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What if I get sick and can’t take care of my child?
Parents are encouraged to consider temporary guardianship options for their children in the event they become sick or incapacitated with COVID-19.
The New Jersey Department of Children and Families recognizes these are uncomfortable, but necessary, conversations. Preparation and planning are vital elements of disaster/pandemic readiness. Taking proactive steps can help to alleviate fear and stress related to uncertainty. There are a few things families can do before experiencing a possible quarantine or hospitalization that requires separation from your children.
First, gather any documents regarding custody, health or education so that they are accessible to anyone who may need to step in to assist. Those documents include:
- Custody or Guardianship Orders related to your child(ren)
- Birth certificates
- Important health records
- Health Insurance cards/documents
- School Records
- Living Will
- Will and/or Trust Documents
- Social Security Cards
- A list of important contacts (names, phone numbers, etc.)
Second, in the absence of the availability of another parent or guardian to ensure the well-being of a child during a COVID-19 related separation, residents may need to appoint a person they trust to serve in that capacity. Parents or guardians can appoint a person in advance of any circumstance that would prevent them from caring for the child themselves. One option is to use a power of attorney (POA) or "attorney in fact."
The Power of Attorney form allows families to name individuals that can step in as guardians under very specific conditions. It is a legal document that lays out guidelines for certain actions to take place when a person becomes ill or incapacitated. The POA can allow a temporary guardian to take custody of, care for, and access medical treatment for a minor child. It can be changed or withdrawn at any time.
In the event a child is without a caregiver due to a parent's illness or incapacitation, the Department of Children and Families Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) may be called to take custody. The Division works to identify appropriate and willing family, friends or neighbors that can provide short-term guardianship, but these efforts can take time and a child could be placed in foster care while details and arrangements are made.
To assist parents in taking the first steps to develop a plan, DCF has created the COVID-19 Family Prep Kit instructional, detailing the types of items that should be incorporated.