Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) will take custody of a child any time the agency believes there is a situation in which, if the child remains with the parents, his or her health or physical well-being will be in immediate danger. Unfortunately, once DHS takes custody of a child, DHS’s first inclination is often to place the child in foster care, instead of with a relative. As we all know, the foster care system in Arkansas is not an ideal place for our children, for many reasons.

Even if DHS ultimately places the child in the home of a relative (this generally does not happen for at least 30 days after the child or children are taken into custody), the relative must often jump through several “hoops” and be declared a “provisional foster parent”. They must also pass a “home study” ordered by DHS. In such cases, the relative is subject to monitoring and judgment by DHS, and the relative and child are at a constant risk of DHS removing the child (often for unjust reasons) and placing the child into foster care anyway. Needless to say, if the child or children can be protected without DHS involvement, that is ideal for the whole family.

How do you protect a child in your family without DHS involvement? You need to seek emergency guardianship, right away. If you file a petition for emergency guardianship before DHS files for emergency custody, DHS will often defer to the jurisdiction of the guardianship Court.

For example, Chris Oswalt recently obtained an emergency guardianship order for grandparents of children whose parents were subject to an open DHS protective services case. Fortunately, the grandparents contacted a private attorney before DHS had an opportunity to file their own petition. If they had not done so, the children would currently be in the foster care system. As it was, the children are now safe in their grandparents’ care, and DHS closed their case.

It is not pleasant to seek to take custody of children away from their parents. However, if you feel that children you love are in danger, being neglected or abused, please be aware that failure to act immediately not only keeps the children in a potentially-dangerous situation, but it also opens the very real possibility that the children will eventually be placed and lost in the foster care system. Thus, in such situations, Robertson, Oswalt, Nony & Associates strongly suggests you immediately call a family law attorney to explore all your options.