It is already August, and that means parents are thinking about getting ready for the kids to go back to school. There are a million things to do: shop for new school clothes and supplies, attend doctor and dentist appointments, get haircuts, organize bedrooms and study areas, and get used to waking up early again. There is one more task that many parents will do before September: update or fill out new Emergency Contact cards for your kids' schools.
Have you ever thought about whether these cards will even be effective if they're needed? Here's what you need to know:
1. You must choose people who will be able to pick up your child within 20-30 minutes.
When you choose people to list on the Emergency Card, make sure that each one could pick up your child within 20-30 minutes. If the person works, make sure that he or she will be able to leave if need be. If the person stays at home with children, make sure that there will be transportation available. If you are naming a relative that is older (such as a grandparent), make sure that he or she is physically able to get to your child. Be sure to name at least three choices, in case someone is out of town or cannot be reached. Taking this kind of care to name these contacts will ensure that everything goes smoothly if there is an emergency.
2. You must choose people who will have legally documented authority to keep your kids.
At the same time that you are naming Emergency Contacts for your kids, you should also be taking steps to give these "short-term guardians" the legal authority to keep your kids if something happens to you. The schools keep your Emergency Contact information on file, and they do contact the people on the list if there is an emergency, but the school cannot guarantee that the authorities will allow your child to stay with any of the people that you have listed. Imagine a scneario where something happened to you and the Emergency COntact came to pick up your kids. If something happens to a parent where they are incapacitated or die, the police would usually notify DHS that there are children that need to be accounted for. DHS would find out from the school where the children are, and if the Emergency Contact does not have the legal authority to keep the kids, DHS will probably have no choice but to take the kids into foster custody until a court can sort things out. You can prevent this scenario from happening, and very easily. (See how at the end.)
3. You must have a long-term plan for your kids' care.
In addition to giving your Emergency Contact the short-term legal authority to keep your kids, you also need to sort out a long-term plan for the kids' care if something happens to you. All the Emergency Contact card does is tell the school who to call if there is an emergency. It does not lay out a plan for their care in any legal way if something happens to you. If a day comes when the school does need to use your Emergency Contact card, you want to have everything worked out so that there are so glitches in your child's care. (See how you can name guardians for free, below.)
4. You must communicate your plan with everyone involved.
A plan is not a plan unless everybody involved knows what to do! The Emergency Contacts should be in possession of their legal documentation, and they should know who to call (the long-term guardian) once they have been called upon. The long-term guardian should know who the local Emergency Contacts are, so they can communicate with them, if need be.
If you are thinking, "Oh great, like I need more to add to my to-do list," well, worry no longer. I have a gift for you to help you to get started on this important part of what hopefully will become a comprehensive estate plan. I am giving away my Oregon KidsCare packet, which will help you to legally name short and long-term guardians (and so much more) for free. CLICK HERE to receive the packet now.
To your family's health & prosperity,
P.S. Want to get started on the most important planning you'll ever do for your family? Give our office a call at (503) 235-5150 to get started. You'll be glad you did.