By Evan H. Farr
If you have minor children at home, you can expect an emergency card to arrive in just a few weeks from your child’s school or day care facility. The point of this card is to allow you to authorize certain people to pick up your child if you are not able to, for whatever reason. Plus it helps to ensure that your child is never sent home with a stranger “pretending” to be a close relative or a person who you do not want watching your kid. This is obviously an important safeguard, but as a parent, you may be interested to know what the emergency card does NOT do.
The Emergency Card does not authorize someone to temporarily take custody of your children if a serious accident happens during the school day. Keep in mind that by law, the authorities can only leave your kids with their “legal guardian” or surviving parent if something happens to you.
If you’re a mom or dad with one or more children at home under the age of 18, a Child Protection Plan may be the solution for your family. Without such a plan, if you are killed or incapacitated in an accident, the police will typically show up at your house to notify the family. If the police find your kids home alone, or with a babysitter, they will have no choice but to call in Child Protective Services and have your kids removed from your home until the system can figure out what to do, and that may take weeks or even months.
Again, if the surviving parent is unavailable or something happens to you both during school hours, your child will most likely be placed into the “system” until a judge (who doesn’t know you or your wishes!) can decide where they should go. That is not a position you want to put your kids in—especially during a time of grief! Fortunately, there are three easy steps you can take to make sure your kids stay protected if something tragic happens during school hours. They are:
1. Name short and long-term guardians for your minor children. Many parents have long-term guardians named in their will, but they have not legally documented who can care for their child in the short term if the main guardian is out of town or is not immediately available to get your kids.
2. Make sure the contacts on your school emergency card match the guardians you have legally named to care for your kids.
3. Tell your child’s school, babysitter or daycare provider about the plans you have in place. Provide them with a copy of your guardian nominations and let them know how they can get in touch with your guardians in the event of an emergency. This will prevent social services from getting involved if the unthinkable happens.
A Child Protection Plan is a set of legal documents that includes an Appointment of Temporary Guardian for someone you choose to take immediate custody of your children, a Parental Consent for Medical Treatment form, and a Medical Information form containing information on your child’s medical allergies and conditions, pediatrician information, health insurance information, immunization record, and medication list.
If you are in an accident, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are never turned over to Child Protective Services because the police don’t have clear instructions from you and, if the unthinkable happens, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are not turned over to Foster Care strangers chosen by a overburden social services system that doesn’t care about your wishes or who you would prefer to take custody of your children. By taking these three easy steps, you’ll rest easy knowing your child will always be cared for by the people you want if tragedy strikes. Don’t make the mistake of trusting completely in the school emergency card, as it’s not designed to fully protect your kids in the event of an emergency.
Evan H. Farr, CELA, is one of the leading Elder Law and Special Needs Planning Attorneys in Virginia and top Medicaid Asset Protection experts in the U.S. Evan has more than 23 years of experience creating, updating and modifying detailed and complex trusts to plan for complicated circumstances, and dedicates a large part of his practice to planning for special needs families. Virginia has no procedure for approving certifying organizations. You can schedule a meeting or sign up for a seminar with Mr. Farr by calling 703-691-1888, or online via "www. FarrLawFirm.com":http://www. FarrLawFirm.com. The Farr Law Firm is located at 10640 Main St., Suite 200, Fairfax, VA.