When parents get COVID, who takes care of the children?

While unlikely, there are going to be some people, especially single parents, who contract COVID-19 and who are too sick to care for their children. In those cases, who is going care for the kids?

In some situations, the other parent can step in, but know that if Mom has COVID, the other people in her household may have it, too, including the children. Many people with COVID are asymptomatic, especially younger people, meaning that they have the virus but are not coughing, feeling ill or exhibiting any other symptoms. They are, however, highly contagious and can transmit the virus to anyone that they meet. So, this one of those times when you need to go into this with your eyes open and be realistic about what you can and can’t do. Remember, the other parent must be your first choice for childcare, unless there is a court order preventing them from being with the children.

There are some situations where the other parent is not available, or they might have elected for several years to not be involved in the children’s lives, so they’re not an option. Perhaps you don’t even know how to contact them. If so, then what?

First, like buying insurance for your car, even though you may never need it, you must have a contingency plan. Start with the people who you trust the most and who are healthiest. If grandma has diabetes, heart disease or asthma, she’s not a candidate. Grandma is a high-risk person and infectious children could transmit COVID to her with potentially tragic results. As such, you need to leave high-risk people off your list, even though you may trust them the most. Someone who has already recovered from COVID might be the safest choice, because they theoretically can’t be infected again.

Then working through the list of people who you trust with your children, choose the ones that are closest to your house, reach out to them and ask if they would help in an emergency. Discuss the children’s schedules, needs and any other details that are important for them to know about your kids. You may need to write instructions for them and be sure to include a letter of authorization giving them temporary power of attorney over your kids to make medical decisions if you are incapacitated and the children need medical care for any reason (this is important). You might even put together some supplies that will travel with the kids if they need to leave your residence on short notice, such as stuffed animals, toys, clothes and necessary medicine.
Next, depending on the age of your children, consider having a discussion with them about temporarily staying with your friend until you get better, should the need arise. Remember, try not to freak your kids out as this is only a contingency plan at this point.

Lastly, pray that you never need to implement your contingency plan and when this is all over, take your friend to dinner and thank them for being there for you when you needed them the most.
We know these are difficult times and if you need help drafting a letter of authorization, power of attorney or with any other family law problem, we are here to help.

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