A man smiles and hands a key to an excited teenager as they sit on the hood of a white car.

How to Give Consent for Your Child

A Guide to Providing Child Consent

Last Updated: August 28, 2023

Key Takeaways:

  • Using the proper consent forms when authorizing a child's travel or medical decisions is crucial.
  • Consent forms should be thorough. Include details such as the names of involved parties, purpose of consent, effective dates, and travel information.
  • Notarized consent forms provide authenticity, especially for single-parent travel or children traveling alone.

Giving consent for your child to travel or for others to give medical consent for your child might seem intimidating, but it doesn't need to be.
Your high schooler might be excited for the opportunity to go on a school trip abroad, or maybe your children are staying with their grandparents for the summer. If your child is going to be traveling without you, or staying with friends or relatives for a period of time, then it's a good idea to provide the caregiver with child consent forms so they can make decisions for your child.
Our guide breaks through the legalese and offers information and tips on authenticating child consent forms.
In general, a parental consent letter or form should provide the answer to any questions that border security or medical professionals might ask.
For example, a Child Medical Consent form should include:
  • Who is being granted permission (the chaperone's name), and who the permission is for (the child's name)
  • What the permission is for, such as to receive medical care (specific information on any allergies, medications, or pertinent medical history for the child should also be included), or to travel to a specific place
  • When the forms become effective (the start date), and when the effectiveness of the forms will end (the end date)
A Child Travel Consent form should include all of the above, plus the following information:
  • Where the child is traveling to, for how long, and where the child will be staying
  • Why the child is staying with someone else, or traveling alone or with a group (e.g. the parents are going on a vacation or business trip, or the child is going on a school trip)
The goal is to provide concise, accurate information so that authorities have a clear understanding of the situation. The consent forms should always be signed by the child's parents or legal guardians.

What if I have sole custody?

Even if one parent has sole custody, it's advisable that each parent indicates their permission in the consent letter with a signature, especially if the other parent has visitation rights. If the parent without custody has no legal rights for the child, then it's a good idea to have a copy of the court order or another legal document stating that lack of legal rights of the other parent.
It's never a bad idea to take the extra step to notarize your child consent forms to increase authenticity. Certain countries, such as Canada and Mexico, require the forms to be notarized in order to make them valid.
Notarizing helps to reduce any problems or confusion when the consent forms need to be presented.
In the United States, most branches of the major banks, such as Wells Fargo & Company or Bank of America Corporation, have a notary public on staff that can notarize your documents for you.
Some other places that you can inquire about a notary public are:
  • Registry offices
  • Town or city hall
  • Military bases
  • College or university campuses
  • Courthouses
For more information, be sure to take a look at our blog post answering some common questions about notaries and witnesses.
Before your child travels, it's good practice to ensure that you are informed about what documents may be requested during travel, or at the child's destination. Aside from the standard documents that someone would need to travel, like a passport and birth certificate, one of the ways that you can protect your child and ensure a smooth journey is by providing accurate consent letters or forms, depending on the situation.
In some cases, such as international travel, additional documents may be required. Some common travel scenarios and suggestions are outlined in this section.

Children traveling with one parent

If your child is traveling with only one parent, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recommends that the parent accompanying the child carry a consent letter that is signed by the non-traveling parent, containing a statement that the traveling parent has permission to travel alone with the child.
Getting consent from both parents helps to prevent confusion about the whereabouts of the child, such as in cases of shared custody between divorced parents.

Children traveling without parents

If a child is traveling without their parents, e.g. if they are visiting relatives in another country, they may need to provide a written, notarized consent letter from both parents.
Different countries may have different requirements for what is needed to make a consent letter legal. The U.S. Department of State has a list of contact information for various U.S. Embassies, so entry requirements for a specific country can be checked.

Aside from notarizing the consent letter, the CBP also recommends that the letter stay current. A new consent letter should be made for every new event where it would be required. For example, if your child stayed with their grandparents during the summer last year, and they are staying with their grandparents again this summer, it is recommended that you create a new consent letter.

It's recommended that you create both a Child Travel Consent form and a Child Medical Consent form since they are two separate documents that are used for different purposes.
A Child Medical Consent form is a document that allows someone to make medical decisions for your child in the event of an emergency. It provides information regarding your child's care, and can expedite the process for healthcare providers in determining the best course of treatment for your child.
A Child Travel consent form gives your child permission to either travel alone, with one parent only, or with someone who is not a parent or guardian. It outlines the details of the trip, as well as provides permission for the child to travel alone, such as if they are going to another state to stay with their aunt and uncle. School or extracurricular groups that your child might travel with may require both forms as well.
Consent for a Child Staying with Friends, Grandparents, or Other Relatives
It's common to think that if someone is related to your child, they are able to give consent in place of the parent or guardian. That might not always be the case, so it's a good idea to provide anyone taking care of your child with both Child Medical and Child Travel Consent forms.
The last thing you want to worry about if you are away from your child is if they are able to receive the care they need. Taking the time to plan for your child's well-being, and making sure their caregivers are able to provide them with everything they need saves everyone from potential conflict and confusion when it comes to your child's care.