The Difficult Release

We’ve all experienced it, right?  Or we think about what would we do if…?  Releasing a child from our care to a person who is clearly un-safe to release them to.  I’m talking about a parent who may be acting a bit drunk, or a relative that the child freaks out and hides from drawing every red flag around.  Those times when your stomach turns and makes you unsure if you are doing the right thing by releasing them.

I have had a few situations with parents but this week I had my first situation with a family friend who was picking up. 

In the past, I have one incident that stands out.  I had a mother who came in that I knew wasn’t drunk, but she was acting funny. Slurred speech, unbalanced walking, there was DEFINITELY something wrong.  It was a rainy day as well.  I first asked her is she was okay.  She responded that she was but she was a little tired.

I then expressed that she looked really unstable and that maybe she should wait here at school and I could call Grandma to come help her.  She said she just wanted to go get her children and go home.  She went back into the classroom and got her children.  When she got back to the front, I reiterated my concern.  She said she only lived around the corner, it would be fine. 

I explained that I was really concerned for the safety of her children.  It was rainy and wet and I didn’t want something to happen to her or them.  She insisted on leaving…I had to let her.

I then called Grandma (her mom) and explained what had happened and could she please check on them.  Grandma thanked me and checked on them…thankfully they were safe.  The next day mom thanked me for my concern and appologized for her behavior.  At a much later date, she was diagnosed with a glycene problem which caused these types of episodes.

Had I not released them to the mom?  I would have been in trouble with the law.  I know that; but I hate that.  You can’t keep a child from their legal parent.  However, you CAN release them, call the police, and they will go check things out after you give them the make of car and home address.

My husband has a parent in his center who is a police officer.  He asked him about these types of scenarios the other day and confirmed what we thought.  We can find ourselves in HUGE legal problems by not releasing them.

However, if a parent DOES NOT have a CARSEAT in the car?  We can stop them from leaving.  Why?  Because that is clear child endangerment and we can make that judgement as mandated reporters.

The parent that is acting drunk or high?  We can’t make that call because we don’t have the proper training to say, “This person is drunk.”  Remember the parent I just told you about?  Someone else may have thought she was drunk, I just had experience in the past that I knew it wasn’t drunk and suspected the final diagnosis.

My trouble, however, lies with releasing a child to a person on the authorized list who is NOT a parent but the child is clearly afraid of.  I’m checking more into this scenario, however if looks like we still have to release.  Although I would suggest, as I have done in the past, is to call the parent and explain what is going on and then ask, “Do you still want me to release her?”

If the parent says yes, well then there’s your answer.  But in my experience, most parents will say no and that they will find someone else or come themselves.

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