The Hows of Living with Leukemia
February 15, 2009 9:22 AM   Subscribe

The Hows of Living with Leukemia

I have a friend who has been diagnosed with leukemia (I think it's AML). She has a four-month-old son and a fiance (my brother) who works. She's in treatment about 60 miles from her son and fiance and is expected to be in the hospital for at least 3 weeks.
I have advised her to apply for Social Security disability and disability through work. Are there any other resources that are available to meet basic household expenses while one working person is ill like this?
I may end up taking the baby for a while to relieve some of that stress trying to care for a child while the mom is in the hospital. I would want to do it through the courts, I think, to protect all parties involved. For instance, I would want legal authority to place the child in daycare, authorize medical treatment, etc. since I am not a bio-parent. And since I have no intentions or desire of permanent custody of my nephew, I would want that spelled out, as well. Would that arrangement be considered foster care? Are there usually provisions under state law to allow a family member to take temporary custody in times like this?
Any other advice for me, to support my brother, his child and the mom?
posted by FergieBelle to Human Relations (9 answers total)
Talk to your other family members and ask them to pitch in too.
posted by kldickson at 9:26 AM on February 15, 2009

Maybe ask THEM what they want you to do instead of just taking over?

Also, hospitals have social workers. She should talk to one-they should have good advice on some things to do.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:29 AM on February 15, 2009

I may have misread most of what you wrote, but I have some questions if I didn't:

-Why do you want to take a newborn from a new mom who may or may not be dying?
-Why do you want to take a newborn from her biological father (even if he works)?
-Why do you want to involve the courts in something that your brother and friend would seemingly consent to?
-Why would you take custody of this child and then place it in daycare? Why can't the parents do that (even if they are sick or working)?

I don't see any state allowing someone to take custody in a situation like this unless both the biological parents are incapacitated or mentally ill.

I second St. Alia of the Bunnies.

Be a supporter of what THEY want, and don't use this tragic situation to do what YOU want.

Good luck to your friend.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:36 AM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why would the courts need to be involved when your future sister-in-law will only be hospitalized for three weeks? How about your brother? Does he not want his baby at home with him at night, or will he be at the hospital in the evenings?

I see this as a simple case of helping out family members, which you have stated you want to do. You can take care of the baby for a few weeks and continue to be there for your family when there is outpatient treatment and such. I don't see why the court has to be involved unless your brother is a negligent parent. Your brother and future sister-in-law are legally responsible for their child. No judge is going to give "foster care" status to you unless they are determined unfit.
posted by Fairchild at 9:46 AM on February 15, 2009

Sorry, details left out:

1. I'm *not* trying to take the baby away; I am offering an option for relief for the father who has to work and the current caretakers who are doing it on a volunteer basis. The parents don't have money to pay someone to take care of the baby. Before the cancer, they worked different shifts to care for the child. They are hourly workers who were just barely making it with dual incomes. I expect this illness will force my brother to work up to 80 hours a week. No one should be expected to keep a newborn for 80 hours a week. Everyone needs a break.

I am more looking for the technical details of how a temporary custody arrangement may or may not work. The parents will definitely have to make the decision if they want the boy to come live with me for a while. I have the right circumstances in my life, at the moment, to allow for this. As a parent myself, I would not be comfortable with just handing my child over to someone, even if it were a family member, for an extended amount of time. I am looking for the proper way to do this to protect both parties.

2. I have advised the patient and my brother to contact the hospital's social worker(s) for assistance in locating local resources. However, after having a preemie and spending a ton of time in the hospital myself, I know that social workers are not only overwhelmed with cases, they often do not have the right information 100% of the time.

3. Other family members are already contributing cash to help with expenses of lost income, travel expenses, etc. We have asked what they need and are assisting with their requests.

posted by FergieBelle at 9:54 AM on February 15, 2009

I think its awesome that you're wanting to help. I don't see any reason of why you would want the courts to intervene and give you custody (albeit, even temporarily) of the child.

Maybe you're thinking ahead and wondering what would happen if you had to make a medical decision for the child if the parents aren't available. Thats smart.

But what would be smart and conscientious of the parents feelings (who are in a not-so-good-place) is to guide them through the process of getting a daycare, and explaining this situation to all parties involved.

Not only would you protect yourself that way (daycare or any medical personnel would be required to contact the parents and NOT you), but you would also be calming the fears of worrisome parents.

Again, I think you're being awesome...but you need to just make sure the parents know that they still are parents and will retain custody. I see where you are coming from, but I can also see them being paranoid and weirded out by it.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:11 AM on February 15, 2009

Wow, a lot of posters really assuming the worst intentions.

The closest thing that you're looking for here is legal guardianship. This would definitely not be considered foster care, as the foster care system is not involved (nor do you want them to be, if you don't want everyone's life to become considerably more difficult). Legal guardianship will require a lawyer and a home study, depending on where you are. This will likely also affect any benefits that the child is receiving (WIC, disability, etc., medicaid, etc.).

The bigger question, as other people have mentioned, is whether doing this through the courts is the best course. How long are you planning to care for the baby? I would say that, unless you are thinking more than 6 months, it's unlikely to be worth it, particularly since these things don't tend to move quickly. It would be considerably easier and cheaper to get a medical power of attorney for the baby, which would allow you to make medical decisions for the baby. However, I'm not even sure that you need this, unless your brother is going to be inaccessible for really prolonged periods of time. A daycare is not going to give you trouble about enrolling the baby, regardless of guardianship.

Really, this sounds much more like long-term babysitting than anything you need to involve the courts in.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:14 AM on February 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

What you're looking for is "temporary guardianship". It's basically a power of attorney that the parents sign acknowledging that you have permission to take the kid to the doctor, establish his residence, etc, on a temporary and voluntary basis. Get it notarized and carry it around with you to prove to anyone who asks that you've got permission.
It wouldn't hurt to call up a family lawyer for a free consultation, but this is a way of formalizing the situation without going the full-on court appointed conservator route.
posted by katemonster at 10:40 AM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

What you're looking for is a Non-durable Power of Attorney for Physical and Health Care of Minor Child(ren.) Very simple - people use them all the time when they have a child with a baby sitter and want to make sure that the child care giver can authorize immediate medical care.
I would reiterate to offer and let your brother step up to do as much child care himself as possible. This will be better for them as a family than him working 80 hour weeks. Family and friends can help by providing meals, money and free babysitting.

Filling his fridge with food, especially things like a pan of lasagne ready to go into the oven, are just what he needs
posted by readery at 11:01 AM on February 15, 2009

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