What happens if your child gets sick and you're not there? Can a babysitter take your child to the doctor? What about a family member, a teacher or a friend? The reality is, most medical professionals will require some type of authorization from you, the parent, before administering medical treatment to a minor child. You can set this up in advance by giving your child's caretakers written authorization to make medical decisions in your absence.
Why Can't Sitters Take Your Child to the Doctor?
Only parents and legal guardians have the legal right to make medical decisions on behalf of children. While a sitter can certainly take a child to the doctor, the doctor may refuse to treat the child unless you have given written permission. It doesn't matter if the accompanying adult is a sibling, grandparent, aunt, licensed caretaker or a friend – if you're not there, the doctor will likely want to see some kind of authorization before treating your child.
Urgent care is a little different, and it's highly unlikely that an emergency room will turn your child away if her life was in danger. But you can eliminate these worries by setting up medical permissions in advance. As to what kind of paperwork you need, there are two options: a temporary medical release form or a power of attorney. Choose the one that's right for your situation.
How to Write a Temporary Medical Release Form
A temporary release is a one-time document that gives a specific person the right to authorize medical care for your child for a certain time period only. Use this form if, for example, you have to leave the child with a babysitter unexpectedly or you're going to be out of town for a few days, and the child is staying with a relative.
You can prepare this form yourself along these lines:
I, (your name), am out of town on (date). During this time, I authorize (name of caregiver) to consent to any medical care and treatment for my son/daughter, (name of child), that is recommended by a licensed healthcare provider. You may contact me at this phone number (your number).
The letter should be signed by both parents as well as the person who's looking after your child. Ideally, it should be notarized, but that's probably not going to happen if you're arranging childcare at the last minute. Some medical facilities will not honor a letter that has not been notarized, however.
How to Write a Power of Attorney Form
If you're leaving your child with her grandparents for few weeks over the summer, or if your child is regularly cared for by a family member, for example, then it's a good idea to put a permanent permission-to-treat document in place. What you need here is a power of attorney – one for each child – which authorizes a designated person to arrange medical treatment for your child in your absence.
A power of attorney sounds serious, but all it does is authorize another adult to act in your place. You can make the power as broad or as specific as you like. For example, you can authorize someone to make all medical decisions on behalf of your child at any time or you can limit what they can consent to, for example, no blood transfusions or no surgery unless they speak to you by telephone first.
There's no magic to this form, and the Children's Hospital of St Louis has conveniently published a Power of Consent for Medical Care of a Minor form that you can download and fill out. You can also find state-specific medical POAs online. A POA must be notarized in order to be valid. If you're married to the child's other parent or you share legal custody of the child, then both of you should sign the POA.
Other Information to Authorize Medical Care
The following information is critical to ensuring good medical care, so be sure to include it in the POA:
- The full name and birthdate of the child.
- The name and contact details for the child's doctor.
- Details of any medical conditions or allergies.
- Details of medications your child takes (name of medication and dosage)
- Your insurance details (insurance company, policy number)
There's no need to include this information in a temporary release form, but it's a good idea to give it to the babysitter just in case.
Have a form template saved to your computer or phone so that you can easily fill in the specific details prior to leaving your child in another's care. Also, be sure to have your release form notarized so that it will be considered valid by medical professionals.