We are currently experiencing a socio economic phenomenon in which a larger-than-ever proportion of working Americans are doubling as caregivers. The Sandwich Generation describes many Americans who simultaneously provide care for two or more generations, such as their aging parents and minor children. (Thus, they’re “sandwiched” between them.)
Many others belong to Generation Caregiver, the even larger share of Americans who are providing care for at least one other person in their lives. Further, it’s increasingly common for adults to take care of minors who may not be their own biological children. Keep reading to find out what it means to be a caregiver for minors, what it entails, and what you should know.
What Does It Mean to be a “Caregiver” for a Minor?
Through the lens of family law practice, the word “caregiver” is described as a parent who takes care of a child’s most basic needs. This might include activities such as feeding, bathing, clothing, and grooming a child. They might also manage their healthcare, education, and extracurricular activities.
This definition is often revisited in courts of law during questions of custody. For instance, when two parents are going through a divorce and undergoing a custody battle, the judge will examine the definition of caregiver to determine which parent should have the right to primary custody.
However, a caregiver doesn’t necessarily have to be a parent in the traditional sense. A caregiver could be any loving and affectionate adult who is primarily responsible for ensuring a child’s basic needs are met. There could be several reasons why an adult, who fills the parental role for a non-biological child, would not want to establish a formal guardianship. This could be due to a difficult relationship with the biological parent(s), parental refusal of legal guardianship, or simply because legal guardianship does not make sense per the unique situation.
This could be a grandparent, a relative, or other trustworthy adult. A caregiver may be involved when a biological parent is unavailable, but also when a parent seeks extra support when raising a child. All forms of caregiving are valid.
What do Caregivers Do for Minors? Responsibilities of a Caregiver for Minors
There are many responsibilities associated with serving as a caregiver for a minor. These responsibilities can also vary based on the unique circumstances of providing care.
The key duty of a caregiver is to provide a loving, supportive environment in which a minor’s basic needs are met and such that they can thrive. Mentioned earlier, basic needs duties include washing, bathing, feeding, and grooming. Further, they should provide medical attention necessary. However, meeting a person’s basic needs is the minimum requirement, regardless of age. In order for a person to feel supported and thrive, the caregiver is also responsible for a loving, safe environment in which the child can grow and develop.
Here are a few examples of possible responsibilities associated with a caregiver for minors:
Ensuring an environment that is safe and peaceful
Maintaining safety and sanitary standards
Preparing and supervising meals, snacks, and proper nutrition
Providing physical activities as well as rest and playtime
Providing structured group activities that are educational in nature
Responding appropriately to mental, emotional or developmental issues
Assisting the minor with bathroom and diapering needs
Proving a loving, encouraging, and affirming home life in which the child can thrive
What to Know Before Becoming a Caregiver for Minors
If you are not interested in filing for a legal guardianship, you can sign a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. This form, although it varies from state to state, is an official form to recognize an adult as the caregiver of a minor. The child typically lives with the caregiver who wants to assume responsibility for the minor’s general care and education.
Someone who has signed the Affidavit has certain rights and privileges on behalf of the minor, such as enrolling them in school, making school-related decisions, medical decisions, and other important decisions on the behalf of the minor.
Certain state’s laws require that a correctly completed Affidavit form must be accepted and recognized by schools and medical care providers. The Affidavit does not have to be signed by the child’s legal and/or biological parents, but they do need to be Notarized.
If you are interested in taking this legal step, visit the Children’s Law Center caregiver resource page for the state that you live in. The American Bar Association provides a directory of Children’s Law Centers by state here.
Becoming a Caregiver for a Minor? Update Your Estate Plan Today
Economists and researchers are dubbing today as the age of Generation Caregiver. A rapidly increasing proportion of Americans are acting as caregivers for one or more generations in their families. This is due to adults continuing to have children while the largest swell of Baby Boomers (our largest cohort) is simultaneously entering a stage of life that requires care.
In addition, we’re also in the age in which mixed families are more common than ever. In fact, the traditional nuclear family model is not the minority. This means that being a caregiver for minors who aren’t your own biological children is increasingly common.
Providing care for a minor essentially entails the same duties as parenthood. All children are deserving of a loving, safe and stable environment in which this can thrive. Many families are finding more success by adding in caregivers in the form of grandparents, extended relatives, and close friends. As they often say, “it takes a village!”
If you would like to take on a caregiving role in a more official capacity, you can consider obtaining an official Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. This is not the same thing as obtaining legal guardianship over a minor, but gives you certain capabilities such as enrolling your minor in school or managing their medical care.
Last but not least, don’t forget other aspects of providing care for a minor. For instance, making sure they are addressed in your Estate Plan is a viable way to ensure that they will have certain protections and support even if anything were to happen to you. For instance, if you wanted to pass along property to the minor under your care, you could set up a Will and/or Trust. Further, you could work with their current legal guardian or parent and ensure that a guardianship is set up for them.
There are many different ways in which an Estate Plan will allow you to protect your assets, arrange your medical and end-of-life decisions, and last but not least, ensure that your loved ones will be taken care of. Trust & Will offers numerous solutions that are designed to meet any family’s needs, including the needs of mixed and nontraditional family circumstances. Better yet, our platform and products are easy to use, affordable, and can all be completed online! If you’ve been thinking about creating your Estate Plan, let this be your opportune reminder to spring into action. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning options today!
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