When you leave your child in another person’s care for more than an afternoon, it's a good idea to give that person authorization to make medical decisions for the child if medical care should be needed. Use a power of attorney and sign the document before a notary to make it legal.
Permission to Make Medical Decisions for a Child
When a couple is married, either parent has legal authority to make medical decisions for their children. During a divorce, the judge selects one or both parents to have legal custody, which allows them to determine appropriate medical treatment and select doctors for their minor kids. If a child does not live with his parents, the child's legal guardian will have that authority.
But absent parental consent, a third party does not have that authority even if that person is related to the child. So, when you leave your child in someone else's care for a few days or weeks, you need to provide that person with written authority to obtain medical care for your child.
Power of Attorney for Minor Child's Health Care
One document you can use for this type of authorization is a power of attorney, or POA. A POA does not necessarily involve an attorney. It's a legal document that authorizes another adult to act in your place. As the person making the power of attorney, you can narrow or broaden the authority as you like.
Preparing a POA for a Minor Child's Health Care
A power of attorney for a child's health care need not follow precise rules about how it is formulated. Generally, the POA includes the names, addresses and contact information for the child's parents and for the person taking care of the child. It should also contain:
- the name and birthdate of each child covered by the POA
- the names and contact information for each child's primary care doctor and any specialists the child sees
- the date and time the authority begins and ends
- the authority given to the agent, including the authority to make medical, dental and mental health treatment decisions and to access health records
- limitations on the power your agent may exercise, for example, a directive to attempt to telephone you before authorizing medical treatment
If the parents are married or if they share custody of the child, both should sign and date the POA. Otherwise, the parent with legal custody signs and dates the POA. Depending on your state's laws, it may be necessary to sign in front of witnesses or a notary public, or both. If your child is traveling out of state to visit relatives, the POA should also comply with that state's laws.
Provide copies of the POA to the person you have authorized as your agent, the child's teachers and medical providers, and your attorney if you have one. Keep a copy for yourself as well.