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  1. #1
    Shaun .

    Anyone in the medical field?

    Two kids enter a hospital with no parent/guardian and the youngest of the two is in need of medical attention. He's vomiting, has diarrhea, is extremely malnourished and dehydrated. Neither kid has a single form of identification. Their filth is a clear sign to the hospital staff that they are runaways. What happens???

    I would assume the doctors will help the sick kid, but do they inform the police? Am I wrong and the kids will be turned away? If the kid is helped, is the boy's older sibling allowed back? Forced to wait in a lobby? If the older sibling appears a bit off her rocker, will a doctor take it upon his/her self to evaluate the condition of sibling's mental state?

    I know this is quite the game of 21 questions, but my scenario is too specific for Google to be of any assistance. Any help with this will be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Are their ages a secret? "Two kids" is not very descriptive.

    From my experience, and the condition you are describing, the hospital will treat the sick child in the emergency area, but not admit them to a regular room. They will contact the authorities, but that may not mean just the police - probably child protective services as well. And the decisions will be made by them from that point.

    As to the kid that is not sick, again depending on age, the same governmental agency will probably take custody of that child as well until a responsible adult is located.

    If the sick kid stays in the hospital, child protective services would most likely take the older kid away. Kids can't just hang around the hospital without an adult present.

    You can always ask your personal doctor about this. He/she probably has hospital privileges at one or more hospitals, and they can refer you to a hospital administrator who can answer your questions.
    Last edited by leslee; 07-05-2011 at 11:26 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cheryl Morton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2011

    I'm a registered nurse. I worked for several years in a pediatric ICU and a couple years in a general ER where we treated adults and children. I'll answer what I can.

    The questions I would need to know are, how old are the kids and did they come in voluntarily or did someone drop them off? If someone dropped them off, who? Are either of them emancipated minors? If a child is 18 or older they have the right to refuse medical care unless they pose an imminent threat to their self or others. For example, if the older child's weird behavior includes suicidal or homicidal comments or gestures, the doctor could place her on an involuntary hold for a psychiatric evaluation even if she's 18 or older.

    Anyone who comes into the ER has to be treated. To my knowledge, nobody can be turned away from an ER unless that ER is so overcrowded that it is forced to go on diversion, but then they must direct people to another facility. I work in a large hospital with four campuses, each in a different nearby city. Sometimes one of our hospitals will go on diversion, but people and squads will be routed to one of the other campuses.

    If two kids came into an ER, especially if it was voluntarily and they were in need of medical attention, the ER staff would treat them. It does get a little messy though when there is no parent and no ID. In a case like that, the police and a social worker would likely be notified, a social worker for sure. Most hospitals have a social worker on staff during the day, so that would probably be the first person called. At night, a lot of times a hospital social worker is on call. In a situation with a couple of unknown kids, the social worker might be called at night. If the social worker is available to talk to the kids, she might be able to assess deeper insight into the situation, and if necessary contact Child and Family Services or the police, depending on the circumstances. In a case where a couple of teens have run away from home, especially if they have a history of doing so, there may not be any need to contact the police, but if they are small children who have clearly been abused or neglected by their parents, the police will need to be involved. Age would be an important factor.

    Where I've worked, if a child came in malnourished and dehydrated, especially if they're a young child, they would be treated medically and held there until their social situation was addressed by a social worker and arrangements for their release were made. I doubt any ER would release a young child to anyone other than a legal guardian or social worker. Too much liability.

    On whether or not the older sibling would be allowed back with the younger sibling, this would vary depending on the hospital staff and the behavior of the older sibling. Treating the younger child medically is a priority, but so is that child's emotional status. A child who is dehydrated is going to require an IV, which is going to require a painful needle stick. That is usually a pretty traumatic experience for a child. If the children are more relaxed when together, and the older child doesn't pose a threat to the younger child, I would have allowed her back. If having them together inhibits treatment of the younger child, I probably would have requested she wait in the lobby. However, if her behavior or health was questionable, I probably would have requested that the doctor and the social worker see her too, perhaps separately.

    Most ER's have at least one "psych room," which can be locked and is fairly harm proof. If the older child is extremely erratic in her behavior, threatening, or exhibiting acute psychosis, she may be forcibly treated. Of course, what sometimes appears as mental health issues could be more serious, head injury or narcotic withdrawal. Whatever the case, two kids land in my ER in that condition, we'd be treating both of them to the best of our ability, notifying the social worker at the very least, quite possibly the police too, admitting them if needed or releasing them to the appropriate authorities.

    I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

    Justin Bieber: "I was sent by God to sing."
    Corey Taylor: "I didn't send you!"

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Kids can't just hang around the hospital without an adult present.
    Depends on the hospital and the age of the kid. A unattended three-year-old would be noticed. A resourceful child, say, eight or older, could possibly hang out indefinitely, at least during visiting hours (and some hospitals have 24 hour visiting hours) especially in a very LARGE hospital, if he didn't draw attention to himself. I see unattended kids all the time at my hospital and I don't question them unless they do something to make me wonder, um, what the hell they're doing there (which has happened). There's no age limit as far as visitors are concerned.

  5. #5
    Shaun .
    leslee - No, no secrets. 16 and 12. Thanks for the info.

    Cheryl - They do go voluntarily. No emancipated minors and there's a few states dividing the kids from their father.

    This has been a major help! Thank you!

  6. #6
    Shaun .
    Hi Jena! Sorry I missed ya. Thanks for your input. I can see my scene much clearer now and without questioning how real it reads.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Just to make sure, Shaun, is there any reason the hospital can't get in touch with the parents, or that the children would be unwilling to give out the contact info?

  8. #8
    Shaun .
    Joe - The two kids (Gemma 16 and George 12) are states away from home for good reason. Gemma was raped by her father. Their mother is dead and the grandmother blames them for the mother's death.

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