This article is the second in our series on Family Safety Planning. This article describes documents that are part of the safety plan and things to consider with each. For information on what a Family Safety Plan is and why you should consider one, please see the article Family Safety Planning 1 - Getting Started.
Topics on this page:
- Signing the Right Documents
- Emergency Contact Forms
- Parental Designation and Consent to the Beginning of Standby Guardianship Form
- Power of Attorney for Childcare (Not Used In Maryland)
- Medical Power of Attorney
- Consent of Health Care Affidavit and Education Affidavit
- Guardianship Petition/Custody Complaint
- Financial Power of Attorney
- What to do after completing Plan
- How often should I revisit my Family Safety Plan?
Legal documents that you can sign as a part of your plan are listed below. You do not need to sign every document. You are encouraged to speak with an attorney to learn how to this information applies to your family’s situation.
A list of organizations offering free or low-cost legal services is available in the Legal Services Directory.
Goal: To give your child’s school, daycare provider, doctor, or other people who supervise your child’s after-school activities the preferred caregiver’s contact information.
Learn More: Talk to the people who work for your child’s school, daycare provider, doctor, or other programs where you leave your child to learn about their process. They may each have their own form which they need you to fill out and sign.
Decide: Anyone caring for a child can and should ask to fill out these forms at any location where the child is left for any significant period of time. Immigrants making a Family Safety Plan to prepare for immigration related emergencies do not need to tell the person who is giving them the form that they are afraid of deportation if they do not want to.
Goal: To allow an adult to share the legal responsibility of caring for your children if you experience certain emergencies. Naming your preferred caregiver in this document will give them emergency authority over your child as if the minor were their own child. This can include the authority or responsibility to
- Provide your child with a place to live.
- Enroll your child in school.
- Oversee your child’s medical care.
- Apply for a passport for your child.
- Apply for, collect, receive, and manage money and any other assets of your child and disburse the funds for the benefit of your child.
- Seek any federal, state, and local government benefits that your child may qualify for.
Learn More: This form is distributed by the Maryland Courts for parents to designate a standby guardian for their children. Once this form is completed, the preferred caregiver (now called a standby guardian) will be able to begin caring for your child during certain emergencies without having to file papers in court. They will only need to file papers in court if they are going to care for your children for more than 180 days. You can change your mind at any time. More information, see our article on Standby Guardians.
Decide: Only parents can designate a standby guardian. If you are a parent planning for who will care for your child in the event of an emergency, this form will help with many or all of your family safety planning goals. If you currently care for another person’s child, you may not be able to use this form. You should speak to an attorney to see if you are considered a parent under Maryland’s Family Law.
- Designation of Standby Guardian
- Parental Designation and Consent to the Beginning of Standby Guardianship
- Special Information for Preparing for an Immigration Related Emergency
Goal: The rules controlling who can take care of children are different in each state. Some states call the document giving permission to your preferred caregiver to care for your children after an emergency a power of attorney. This is confusing for families with children living in Maryland because the document available to parents in Maryland is called a standby guardianship.
Learn More: In Maryland, there is no document called a power of attorney to designate someone to take care of your children and all of their needs. In Maryland, such a document would merely be an expression of your wishes for what you would like your preferred caregiver to be able to do for the minor. The child’s school, daycare provider, or other people who supervise the child’s activities might listen to those wishes, but they are not required to do so. For more information about what a doctor might do, read the section on medical powers of attorney.
Decide: If you are a parent making a plan for your own children living in Maryland, you should not rely on a “power of attorney for childcare” because you can designate a standby guardian. If you are an adult currently caring for another person’s child or your plan involves your child moving to another state, speak with an attorney.
Goal: To help your child’s preferred caregiver care for your child when they are sick or injured and when your child needs basic or routine treatment for a short period of time
Learn More: A medical power of attorney is a document you can sign to consent to your child’s emergency medical care when you are away or when you are not able to attend a medical visit with your child. Maryland Law prohibits medical facilities from providing any type of medical care beyond life-saving treatment to ill or injured children without consent of that child’s parent or legal guardian/custodian. A medical power of attorney should not allow your child’s preferred caregiver to make decisions about long-term care, end-of-life decisions, or when the child’s medical treatments are optional and have potentially serious, negative side effects. For more information, see our article on Power of Attorney.
Decide: Parents who have designated a standby guardian should not need to include a medical power of attorney in their Family Safety Plan. Others should decide whether a medical power of attorney is right for them. You can also speak with the child’s healthcare provider about any forms they would like for you to sign to prepare for an emergency.
Goal: To enroll a relative who is a minor in school, make health care decisions, obtain benefits, and other important tasks.
Learn More: “Close relatives” of minor children can fill out these forms after you have started experiencing an emergency and they have begun sharing the responsibility of taking care of the child. A list of who qualifies as a close relative is available here. Schools and doctors are supposed to accept them from close relatives, but you may want to consider talking to your child’s health care provider and the school in the areas where you and the preferred caregiver live to see if they have additional or different requirements. For more information, see our article on Kinship Care Resources.
Decide: Everyone can and should print out a copy of these documents and put those copies with the rest of the documents in your Family Safety Plan. If you are making a Family Safety Plan to prepare for a potential detention or deportation by immigration authorities, it is recommended that you tell the preferred caregiver who is a close relative to check “incarceration” as the kind of emergency which required them to take care of the child.
Helpful Documents and Resources:
- Bilingual Chart of Close Relatives
- Consent for Health Care Affidavit and Instructions in English
- Consentimiento para Asistencia Médica – Declaración Jurada e Instrucciones en Español (solamente para referencia).
- Children in Informal Kinship Care Affidavit in English
- Nino/as en Cuidado Parental Informal Declaración Jurada en Español (solamente para referencia)
Goal: A preferred caregiver or other adult files these papers to ask the court for permission to have physical custody and/or legal decision making authority over a child who is not their own.
Learn More: IT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT THAT YOU SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY ABOUT THE FAMILY COURT PROCESS BEFORE ANYONE FILES PAPERS WITH THE COURT AS A PART OF YOUR PLAN. This process can be time-consuming and complex. Also, if the child is undocumented, filing things in court may affect their immigration status. For more information, see our other articles on Family Law, especially Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.
Decide: It is extremely important that you speak with an attorney before suggesting your preferred caregiver file something in court or signing a consent related to future court action. Remember, parents making a plan for their own children living in Maryland can designate a standby guardian instead.
Goal: To authorize another person to access your bank account or to help you with your other financial or legal needs. This can include accessing your money to spend it while caring for your child.
Learn More: A financial power of attorney is a document created by Maryland statute that you can sign to authorize another person to spend your money for specific purposes or to sign documents related to your financial or legal needs. If you name the preferred caregiver in a financial power of attorney, they will become your financial agent. If you choose to sign a financial power of attorney as a part of your family safety planning, you can add special instructions which grant them the permission to spend your money for people who are dependent on you, limit how the preferred caregiver spends your money, and when their power to spend your money begins. Maryland law requires that a financial agent comply with any instructions you include in the document authorizing them to act, but there is always a risk they may not listen to your wishes or may access your money for wrong reasons. For more information, see our article on Power of Attorney.
Decide: Decide whether a financial power of attorney is right for you.
Purchase a plastic folder where you can store any of the important documents related to your plan. Make sure the person who you would like to take care of your children during an emergency knows where you put this folder so they can find it if an emergency occurs. You should also make sure that you have a plan in place that covers how they will find out when an emergency has occurred and that they need to begin caring for your children.
Read and update your plan at least once a year. You can make it a regular part of the activities you do each year when your children go back to school in August or September.