TRENTON – Administration officials at the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) today encouraged parents across the state to consider temporary guardianship options for their children in the event they become incapacitated with COVID-19. Power of Attorney (POA) forms were made available online for download.
“Contingency planning is always recommended for families, but during these uncertain times, it is even more crucial for parents to prepare for the unexpected,” said DCF Commissioner Christine Norbut Beyer. “Similar to disaster readiness, families should have a COVID-19 Kit that includes important documents, a list of alternative caregivers for their children and a ‘go’ bag with toys, medicines, clothes, electronics and other essentials children may need to spend the night – or a week – with a designated caregiver.”
In the event a child is without a caregiver due to a parent’s illness or incapacitation, DCF’s 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.
“DCF’s role is one of child protection and child welfare,” said Carmen Diaz Petti, Assistant Commissioner for DCPP. “We encourage all parents to consider these resources and to do all they can to plan for the care of their children, preventing an unnecessarily traumatic experience during an already difficult time.”
To assist parents in taking the first steps to develop a plan, DCF created the COVID-19 Family Prep Kit instructional, detailing the types of items that should be incorporated. 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 It can be changed or withdrawn at any time.
More information about DCF’s COVID-19 response can be found online.