There are roughly 19,000 children in foster care in Florida, and just under 1,000 in Volusia County. This doesn’t count the families that had to were awarded custody of a minor child through the court. We know first hand at de Jesus Law Group the horror stories that children have endured because their parents failed to plan, an accident or death happened, and left them to the care of strangers.
The possibility of a parent having an untimely accident, illness, or death that leaves their children to be cared for by the foster care system, hits close to home, as our very own Irene was a child who was in foster care until the age of 18.
This Mother’s day we are celebrating the beautiful mother and grandmother that Irene is, but it has us thinking about how it would be for your children to be taken into custody of strangers. And if you haven’t thought about it, let this be the moment you willingly feel the fear and decide to use your privilege of being able to make choices on behalf of your children to ensure their well-being and care by the people you want no matter what happens.
It can happen to your family
Even though most people think that something like that could never happen to their family, they’re totally wrong. Take it from us! It is almost certain that your children could be taken into the care of strangers if something happens to you if you haven’t legally named guardians—even if your family or friends are on the scene.
But you can do something to protect your children and ensure they’re always in the care of people you know, love, and trust by naming short-term and long-term guardians.
Understand the risk
While it may seem like a long shot, the consequences are serious enough that you must consider the real possibility of what could happen and ensure you’ve taken right actions to protect your loved ones. Let’s say you and your spouse have gone out to dinner together and left the kids with a babysitter. But on the way home, you’re in a car accident. The police will get to your house, find your children home with a babysitter, and have no choice but to take your kids into the care of the authorities (strangers) until they can figure out what to do.
This is the case even if you have friends or family living nearby. If you haven’t left proper legal documentation, the authorities have no option but to call child protective services—that is, unless you’ve legally given them an alternative. This is true, for example, even if you have named godparents. You must give the authorities a legal basis for keeping your children with the close friends or family you designate.
Without your action, when the babysitter answers the door, she’s in complete shock and willing to stay with your kids while the authorities find a relative to take them. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have the legal authority to care for the children—even temporarily—so the police have no choice but to call child protective services. These authorities will take your children into custody until they can locate and/or appoint the proper guardian.
Alternatively, maybe you have plenty of family, who’d want to take custody of your children if something were to happen to you. Perhaps some of them even live close by, so the authorities could locate them easily. It may be that even more than one family member would want to take custody of your children (and the financial resources you’re leaving behind for them).
We’ve seen what happens when well-meaning family members—who think they’d be the best choice as caretaker for their young relatives—go to battle in the name of love. It isn’t pretty. In such a situation, it takes years of legal fighting, making lawyers wealthy, while the children are stuck in the middle. In almost every case, each side fighting for the care of the children feels certain they’re doing what the parents would’ve wanted and what’s best for the children.
Know your options and your responsibility
The sad thing is, this all can be completely (and very easily) prevented. However, to ensure your children are never taken into the care of strangers—or put in the middle of a family conflict—you must take action now. Please do not leave this to chance.
You have the privilege, one my parent’s didn’t, to be able to guarantee that your children are never taken into the care of strangers—or into the care of anyone you would not choose—but you must take action now to exercise that privilege.Irene de Jesus
Perhaps you believe this could never happen to your family because your family would never fight over your children or because you’ve named close friends as godparents. But why take that risk, when it’s so easy to do the right thing by the people you love more than anything?
And if you think you’ve already done the right thing because you have a will that names legal guardians for your children, think again. We’ve found that in most cases, even parents who worked with a lawyer to name legal guardians have made at least one of six common mistakes that leave their children at risk.
These mistakes are made because unfortunately, most lawyers do not know what’s necessary for planning and ensuring the well-being and care of minor children.
At de Jesus Law Group, we’ve been trained by the author of the best-selling book, Wear Clean Underwear!: A Fast, Fun, Friendly, and Essential Guide to Legal Planning for Busy Parents, on legal planning for the unique needs of families with minor children at home. If you’ve already created a will, we can help you identify whether you’ve made any of the six common mistakes that could leave your children at risk. If you have not yet taken any action, we can help you take the first steps and make the very best decisions for the people you love.
Here’s how to get started
1) If you haven’t yet taken any action at all, we’ve created an easy-to-use website, where you can take the first steps to create legal documents naming long-term guardians for your children (the people you would want raising your kids if you could not do so) absolutely free. Do it here now: https://dejesuslawgroup.kidsprotectionplan.com/
Afterward, call us for a comprehensive Legal Life Planning Session to look at what else you may want to have in place to ensure the well-being and care of your children no matter what.
2) If you’ve already named long-term guardians in a will on your own or with a lawyer, we’ll review your existing legal documents and waive our normal $750 legal documents review fee to identify whether you’ve made any of the 6 common mistakes that could leave your children at risk. To activate this offer, simply call our office at 833-358-7878.
Whatever your situation, you should take action now using one of our above services to make certain that your children are never taken into the care of strangers. You might think that such a thing could never happen to your family, but in these scary times, you can never be too safe. Contact Irene or Hector if you have any questions – we’re here to help!