Who Is Authorized to Pick Up Your Child in an Emergency?

If your child attends school, daycare, or extracurricular activities, is someone authorized to pick him or her up if you’re not able to do so? In the case of an emergency, it’s critical that someone besides yourself and your spouse is authorized to pick up your child.

By law, an organization may not release your child to someone who is not a parent or legal guardian unless you have given them prior written authorization to do so. If you and your child’s other parent are in an accident and no one else is authorized to pick up your child, the organization may not release your child to another adult – even a grandparent. In the event no authorized person is available to pick your child up, the organization may be required to contact the police or child protective services to take custody of your child.

To prevent this from ever happening to your child, make sure a friend or family member is authorized to pick up your child in the event of an emergency. Talk to your child’s school or daycare center about the procedures they follow in the event of an emergency in which neither parent is available. The organization facility will generally require written authorization by the parent, and in some cases a photograph of the other authorized person.

Ensuring that a friend or family member is authorized to pick up a child from school, daycare, and extracurricular activity should be part of an overall plan for your family in the event of your death or incapacity. As part of that plan, it is also important that certain legal documents be in place to protect your family, including a Standby Guardianship Designation and a Power of Attorney, and a Healthcare Proxy.

A Standby Guardianship Designation authorizes a trusted person to temporarily take legal custody of your children in the event of your incapacity. This ensures that someone is always legally authorized to care for your child, enroll them in school, and authorize medical care. In the absence of a Standby Guardianship Designation, a relative or friend must petition the court for guardianship while you’re incapacitated, which can take several months. In some states, a temporary guardian is appointed through a Power of Attorney instead of a Standby Guardianship Designation.

A Power of Attorney authorizes a trusted person to manage your family’s finances in the event that you aren’t able to do so yourself. If you’re unconscious, who will make sure that your mortgage or rent is paid, that your child’s nanny, school, or daycare bills are taken care of, and that your health insurance continues. Having a Power of Attorney in place ensures that important family expenses continue to be paid, minimizing the disruption to your family at an already difficult time.

Finally, a Healthcare Proxy allows a designated person to make medical decisions for you if you aren’t capable of making those decisions yourself. This makes it more likely that your wishes will be carried out, and will give your family peace of mind if they have to make a difficult decision.

Having an emergency plan in place is an important part of taking care of your family. Talk to any schools or organizations in whose care your child is entrusted, and make sure your family has an emergency plan in place in the event that you are not able to pick up your child. Having an emergency plan also includes having in place a Standby Guardianship Designation and a Power of Attorney to make sure a trusted person is always authorized to care for your child and that important family expenses continue to be paid.

About the Author

Shannon McNulty

Shannon McNulty is the founder of Savvy-Parents.com and a lawyer in New York City who provides legal planning for parents with young children. Shannon received her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her LL.M. in Taxation from NYU School of Law. She has also earned her CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER(TM) designation. You can learn more about Shannon and her firm at www.cityparentslaw.com.


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