In the past couple of weeks we’ve talked about the routine release of children from care and dealing with custody orders as it relates to child release. This week, we tackle the touchy subject of someone who comes to pick up a child, but is either intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. The most important thing is to have a policy in place about how to handle this type of situation (before it happens) and to ensure that all staff members are fully trained on how to implement the policy.
If the person picking up the child does not have legal custody, you may not release the child to that individual. Not even if they are on the emergency pick-up list. Staff, preferably the Director or another member of the management team, will call the parent, notify them of the situation, and help the parent make alternate plans for the pick-up of their child. We also notify the parent that this individual will not be granted access to our program again, so the parent must designate another emergency pick-up person.
If the impaired individual has custody of the child, you cannot deny that person access to their child. However, you can explain your concern and ask the individual to call, or allow you to call, someone else to pick them up; another parent/guardian, someone from their emergency pick-up list, etc. If the individual still insists on taking the child, delay them as long as possible and call the police. Hopefully the police will arrive before the individual leaves with the child. If you cannot delay them any longer, let them know that the police have been called and, when they arrive, you will give them as much information as possible to assist them in locating the parent (make, model and color of car, license plate number, destination, etc.). Ideally, the knowledge that they will be reported to the police will be sufficient to keep the individual from leaving the facility with the child.
Regardless of the situation, the individual will probably be pretty upset with you, but the priority has to be the safety of the child. If you don’t have a policy that addresses release of a child to a seemingly impaired individual, check ours out here.