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Two Important Steps to Follow When Treating Minors With Absent Parents

Envision a scenario in which an adult brings a minor into your office. During check-in, it is revealed that the minor does not live with their parents but “lives with” the adult accompanying them. The adult in question could be an aunt, a grandparent or a cousin.

Having a minor “live” with them does not mean for an afternoon, weekend or while the parents are on vacation. It means the parent is actually “absent” perhaps living in another state, country or maybe in jail; therefore, the minor lives with this person.

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Before non-emergent treatment can begin, do the following:

Determine if the adult is a “qualified relative."

According to the California Family Code, "A qualified relative means: a spouse, parent, step-parent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, first cousin, or any person denoted by the prefix "grand" or "great, "or the spouse of any of the persons specified in this definition even after the marriage has been terminated by death or dissolution." (Section 6550, Division 11, Part 1.5).

Have them fill out a Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit.

Once it is determined that the adult is a “qualified relative" they are required to complete a form known as the Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit. They must be 18 years or older and must show valid identification such as driver’s license or other forms of official identification.

The Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit gives the qualified relative the same rights as a legal guardian to authorize medical and dental care for the minor. This can also include mental health treatment with restrictions subject to Section 2356 of the Probate Code. This code does not permit consent for giving experimental medication or convulsive therapy. The Affidavit is invalid if the minor stops living with the qualified relative.

A healthcare provider who acts in good faith reliance on a completed Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit to provide medical care, without actual knowledge to the contrary, will not be subject to criminal liability and is not subject to professional disciplinary action.

To view a sample of the Caregiver's Authorization Affidavit, please click here.

For more information about this topic, please visit the Alliance for Children's Rights website.


Authored by Dona Constantine, RN, BS
Senior Risk Management & Patient Safety Specialist