By Steven Merkel
Are you confident that your child care provider or babysitter would be capable of making informed decisions for your child in a medical emergency? Most parents want the best for their children, but the busy activities of daily life sometimes leave us procrastinating. There are several documents that you should consider if you have minor children in your family and you're concerned about their care while they're in the hands of another adult. Here we'll look at legal documents that will help govern how your children will be treated when they are being cared for by someone other than you, as well as the safeguards you should put in place for their care in case you die while they are still minors.
Child Care Agreement
If you hire an employee to perform babysitting or child care duties for your child, you should prepare a written child care agreement. This document will allow you to specify the exact hours, payment, benefits and responsibilities of the job so things are clear up front. When inviting someone into your home to perform child care, it's important that you are clear about the boundaries of the arrangement (i.e. rooms they can access, transportation limits, food and drinks, etc.)
The child care agreement is very similar to an employment contract as the purpose is to agree on the terms of the engagement. In drafting this document, start out with the full name, address and phone number of the provider and then list the children requiring care. Next, prepare the terms of the employment such as any training or probationary period, beginning date and ending date, termination policy, job responsibilities, schedule, benefits (if any) and payment terms.
In most cases, notarization is not required for this document; however, both parents and the child care provider should sign and date the document at the bottom. Specific instructions on how to care for your child should not be listed here, as this will be covered in your child care instructions document. (Child care costs can be a shock to new and expecting parents, but there are some programs in place to help with the first few years. See 5 Ways To Save On Child Care Costs.)
Child Care Instructions
This document should be prepared and used for child care providers and babysitters for your children. The document doesn't carry any legal authority, but simply lists helpful information for a non-family member in the event of an emergency.
Here's the information that should be included within this informational document:
- Parents' names, address and contact numbers
- Secondary emergency contacts' names, addresses, telephone numbers
- Names and birth dates of your children
- Important medical info (allergies, medications, etc.)
- Contact info for your child's physician, hospital, dentist and other medical providers
- Neighbors, friends and other relatives to contact in emergency
- Other important information you would want a babysitter to know (afraid of dogs, food dislikes, bed times, etc.)
- Location of first-aid supplies in your home
- Medical insurance cards or policy numbers
Temporary Guardianship for Care
Should you have a life event, vacation, business trip, or something that would require you to leave your children with a child caretaker for a few days, weeks or even months, you should consider a temporary guardianship authorization. This document will allow your caretaker to make any necessary decisions about your child's medical, dental, educational and other required care while you are away.
This document is extremely useful in the following circumstances:
- If you travel frequently and a step-parent cares for your child
- If you travel on short trips and rely on someone else to care for your child
- You have a planned hospital or rehabilitation stay that will require someone else to watch your child during your admission
- Affirmation that the child is yours or that you maintain custody.
- Full consent for the child to live and travel with the temporary guardian.
- Permission for the guardian to act in your place and make decisions on behalf of your child for activities such as religion, education, recreation, etc.
- Permission for the guardian to authorize medical and dental care for the child, including x-rays, exams, surgeries, etc.
- Details about the time period to which this document applies
- A signature from both parents and the guardian and notarization
If you have a minor child who will be traveling outside of the country with someone other than his or her parents or legal guardian, you should consider the preparation of an authorization for foreign travel to help avoid any complications. This document will be used to assure foreign officials that an adult has proper authority for custody of a child.
This document only needs to be a simple letter that acknowledges the following items:
1. The child's name, citizenship and date of birth
2. The child's passport country and number
3. Confirmation of your legal custody of the child
4. Confirmation that there is no pending divorce or child custody proceedings
5. The reason for travel
6. The name and relationship of the temporary guardian
7. Travel plans - dates and locations
8. Authorization signatures of the parents or legal guardians
The parent or legal guardian should declare that the document is true and correct and have it notarized for effectiveness.
Authorization for Minor's Medical Care
Throughout your child's life, it's likely that you'll entrust the temporary care of your child to another adult or caregiver. It might be for travel, sports team involvement, a babysitter or while you're taking a personal vacation with your spouse or partner. In any event, you'll want to make sure that your child can receive adequate medical care should they need it while you're away.
To authorize medical care, you do not need a full-blown legal document, but notarization of the document is recommended. The authorization letter should contain the child's information. Both parents should list their contact information and provide a statement at the end that authorizes the temporary custodian to seek the necessary medical and dental treatment for the child while in the custodian's care - provided the treatment is performed by a licensed practitioner.
Permanent Guardianship Wishes
In the unfortunate event that both parents die while their children are still minors, the family division of the courts would appoint guardians for the care of the children. As a parent, you can help influence the decision of the court (based on your wishes as the parent), by naming "godparents" in your will. The courts will often take your election of godparents in full merit, but ultimately the court elects the custodian based on the best interests of the child. If a closer responsible relative challenges the godparents you chose in your will and petitions the court for custody, it is common that closer relatives will gain custody.
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