My ex may got the virus (?) what can I do with my daughter? Complicated
March 24, 2020 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I just heard from my 10 year old daughter on Skype that her mom is sick, that mom went for "some check-ups", and that she just got a text that she won't come back home today, "and to be good".
I'm very worried, and don't know what to do. It's complicated because they are in California, and I left & moved to Denmark last June.
I still have to hear confirmation from my ex before I do anything. But I need to get prepared.

My daughter is in the house with her grandmother, but grandma speaks only Chinese, and has no clue about managing anything outside the house. They have no friends who can take care of them.

My ex worked in a casino until 9 days ago. But ever since we separated, she refused to share any information with me, so I'm in the dark about details.

I don't have any contacts left in the US that can help me.

Is there a Southern California emergency website I can contact (once I get confirmation from my ex) that will take my daughter & her grandma somewhere, test them, and take care of them until further?...

Does anybody have any suggestions what I can do?

If my ex recovers, or not seriously ill, that will be the best. But in the worse case scenario, I will need to get my daughter flown here to Denmark to me - together with her grandma - and I'm not sure how to arrange it....

posted by growabrain to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you speak Chinese?

Is your child a Danish citizen?
posted by praemunire at 11:53 AM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Southern Californian here. There is absolutely no such thing as an emergency website like the one you describe. The closest thing to that would be contacting the police, perhaps, and having the daughter put into the foster care system if the grandmother is truly unable to take care of her - but this would be traumatic and would absolutely expose your child to danger in myriad ways. There is no part of our system that would take the grandmother in, short of putting her in jail or giving her a ride to a homeless shelter.

Wait and hear from your ex. This could be coronavirus, or it could be one of a million other ordinary health calamaties that send one to the hospital. And then maybe you do indeed have to come back.
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:54 AM on March 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: praemunire, No, but I am. Child carries American passport. My daughter translates.
posted by growabrain at 11:54 AM on March 24, 2020

Best answer: Regardless of whether this is COVID or something else, going to the hospital and not coming back is really quite bad and you are right to be preparing.

It would be terrible to have your daughter in foster care, that is for certain.

The best bet if her mom does end up hospitalized is likely something like you traveling back to the US or your daughter traveling to Denmark. I would not panic, but I would look into either or both of those possibilities and think about what those scenarios would look like.

It is also the case that they don't have friends there. Do you have friends there? Does your daughter? Do you have family elsewhere in the US who could step in and deliver groceries and deal with practical things?

Again, don't panic, but you are right to start thinking about this now and trying to figure out proactively which resources you have. Again, no need to panic, but you really can't leave a 10yo with no parent and a grandparent who can't manage logistics for more than a few days, which means you should be starting to think about this now.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:01 PM on March 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

I would assume your ex is able to handle this as she has been a single parent for a year. Reach out to her to ask how you can support her.

Send money? If your ex is sick she probably is running low on money and money means your daughter will have the things she needs. Is grandma able to care for her? Maybe connect and offer to have food delivered, add Disney+ to their cable. You can reach out to a social worker who speaks English and Chinese to liase between you and your daughter’s family, but depending on your relationship with your ex it may come across as judgemental to do so without her buy-in.
posted by saucysault at 12:02 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Even if your wife is ill with the coronavirus, they aren't recommending testing people unless they have severe symptoms - there are only so many tests they can do right now, and they need to triage who gets tested. I'm pregnant and my OB's office said if I do get ill, stay at home and recovery unless I have a fever over 101.5 AND respiratory symptoms.

How old is your daughter? If your wife does end up as a hospital admission (coronavirus or something else), can her grandmother take care of her in the house, assuming they have supplies? Is your daughter old enough to skype you every day to keep you informed?

I would suggest if grandmother can take care of your daughter if they have supplies, to focus on making sure they have supplies. Order grocery delivery and other supplies for them. Skype daily to check on if they're developing any symptoms. Find out if your daughter has friends nearby and attempt to contact an adult who is local and can step in if something catastrophic happens.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:03 PM on March 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'd be more than happy, as a neighbor, to check on a family like this. If grandma gets sick, kiddo will need help. Maybe ask to speak to some people in the neighborhood or reach out on next door to find people who speak Madnarin/ Cantonese who can check in with Grandma twice daily. In CA that's likely a lot of people. Most Chinese churches or community centers or social groups will also be happy to help out- if she belongs to one she very likely has a support system in place of some sort.

Or fly to CA?
posted by fshgrl at 12:06 PM on March 24, 2020 [10 favorites]

Learn about any exceptions to the travel ban that would apply to you? Even if you do not have a US passport you definitely are a close family member of a US citizen, your daughter. So figure out what would be required for you to be able to travel.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:12 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Check to see if there is a mutual aid network in their area (or pick the closest available), contact them and ask if they would be willing to arrange a phone call to check on their immediate needs and drop off groceries or other supplies (you may want to provide your daughter with a list of questions to ask). They can also hook you up with a local resource list. In my area, we have volunteers who will absolutely provide rides to the nearest testing site, among other types of assistance. If they are bringing supplies, you may need to offer to send funds via Venmo or a similar service.
posted by notquitemaryann at 12:25 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

(resources including finding legal help if necessary)
posted by notquitemaryann at 12:26 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

You said you don’t have any contacts left in the US. Does your daughter have a beloved teacher whose email address you could track down online? Or perhaps a MeFi in the area could help? I don’t know that you’d be allowed to enter the US right now. Would your child be allowed to enter Denmark?

Actually, I think I know what you might need: a family services lawyer in or near the town where your daughter is.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:27 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mutual aid networks with strangers are ok when you're dealing with adults but it's a lot to ask a 10yo to deal with strangers, follow rules about not opening the door, or similar. It's a lot to let a bunch of people know that there's a 10yo who might be vulnerable.

Schools are a great idea---if there's a school contact number or a PTA or anything like that, it could be a huge help.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 12:42 PM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Once you have a little more information, I would call the Danish embassy in the United States to discuss the possibility of bringing your child back. They're not going to be able to do much "on the ground" work but they should be able to clarify how you can bring back your minor child (very likely to be possible if there's a flight) and her grandparent (may be harder). If there's a formal custody agreement you may well need to get a lawyer to try to get some kind of emergency modification. Better that she come back to you, even unaccompanied, than that she go into the U.S. foster system.

If your ex lives somewhere with a significant Chinese population, there is probably a church with Chinese-language services or a Chinese senior center. Ask your daughter to ask her grandmother about church.

Your daughter's school, whose contact information you should be able to find online, will probably also be able to put them in touch with whatever emergency family services there are, but that does run the risk of attracting CPS attention.

(All of this assumes the worst, that your ex is indeed severely ill and will be in the hospital for an extended period.)
posted by praemunire at 12:43 PM on March 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

You may be able to order groceries and other things to be delivered using either a local store's in-house system, Amazon, or something like Instacart. I'd call the daughter just to check and see how things are going--chances are good that she and her grandma can hunker down for a few days without much going wrong, so that's what they should do for now. Meanwhile, you and she can start brainstorming next steps. Keep this conversation low-stress and chill; if they have to eat PB&J for a few days, it'll be okay. At this point, you have to determine what their actual issues are before you start panicking. Meanwhile, think about & research how get them to Denmark if need be (or how to get you to California), but no need to bring it up just yet.

Meanwhile, grandma should be monitoring her own health, and should know what to do if she develops symptoms. (In California, folks aren't being advised to go to the ER if they have symptoms, so she/you should check her health insurance provider's website for further instructions and be sure she has the Chinese language phone number on hand. Because the Chinese community is so large in California, there are absolutely resources for her in Mandarin and Cantonese, though perhaps fewer if she speaks a less-common dialect.)

Many state representatives and senators are holding digital town halls lately, and they might be good places to reach out to for next steps. You'll have to look up their rep by district.
posted by tapir-whorf at 12:43 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is your daughter a public school student? Are you known to her school as a parent -- that is, is your name in her record somewhere that would validate your as her father, not just some random person? Although her school may be closed to students, you might be able to reach someone at the school to connect you to a school counselor or social worker who could direct you to assistance.
posted by mccxxiii at 12:44 PM on March 24, 2020 [10 favorites]

Call your daughter on the phone. How does she feel? Emotionally? Physically? Did she and grandma eat lunch? How's her internet connection? Step one is you checking in. A few times a day. And find support as needed. If mom is in the hospital for an extended stay, maybe pick up kid. But you really need to call child and support her moment to moment needs until mom gets better. Which is likely to be quite soon or within a few weeks. Ordering her food and making sure her immediate needs are met is the safest, cheapest, most sane option.
posted by Kalmya at 1:03 PM on March 24, 2020 [12 favorites]

Considering that your child and her grandma have been exposed to whatever your ex has, can you arrange for a professional cleaner to come to the house and disinfect everything? Not ideal, but.

Also, you could consider having the cops do a wellness check on your child.

What an unfortunate situation in so many ways. I'm sorry.
posted by erattacorrige at 1:17 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

I would not assume the grandmother to be totally helpless here - in my experience immigrants who make no linguistic assimilation efforts tend to be clustered in concentrations of folks with similar backgrounds. Even if your ex takes care of the day to day outside the house stuff, maybe grandma has friends or community members she can reach out to without having to know any english?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:20 PM on March 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

I would try 211 and ask what community supports or services they can refer you to. You can search here for the 211 serving your child’s area and to see if there is an alternative number that you can call from your country:

They likely also offer live translation so that your child’s grandmother may be able to call herself.
posted by bayleaf at 2:15 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

here's the danish consulate in southern California
posted by brujita at 3:49 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

If you call the school, odds seem higher to me that CPS could get involved and your kid could end up in the foster system. Communicate as much as you can with your daughter. Maybe try calling the hospital where the mother was admitted to get information about her status? I don't know that they would give you that. If not, ask if there's someone who can speak Chinese so you can put the grandmother in touch with the hospital or get your own translator and call up the grandma so you can communicate with the adult on the ground with your daughter.
posted by purple_bird at 4:10 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Possibly contact the local law enforcement there and ask for a welfare check?
posted by stormyteal at 4:50 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

You favourited the answer about the Chinese church community... Someone at said church will almost certainly have a good responsible student home from college who you could pay to nanny while needed.
posted by jrobin276 at 4:56 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

OP, please don't be too frightened about CPS. If your child is living with an adult (her grandmother) in a safe home with heat/hot water/etc., they're not going to just snatch her up. The fact that Grandma speaks only Chinese doesn't make her unfit to supervise -- plenty of parents in this country don't speak English. If your daughter is being fed and clothed and is not being abused, they're not going to take her away. A school counselor or social worker is mandated to report *child abuse* but this is not that, and they will want to help your child.
posted by mccxxiii at 7:59 PM on March 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

Safe Families for Children is a voluntary program that
Provides temporary child care in situations including medical emergencies that is not DCFS/foster care but here (IL) all parents are foster care licensed. They also provide family support, respite services etc. You may want to reach out to them. See if there is something they can offer. Their goal is to keep families safe. All services are voluntary and can be stopped at any time. The cases I've witnesed in IL there has been lots of communication between the host family and parents .
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:49 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

You can get a lawyer (MeFi Wiki) to help with issues related to family law (e.g. quickly obtaining information, possibly obtaining temporary custody, intervening in CPS actions) and possible immigration/travel issues. Resources that may be able to help you find an attorney include the State Bar of California Lawyer Referral Service (Choose the county closest to where your child lives) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association.
posted by katra at 9:58 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

1. Find Chinese translator in Denmark. Do as 3-way voice call if needed. Maybe have a way to text translator during conversation to give them your directions.
2. Call child and have her put grandma on the phone.
3. With help of translator, find out what grandma needs and see how she's coping. Have the translator establish rapport so that grandma doesn't feel judged and clam up.

If you know the specific region, province, or village that grandma is from, and find a corresponding translator, that would be even better.

Keep checking in on her every day that ex is gone, and keep offering help.
posted by dum spiro spero at 10:21 PM on March 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

Calling a lawyer is a proactive first step towards having a representative on the ground to learn more about what is happening, without involving the child, which is a priority in a situation like this. The child cannot act as a translator for questions about medical issues nor how her grandmother is faring, because it is unfair and potentially harmful to the child to be in the middle of conversations that only adults should be having. The suggestion to obtain a translator in Denmark to communicate directly with the grandmother is an excellent one.

This is an unprecedented public health emergency. Social networks are limited due to stay-at-home orders and 'social distancing,' and finding ways to help ensure that the child and her grandmother are safe is the priority. The grandmother, simply due to age and what sounds like possible exposure to the coronavirus, may be at high risk of also having a serious health problem soon. I'm not recommending a call to CPS, but I am suggesting having a lawyer contacted in advance to prepare for the possibility that someone else, such as a mandatory reporter in a medical facility, might contact CPS.

The key issue seems to be that there is a lot that is not currently known, and finding out more information about how to keep the child and her grandmother safe is the priority. Lawyers can help navigate complex systems, whether they are family court, the CPS process, or emergency needs to help people travel out of the United States. Ideally, this can be done with a minimum of consultations, but a little knowledge about what the options are, and having someone available to intervene in an emergency, could make a significant difference.
posted by katra at 11:22 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A couple deleted, and a quick note: OP has said "I still have to hear confirmation from my ex before I do anything. But I need to get prepared," and is asking for help working through best options for possible scenarios and acquiring more information. Suggestions may be ranging from what to do in the short term to what to do in the hypothetical more extreme event of Grandmother possibly becoming ill, mother incapacitated, and no community connections in place. Please help with calm, productive, direct advice. Please assume that advice regarding a more extreme situation in the event it arises is not the same as advice for what OP should do immediately, before gaining further info. Thank you.
posted by taz (staff) at 2:06 AM on March 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Update:

frustrated but relieved that things are actually okay, false alarm, thanks everybody for your concern.
posted by growabrain at 11:06 AM on March 26, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: What a relief! Thanks for updating us.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:08 PM on March 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

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