How to take children from their parents

My wife and I were watching a Dr. Phil show where a woman who was clearly suffering from a severe personality disorder was in a custody fight with the children’s father; she had custody. We got to talking about what could be done. My wife had some tangential involvement with such cases as a school counselor and I managed such cases from the initial investigation to the final outcome: reunification of the family or termination of parental rights, with most case falling somewhere in between those two extremes, e.g. temporary foster care, placement with a family member, and so forth.
The reason I put this in basics is that I am often surprised when I should not be that people do not understand that very explicit laws cover the behavior of everyone involved: the children, the parents, the larger family, the larger community like neighbors, professionals like doctors and teachers and the police, the courts and attorneys, and, of course, Child Protective Services itself and its adjunct services.
At first my wife and I seemed to have divergent views but it then resolved itself to this: I agreed with her contention that the children would be better off with the father and that this could be accomplished, esp if the information Dr. Phil had accumulated could be entered as evidence. But my thinking was in the immediate: what was to be done right now to make sure the children were fed and clothed and washed and were safe. The neighbor lady had been their succor and might act as a warning net, a forward observer. School personnel could be enlisted. And the first action should be to ask the mother if she would accept some help around the house and with the kids so a home aide could be sent in to do frequent checks on the children. These people have training that would have them pick up on signals that all was not well and certainly of any immediate hazard or danger like an untreated illness or unexplained absences from school.
In the long run, therapeutic services have limited impact on a personality disorder and these children should be monitored until their majority. But any of this can be done only on #1 an emergent basis as in a CPS welfare check and #2 a court order.

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