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Becca_H
05-18-2011, 04:09 PM
I'm in another situation with a manuscript where I have no idea if I'm being accurate.

One of my characters is a fourteen-year-old boy. He lives with his mother. There's no other family around. The mother has terminal cancer, and is approaching the final stages.

In my first draft, the boy looks after her, while still going to school. The school are aware of the situation, but aside from overlooking tardies and allowing him to leave school at lunch to check on her, don't provide much in the way of support. He spends the majority of mornings, evenings and weekends looking after her. When she passes away, child services take him into care with a view to place him with the parents of one of his friends.

So, am I being vastly inaccurate here? I suspect I could be. Would child services become involved much sooner? Would the school do more? What about outside medical help?

Ideally, I need the mother and son to stay together, with him providing a large percentage of her care, for the story to work.

cameron_chapman
05-18-2011, 04:36 PM
It's likely that child services would get involved a lot sooner, but not necessarily that they'd take him away from her (more just check to make sure it wasn't a dangerous living situation for the kid). Also, there would probably be some kind of hospice care toward the end, with a nurse or homemaker checking in every day (and probably staying for at least part of the day). If the boy had somewhere to go any time his mother was in the hospital (a friend's house or something) then child services likely wouldn't intervene in that case, either. It might help if there was a responsible neighbor or something who also looked in on the kid from time to time.

In the end, though, child services would likely place him wherever they could. If a friend's family stepped forward and said they'd like to become foster parents for him or adopt him, that would be different, but I think it's unlikely child services would actively seek out that kind of situation.

(Note: this is all speculation/educated guesses, though I did look into becoming a foster parent at one point.)

Rachel77
05-18-2011, 05:59 PM
When she passes away, child services take him into care with a view to place him with the parents of one of his friends.

As Cameron said, this is certainly possible, but child services wouldn't actively seek that out; the friends of the family would have to approach child services themselves. A more likely scenario is that the friends of the family simply takes in the child, and when child services located him, they'd agree to become foster parents; depending on the state, it's possible that the child would remain in their custody while they were undergoing training and certification as foster parents. (I was a foster parent for a while, and this was the situation with one of the parents in the training sessions I attended.)

Also, while the child is in foster care with the friend of the family, child services will likely still be actively looking for any relative of either of the child's parents who's willing to take custody of the child. Only when that option is ruled out would the child be available for adoption, and that can take a while, depending on the workers' caseloads.

PinkAmy
05-18-2011, 07:16 PM
I used to moderate a message board for kids who's mothers had breast cancer, and some were dying or had died. I'm a breast cancer survivor and I've lost friends to breast cancer.

In my first draft, the boy looks after her, while still going to school. The school are aware of the situation, but aside from overlooking tardies and allowing him to leave school at lunch to check on her, don't provide much in the way of support. He spends the majority of mornings, evenings and weekends looking after her. When she passes away, child services take him into care with a view to place him with the parents of one of his friends. this is probable, in my experience. The only way CPS (child protective services) would know is if someone notified them and the only reason to notify them is if he's being abused or neglected.

So, am I being vastly inaccurate here? nope
Would child services become involved much sooner? If he was going to school unkempt, that might cause someone to report, although honestly, neglect rarely gets reported. Oncology offices usually have social workers, who would undoubtedly know about the boy. Onc social workers would help the mother with plans for the boy ahead of time and would locate the guardian or CPS after her passing if there was no named guardian.
Would the school do more? They might do things like let him slide on assignments, offer to give him a ride home if his mother needed him, bring plates of food. If it's a small school, I'm sure the teachers would do more, especially if he was a "good" kid.
What about outside medical help? the oncology sw would set up visiting nurses or whatever services she was eligible for with her insurance or whatever volunteer services she could get through the community. When hospice was called in, especially toward the end there might be round the clock help IF she has good insurance, if not, hospice would still come a few times a day.

Ideally, I need the mother and son to stay together, with him providing a large percentage of her care, for the story to work this is plausible. The end of cancer can come really quickly. A person often deteriorates fast in the end. When my friend died of breast cancer Sunday we went out to lunch. She was dead within a week. Granted, she felt like crap at lunch and didn't eat much, but she wanted to be out with the group of us (we had all been dx within a month of each other.)

The mother isn't going to linger needing care for a long time. She might be in a lot of pain, have trouble walking, fall frequently (particularly if the cancer spread to her brain), be too tired to cook/clean. But, she'll be able to get out of bed and care for herself until very close to her death.

Debbie V
05-18-2011, 07:35 PM
When I was in High School a friend of mine had her family take in a friend of her brother's. I don't know what the situation was, but Michael just became her second older brother. April didn't talk about any questions. The families can agree before hand. The parent's wills can state who gets custody of the child - mine does and I'm not remotely sick (knock on wood) just practical. Most mothers would make arrangements before they were too sick to do so, I think.

Becca_H
05-18-2011, 09:07 PM
Thanks for all your replies - I really appreciate your help. I think I have this figured out.

PinkAmy
05-18-2011, 11:15 PM
When I was in High School a friend of mine had her family take in a friend of her brother's. I don't know what the situation was, but Michael just became her second older brother. April didn't talk about any questions. The families can agree before hand. The parent's wills can state who gets custody of the child - mine does and I'm not remotely sick (knock on wood) just practical. Most mothers would make arrangements before they were too sick to do so, I think.
That's actually not true. There are legalities involved. Children can't be giving in a will to non-family members. The ability to will children is a misconception that many people believe to be true. People think they can, but children aren't property and that's why they can't be willed. The mother could specify who she wants the child to go to, but that doesn't mean it will happen.
There would need to be a legal adoption or guardianship which goes through CPS or a private attorney. Lots of people think they can specify who the child will go to, and it's a done deal, but there are hoops to jump through. The family would have to be qualified as a foster family, and after 6 months to a year they could then go to family court to complete the adoption. They would need a home study and to take classes. If any relatives emerge, they would likely get preference over whoever the parent named.

BySharonNelson
05-18-2011, 11:25 PM
I have a friend who is going through this now. Her daughter is older (17) but she does not want her daughter to go to any of her family members so she has set up a guardianship arrangement with another friend of ours. Her attorney set it up and had to file with the court and there will be cps visits for 6 months after but it is not contestable even by family members. She has been sick for a very long time and her daughter will be 18 soon so none of it may matter. I also know from an acquaintance that had young children and wanted them to be in the care of a friend instead of family that they had to get certified as foster parents and then after my friend passed away they were able to adopt the children. It was a long drawn out process. I don't know if that will help at all but maybe you can make it work :)

Medievalist
05-19-2011, 12:26 AM
Would child services become involved much sooner? Would the school do more? What about outside medical help?

Ideally, I need the mother and son to stay together, with him providing a large percentage of her care, for the story to work.

Yes; child services would become involved, if not because of the doctors, because of accumulated tardiness. Many states, if not all, have rules requiring schools to report attendance records. I know, from teaching, that N.H. and California do.

Maybe start at the end of the school year and have most of the story take place over summer?

jclarkdawe
05-19-2011, 01:00 AM
In regards to the original question, this can go so many ways depending upon how you want to set it up. It may go through child services or might not. Depends upon how it goes down.

Regarding wills and children. In a parent's will, the parent can provide the Probate Court with a recommendation of who should have custody of their child(ren). The Probate Court will view this recommendation with a lot of respect. However, it is not binding.

However, if the wishes of the parent(s) is reasonable, with the child's interests being addressed, the Probate Court will follow those wishes.

It can be contested in the Probate Court, but to argue it is going to be difficult. The party arguing is going to have to show cause as to why the parent's wishes should be ignored.

The Court can order an investigation of the family taking custody of the child, and that investigation may be carried out by a guardian ad litum or child services, depending upon the state, statutes, and the inclinations of the judge.

The Court doesn't have to order an investigation. If the child expresses a desire to live with the family, the family have nice, positive recommendations by respected people such as teachers and ministers, the attorney does a nice job of presenting this, the Court can just do it.

Parents are expected to choose the best guardians for their children possible. They're the best ones to know this. If a parent chooses someone who is not a member of their family, so be it. I've done a lot of wills that way, and would expect the parent's choice to be followed.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

ULTRAGOTHA
05-19-2011, 03:17 AM
The country involved is important, too. The Original Poster is in Britain where things work differently than the US.

Is the story set in the US or the UK? And if in the US, which state?

Buffysquirrel
05-19-2011, 01:11 PM
When I used to work in Schools administration here in the UK, we had a case of a teenager whose mother was dying of cancer, and who wanted to stop attending school in order to take care of her. This was agreed with the LEA (local education authority) and I think some provision was made for the teenager to receive lessons at home. This was all handled by the EWOs (Educational Welfare Officers).

PinkAmy
05-19-2011, 10:13 PM
I have a friend who is going through this now. Her daughter is older (17) but she does not want her daughter to go to any of her family members so she has set up a guardianship arrangement with another friend of ours. Her attorney set it up and had to file with the court and there will be cps visits for 6 months after but it is not contestable even by family members. She has been sick for a very long time and her daughter will be 18 soon so none of it may matter. I also know from an acquaintance that had young children and wanted them to be in the care of a friend instead of family that they had to get certified as foster parents and then after my friend passed away they were able to adopt the children. It was a long drawn out process. I don't know if that will help at all but maybe you can make it work :)

She could probably avoid this by starting the adoption process before she passes away with the agreement her daughter would stay with her until her passing, but the other family with have legal custodial guardianship. That's what I would do if it was me. But, like you said, her age will play a lot in decisions.