Be prepared: designate a temporary caretaker

Some parents may want to make plans for their children’s care in case of detention. It is a smart idea to have a plan for your children. Having a plan may help reduce trauma in the event you are detained.

Permanent arrangements for custody require going through the Family Courts. However, in New York parents can designate a temporary caretaker for children for a period of up to six months just by signing a form. Download the official form from the New York State Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS). You do not need to go to court to do this. It must be signed by the parents and the caretaker who will be appointed. It must also be notarized.

The six-month period can be set to begin immediately, on a specific future date, or on a particular event. If you are filling this out in the case of your detention, we recommend the following answer to question 4:

→ commencing upon: the detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of X parent (one or both, depending who is signing)

continuing until: six months later, or the revocation

Once the six months are over, the parent can always sign a new form for the next six months.

Both parents are required to sign the form if they are/were married and no court order exists regarding custody or if there is an existing order of joint custody. Otherwise, one parent can sign the form if the parents were never married or the parent has been granted sole custody. A single parent who has not gotten legal custody in the United States may want to consider going to Family Court to obtain custody so they can make decisions for their child without limitation. However, it is important to remember that parents seeking custody in court will be asked about past felony convictions and abuse or neglect charges.

Form OCFS 4940 gives the caretaker these powers over health care and education:

  • Review school, medical, and other records
  • Enroll in school
  • Excuse absences from school
  • Consent to participation in school program and/or school-sponsored activity
  • Consent to school-related medical care
  • Enroll in health plans
  • Consent to immunizations
  • Consent to general health care
  • Consent to medical procedures
  • Consent to dental care
  • Consent to developmental screening
  • Consent to mental health examination and/or treatment

The parent can remove any of these powers, but there are limits on what this form can do. This form does not allow the caretaker to consent to a “major medical treatment” (surgery) for the child, or consent to international travel. The requirements for consenting to a child to travel internationally vary from country to country and airline to airline and a separate document from both parents may be necessary.

Only one caretaker designation form can be in effect at once. If the parent signs two different forms, only the most recent form will be in effect.

Signing a child care designation form does not limit the parent’s own powers of custody in any way.

The caretaker does NOT take on financial responsibility for the children by signing the form, and the caretaker’s income is NOT counted in determining whether the children may be eligible for or continue to receive public benefits. The children do NOT have to change schools to the area where the caretaker lives.

Before filling out this form, you should talk to the person you would like to appoint as caretaker and make sure they are able and willing to do this. You should also talk to your children about the plan if they are old enough to understand.

After you sign this form, you can always change your mind. You can always sign a new one with a new plan.

Documents such as a copy of the childcare designation form, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, health care, medical, and benefit information should all be kept in one place.