Here's Why You Should Prepare a Medical Release Form for Your Child

Ensure doctors have permission to treat your child when needed

a young girl with a pink cast on her arm smiling while talking to a doctor and her mother in a hospital room

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The nature of accidents is that they happen when we least expect them, often at the least convenient times. This is particularly true of kids' accidents and emergencies. But while these events may often be unpredictable or unavoidable, you can plan for them, specifically by preparing a medical release form for minor children. Completing a medical release form (also called a medical consent form) ensures that your children have access to medical care when they need it, even if you can't be reached.

Why Medical Release Forms Are Needed

These forms are a legal way to outline your parental wishes and to transfer decision-making authority to your child's other caregivers when you're unavailable. This simple form gives clear, irrefutable consent for medical treatment—until you can step in. This way, your child can get care right away if they break a bone while with a babysitter or at daycare or if they need emergency help for an allergic reaction while staying with grandma.

These incidents are stressful enough on their own, and without a medical release in place, everyone will face an even greater challenge if you can't be contacted quickly to make decisions. That's why providing a medical consent form to anyone who regularly cares for your child in your absence is so important.

Medical release forms are a vital way for you to ensure that your children are safe and cared for, even when you're not around.

The Basics of Emergency Care for Minors

Hospitals have to treat everyone who comes through the door, right? That's not necessarily true, especially when it comes to children. Many urgent care facilities and emergency rooms will not treat minor children unless a parent is present, a parent has given consent in writing, or the child's life is in danger.

Initial screenings will be done at an ER but care will only be provided without parental consent for emergency medical services in cases where a child's life is at risk according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). That means that injuries or illnesses that aren't life-threatening may not be treated until you give permission. Say your child suffers a possible concussion on the playground while you're at work or out of town. Without a medical release form in place, your child would likely have to wait for treatment—including receiving pain relievers for their comfort—until you can be reached. 

Medical consent forms, which fall under the jurisdiction of a medical power of attorney, allow children seamless access to care by giving caregivers the power to make these crucial medical decisions in your place until you can take over.

Resources and Printable Forms

To ensure your form contains all the necessary information, consider using a professional template. The St. Louis Children's Hospital, for example, offers a free "Permission to Treat" form that you can download and print. This simple, one-page document includes all of the relevant information caregivers and medical staff would need to treat your children in your absence, including pertinent medical history and insurance information. Many other free medical consent forms are also available online from other sources, such as LawDepot and eForms.

Steps for Getting Started

Compile all the applicable birth date, medical history, and insurance information for your children and then begin completing the forms using the suggestions below.

  1. Print one or more copies of the medical release form for each child.
  2. Fill out the form completely and add any specific health information or wishes you would want caregivers and medical personnel to know.
  3. If you share custody or parenting responsibilities with another person, be sure to include their information as well. (Let them know you're taking this step.)
  4. Plan to notarize the form to make it legally binding. Wait to sign all copies of the forms until you're in the presence of the notary public who needs to witness the signing of a document in order to notarize it.
  5. Additionally, be sure to discuss your medical wishes, your child's medical history, how to use this form, what authority it grants, and where the forms are filed with the applicable caregivers.

If you share legal custody with your child's other parent or parents, make arrangements to have the form notarized together. Having all legal guardians on the form is the best way to indicate that you all give consent for your child to receive treatment in the event that none of you can be reached in an emergency.

Additionally, be aware that laws regulating how long these permissions remain active vary state by state. Once the covered time period is up, a new medical release form will need to be notarized for a caregiver's authority to make medical decisions to continue.

Tips for Effective Medical Release Forms

In addition to double-checking that all the information is filled in and correct, there are a few additional steps you should take to ensure your medical consent form works as intended:

  • Verify that all of the phone numbers on the form are correct.
  • Include primary and secondary insurance information.
  • Consider having multiple copies notarized for each child so that the forms will be readily accessible if needed.
  • Keep the notarized copies (not photocopies of the original) in multiple places. File one at your home or office along with other important documents, one with the caregiver, and another anywhere else your child spends a lot of time without you, such as at school or camp.
  • Be sure to update any information that changes, such as a new phone number, new caregiver, or health insurance plan, and replace forms when they expire so that everything stays accurate and updated.

A Word From Verywell

Once you have your medical release forms completed and stored in easily accessible locations, you'll have peace of mind that your children will have access to medical care whenever they need it, even when you can't be reached. Remember to check on the forms periodically to ensure they're where they should be and also that all the information stays up-to-date.

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Article Sources
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  1. Consent for emergency medical services for children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128(2):427-33. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-1166

  2. St. Louis Children's Hospital. Permission to treat.