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 accidents and emergencies that involve kids. While these events can be unpredictable or unavoidable, you can still 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 will have access to medical care when they need it, even if you can't be reached.

Why Medical Release Forms Are Needed

Medical release forms are a legal way you can outline your parental wishes and transfer decision-making authority to your child's other caregivers when you are unavailable.

The simple form gives clear, irrefutable consent for medical treatment—until you can step in. This makes it possible for your child can get care right away if they break a bone while with the 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. Without a medical release in place, everyone involved will face an even greater challenge because you cannot be easily contacted to make decisions. This is why you need to provide a medical consent form to anyone who regularly cares for your child in your absence.

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

People often assume that hospitals have to treat everyone who comes through the door, but that's not necessarily true—especially when it comes to children. Many urgent care facilities and emergency rooms will not treat minors 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).

If your child's injuries or illnesses aren't life-threatening, they might not be able to be treated at an ER or urgent care until you give permission.

For example, without a medical release form in place, if your child were to suffer a possible concussion on the playground while you're at work or out of town, they would likely have to wait for treatment—including receiving pain relievers for their comfort—until you could be reached. 

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

Resources and Printable Forms

To ensure your medical consent form contains all the necessary information, consider using a professional template. For example, The St. Louis Children's Hospital offers a free "Permission to Treat" form that you can download and print.

The 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.

You can also download free medical consent forms elsewhere online, such as those from LawDepot and eForms.

Steps for Getting Started

Start by compiling all applicable information—including birth dates, medical history, and insurance information—for each of your children. Then, use the steps below to fill out the forms.

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

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

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:

  • Consider having multiple copies notarized for each child. Keep notarized copies (not photocopies of the original) in multiple places.
  • File a copy at home or your office with your other important documents. Make sure to leave one with caregivers, and anywhere else your child spends time without you (such as school or camp).
  • Include your primary and secondary insurance information.
  • Update information (such as a new phone number, new caregiver, or health insurance plan) as soon as it changes. Replace forms when they expire so that everything stays accurate and up to date.
  • Verify that all the information on the form, especially phone numbers, are correct.

A Word From Verywell

Having medical release forms completed and stored where you can quickly get your hands on them gives you peace of mind that your kids will have access to medical care should they need it—even if you can't be reached.

Daycare, school, or camp are just a few examples of places where your child likely spends a lot of time without you. The adults looking after them should have copies of your child's medical forms handy and know how to reach you in an emergency.

Check the forms periodically to ensure they're where they should be and that the information is current and accurate.

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Article Sources
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  1. Committee on Pediatric Emergency Medicine and Committee on Bioethics. Consent for emergency medical services for children and adolescentsPediatrics. 2011;128(2):427‐433. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-1166

  2. St. Louis Children's Hospital. Permission to treat. Updated 2020.