Emergency Custody of a Child

Mother watching daughter do homework
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There are situations that require someone other than a parent to assume emergency custody of a child. As you can imagine, these reasons generally mean a serious problem in the family. Knowing all the facts before you need them is always a good idea. Find out why emergency custody is granted and who assumes the role of emergency custodian. 

Why a Child Is Taken Into Emergency Custody

Prior to taking a child into emergency custody, a court will consider the efforts made to prevent the child from being removed from the home. In other words, this isn't a decision that courts make lightly. In general, courts prefer to keep families together.

A child may be taken into emergency custody because they are in immediate danger and need protection. The child may also be removed from the home because current living arrangements pose an immediate danger to the child's safety and welfare. In some situations, the child's current living arrangement simply does not serve the best interests of the child. Lastly, child abandonment is one of the top reason kids are placed into emergency custody.

Who May Take a Child Into Emergency Custody?

Only select individuals may take a child into emergency custody. These people include a police officer, a peace officer, or designated court personnel. Individual states have different laws pertaining to emergency child custody.

Where Does the Child Go? 

When a police or peace officer takes a child into emergency custody, the child may go to a medical facility for treatment, a behavioral treatment facility for evaluation or a kinship foster home. In some cases, children are returned to the home after being placed in emergency custody. This happens once the court determines there is no immediate threat of abuse or neglect.

Sometimes children go to an emergency guardian, designated by a parent, after being placed in emergency custody. If the possibility of emergency custody is a concern for you, make plans in the event that your child needs to be removed from your home.

Which adults do you trust to watch your child after they are placed in emergency custody? It could be your parents, a sibling, another relative or a trusted family friend. Naming the person you'd like to serve in this role may increase the chances that this is the individual your child ends up with after an emergency. (Talk to them first, though.)

A Word From Verywell

Emergency custody is not an ideal situation in which to place a child. This usually happens after a tragedy or crime of some sort. Fortunately, most children do not wind up in emergency custody. So, there's little reason to imagine that your child would unless you are engaging in activities harmful to children or unsuitable for them.

For more information about emergency custody of a child, speak with a qualified attorney in your state or visit additional resources about temporary child custody.

By Debrina Washington
Debrina Washington is a New York-based family law attorney and writer, who runs her own virtual practice to assist single parents with legal issues.