This article describes what a Family Safety Plan is and important terms to know. The next article in this series describes how to fill out the documents you need and what to do after making your plan.
Topics on this page:
- What is a Family Safety Plan?
- How do I make a Family Safety Plan?
- Getting Started
- Important Terms
- Choosing a Caregiver
- Signing the Right Documents
What is a Family Safety Plan?
A Family Safety Plan outlines what you want to happen to your child if you have an emergency that prevents you from taking care of them.
A full Family Safety Plan includes:
- Important information about your child.
- Information about the person you want to take care of your child.
- Legal documents you will find or sign.
Examples of emergencies that can be covered by a Family Safety Plan include:
- Immigration related emergencies.
- Death of both parents.
- Incapacitation (mental or physical) of both parents.
How do I Make a Family Safety Plan?
This page contains legal information that will help you make your plan for your children living in Maryland (see also the second article in this series). If your plan is to send your children to another state after an emergency occurs, you should also look for information about family safety planning in that state.
You can speak with an attorney to learn how this information applies to your family’s situation. A list of organizations offering free or low-cost legal services is available in the Legal Services Directory.
You can start planning before you meet with an attorney.
Download this checklist (English, Español) to see a list of documents you should find and questions you should think about while planning.
Some checklist items are for immigrant parents planning for an immigration related emergency, but U.S. citizen parents or other caregivers should also find many of the items on the sheet helpful.
Print the “Family Safety Plan” Form to write down important information about each of your children and about the person you would like to take care of them.
Agent: This is a term used when discussing powers of attorney. Your agent is the person who will be able to make decisions about you or your property as if they were you.
Close Relative: These are relatives that might be able to take care of your children after an emergency if you were unable to sign any legal documents giving someone the authority to care for your child. Look at this chart to see a family tree listing the people who Maryland considers to be close relatives to a child. Examples include siblings, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
Preferred Caregiver: The adult who you want to care for your children if you become unable to do so. This adult may also have other titles when you sign something giving them the power to act.
Power of Attorney: Papers you can sign to give another person the permission to make decisions about you or your property as if they were you. In Maryland, there is no power of attorney that you can sign to authorize someone to care for your children and all of their needs.
Kinship Care: When your child’s close relative signs papers which allow them to care for your children because a specific kind of emergency has occurred, and there was no other plan in place for who will care for your children.
Standby Guardian: The adult who you want to care for your children after you complete the “Parental Designation and Consent” Form. They share the legal responsibility of caring for your children and all of their needs if you experience certain kinds of emergencies. The adult "stands in your shoes" and can have the same responsibilities and authority over your children that they would have over their own minor children.
Standby Guardianship: It allows an adult to share the legal responsibility of caring for your children if you experience certain emergencies. The adult can begin caring for your children without filing any papers in court. They will only need to file papers in court if they are going to care for your children for more than 180 days.
Guardianship Petition/Custody Complaint: Papers filed with a court to ask the court permission to have physical custody or legal decision making authority over a child who is not your own.
Choosing a Preferred Caregiver You Trust
Anyone who is currently caring for a minor child can choose an adult to take care of the child if they become unable to do so because of an emergency.
Make Your Choice:
- It is extremely important that you know and trust the person you select to take care of your child.
- It is not necessary that the person you choose to care for your child have legal immigration status.
- If you are not the child’s parent, you may want to consider whether the child has a responsible aunt, uncle, grandparent, or sibling that could step-in to care for the child.
Make a Back-up Choice (optional):
- Your back-up preferred caregiver is the person who you want to care for your children in case your preferred caregiver is unable or unwilling to act after the emergency has occurred.
Talk about Your Choice:
- Talk with each of your children individually to make sure they would feel safe with the person you have picked.
- Talk with the preferred caregiver about what you wish will happen for your child after the emergency ends. Ask them if they are okay with becoming responsible for your child and your plan.
- Talk with your child’s other family members, school, daycare provider, doctor, or people who supervise the child’s other activities so everyone knows about your plan.
Write Your Choice:
- Write the name of your choice on the page of the Family Safety Plan Form titled, “Information about Preferred Caregiver and Your Plans.” Keep in mind that writing down their name and your wish is not enough to give that person any legal authority to act in an emergency.
Signing the Right Documents
Legal documents that you can sign as a part of your plan are listed below. You do not need to sign every document. You are encouraged to speak with an attorney to learn how to this information applies to your family’s situation.
A list of organizations offering free or low-cost legal services is available in the Legal Services Directory.