It can be extremely difficult when you suspect that an innocent child may be in danger. While overseeing the care of a child is supposed to the responsibility of a parent, sometimes it can be up to a third party to take action. Read on to find out what to do if you think a child needs the protection of the court system.
When to Act
Concerned friends, coworkers, and others are all responsible for taking action when they observe something wrong with a parent-and-child situation. Some are legally responsible for taking action. While having suspicions might cause you concern, you should be prepared to have so much more than just suspicions about a situation if you expect your actions to be effective. The following are all cause for concern and should have you reporting things to law enforcement:
- Physical abuse
- Mental or psychological abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Exposing a child to an unsafe environment. For example, abusing drugs in their presence.
- Child endangerment. For example, taking the child along while committing a crime.
- Parental kidnapping or suspicions that a kidnapping is planned.
What to Do
Be sure to present as much evidence of wrongdoing that you can to the police — the more proof you have the more serious your report will be taken. Most people take the health and well-being of a child under the age of 18 very seriously and will investigate allegations of abuse. Evidence such as videos, recordings, eye-witnesses, and more only help to strengthen your report.
Taking Legal Action
If you are a concerned family member and want to speed things along, speak to a family law attorney about the situation. They can advise on who to report to, the evidence needed, and about filing for emergency custody hearings to remove the child from the dangerous situation. The judge has the power to call for a hearing where concerned parties are interviewed. If the judge finds good cause, they can order changes in custody and visitation, at least temporarily.
If the allegations of any type of wrongdoing are found to be valid, law enforcement and government family services take over. In many cases, family services can temporarily place the child with foster parents, friends, or family members. In almost all cases, judges are reluctant to remove custody permanently and other measures can be put in place to ensure the harm stops. The judge may order a parent to undertake parenting classes, drug rehabilitation, counseling, and more in an attempt to keep a family intact.
To learn more, speak to a family attorney.