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Las Vegas parents with coronavirus have options for child care

Updated April 3, 2020 - 2:36 pm

Children might be resistant to COVID-19, but what happens if their parents become too sick to care for them?

“Most people have family or church family who can help in times of crisis,” said Kari Ellis, manager of case management at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. “But some, really unfortunately, have no one.”

Resources are available to put a care plan in place before you get sick and to fill the void if that plan falls through.

Parental consent is powerful, local family law attorney Marshal Willick said. If parents make a decision about their child’s care and communicate it, that’s what should happen.

“With full parental consent, you can do anything you want,” he said.

Parents can also appoint a temporary guardian to handle a child’s medical care. A six-month temporary guardianship agreement form is available on the Family Law Self-Help Center’s website.

If both parents are in the picture, they must both sign the agreement with the person agreeing to act as guardian for the child. If the child is 14 or older, they also need to sign it.

“I’m not in the business of telling people you don’t need lawyers, but for this, you don’t,” Willick said.

You do, however, need it notarized.

Notaries provide an essential service and are still operating across the Las Vegas valley. UPS locations are still open and most across the valley also provide notary services.

The agreement goes into effect the day it’s signed, but Willick said that parents who think they might eventually need one should get it sorted out before they get sick.

Though it doesn’t need to be filed, the form is a legal document and allows the guardian to make decisions about the child’s health, education and legal affairs.

“All the stuff that you need to take care of a child, this is the ticket to get that,” Willick said.

The form usually can’t be used to acquire health insurance for a child, the self-help center warns. And the form allows the guardian to care for a child, but does not require that person to follow through.

“If they come and drop little Johnny back on your doorstep, you have to take him,” Willick said.

As mandated reporters, medical personnel have to call authorities when they find out a child is in danger. Danita Cohen, a spokeswoman for University Medical Center, said that the hospital alerts Clark County Social Services.

Ellis said that staff at Sunrise Hospital also helps parents find resources to have their children cared for without the state’s involvement.

“It is very hard to find this kind of resource in town,” Ellis said, and Sunrise refers parents to the Safe Families for Children program.

“We’re not social services, we’re not CPS (Child Protective Services), we’re not the state, we’re not anything like that,” said Sagrario Benitez, outreach coordinator at Safe Families. “Really what we are is a movement.”

The program is part of Olive Crest, 4285 N. Rancho Drive, a nonprofit that works to prevent child abuse and provide care and resources for foster children and families. But Safe Families works to keep children from entering the foster care system in the first place.

Benitez said the local branch is made up of “committed families,” every member of which has been thoroughly vetted. She said 99 percent of the families — who volunteer — come from faith-based organizations.

Families open their homes and care for children while parents aren’t able, but parents maintain custody and stay in contact with their kids.

“A lot of times people are skeptical,” she said, “because they don’t really know us or know anything about us. But our families, I would leave my kids with any of them.”

The families also help provide respite for struggling parents, usually working, single mothers. Benitez said that the families will care for a child for a few days while their parents catch up on essentials, undergo medical treatment or just take a break.

She said that many families who come to Safe Families are new to Las Vegas and don’t yet have a social support system.

Benitez said the group always encourages families to use other resources to tackle issues like homelessness and helps them find the help they need.

“Really, it’s like connecting the points between needs and resources,” Benitez said.

For more information on the Safe Families program, call 702-960-1436, email safefamilies-lv@olivecrest.org or visit olivecrest.org/safe-families-for-children.

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