to sign the legally-binding contract, BUT she did sign the release form a few months back, stating that if MC were to win said scholarship, they would follow through and sign the other contract.

I suppose it's possible for such a contest/binding contract thing, but I haven't heard of such a thing. School enrollment might be contractual, but seems unusual with an application for a scholarship. Check with some private school. And read scholarship applications online. This seems unusual to me...

But, if you're just trying to put pressure on mom, then emotional pressure from the girl and other kinds of pressure would be, IMO, more persuasive. It's really, really rare to have binding contracts that can actually force someone to sign a different contract...




The MC talks to the school counselor (who she gave the scholarship application to), and explains her current situation (Mom is jobless, they're on welfare, Dad has stopped sending alimony checks, and MC has to work a part-time job). She also hints about mother being abusive/alcoholic.
So, I guess the counselor sets up a visit to home from some social worker/psychologist of some kind (ie CPA). House is dirty, unkempt, there are dirty dishes everywhere, mold, water cut off, etc.

With the additional info re the house and abuse, maybe the state would intervene, and maybe she could be shown unfit. But, again, it would be slow, and I'm still not sure the foster care authorities will sign off on the school.

BUT, girl threatening her mom with public embarrassment and making abusive accusations might be enough to blackmail mom into letting her go. That's the tact I'd take. The threat and social services and courts "making trouble" might make mom give in.




If the social worker sees that the MC's mother is unfit to be a legal guardian (alcoholic, abusive), can she sign off on the contract instead (so MC gets scholarship to a boarding school), and appoint another guardian, at least temporarily?

This I really just don't find credible. I'm sorry to say. At least not fast. Again, better if there was an obvious adult the girl could ask to be guardian just to get appointed and sign the form. But this will need research, because in t he two states I'm familiar with, it would take months and months and many court dates...



Or is there any way in which the mother (firmly against the scholarship) can be forced to sign?

Is this situation reasonable?

Done right, totally reasonable. But again, the tact that seems most logical to me is the girl essentially blackmailing her mother.

Make life very difficult for mom. Call the cops on her. Embarrass her. Until she is happy to let the girl go.

good luck.

~suki

SouthernFriedJulie
06-21-2009, 05:07 AM
NY State- The CPS agent comes in and checks on:

Housing (bedrooms-enough for each child)
Cleanliness (filth, not run of the mill messy)
Food
Injuries/Health


The girl in your story would have to disrobe in front of the agent. All other children in the home would, as well. If refused, a note is made and the agent can have a police officer come with a warrant for a body check.

If there is sufficient evidence on the very first visit, a child or children can be taken from the home and then be State Wards. It is completely up to the discretion of the visiting agent. A representative could then sign the paperwork, theoretically.

This can all happen very quickly. It does not takes months here in NY. What can take months is proving you are FIT.

I've dealt first hand with the CPS here and can tell you, you do not need a 'real' reason to get a visit from the agency. Even on unfounded cases, like ours, the case stays open and active for 6 weeks unless the worker can get a false accusation pushed through the legal system faster to help the accused family.

calley
06-21-2009, 06:16 AM
Is there any particular reason the girl can't just forge the signature?

If she has strong morals against it, that might be quite the interesting thing to see written, and add another dimension to her character. If she doesn't... Well, there are more simple ways to getting a paper signed than getting Child Services involved.

lm728
06-24-2009, 12:25 AM
I like the forging and running away plan, but to answer some questions:

1. She's 16.
2. She lives in NY.

Thank you all! I guess I have more options than I thought I had...:)

TabithaTodd
06-24-2009, 03:09 AM
Yes it is plausible

fixcas.com
http://www.canadacourtwatch.com/
fightCPS.com

Many more...they are all real life scenarios. In most cases just the disclosure of a possible alcoholic\abusive problem from a child would illicit a call to CPS\CAS as these types of job descriptions (even us as citizens) hold with it a mandatory reporter status. In other words, if a child discloses a possible drinking problem or alludes to possible neglect or abuse, even slightly or in passing, a teacher, councilor or officer or even another adult over hearing is by law suppose to report to the proper authorities this disclosure. It's a Marxist "call on any slight possible case, no matter what and let the authorities weed out what is and isn't" or a "judge first, ask later" policy.

As you can tell, I have a great disdain for the system (not the people in it per say, the system is broken and does not work on both sides of the coin in so many ways).