Caring for your children if you get sick

Thinking and planning about what would happen if you were to become ill is important for all parents to do and is even more important for people parenting alone. During the COVID-19 crisis many parents, especially those parenting alone, with little or no extended family, are now starting to think about how to manage their parenting responsibilities if they become ill. COVID-19 can be very mild for some people and for others it may mean you would not be able to take care of a child. See more here about what to expect from the virus.

Considering the following situations can help you plan for serious illness:

  • What if I become seriously ill, who is available to care for my child/ren? Thinking about who in your support circle of family and friends could take care of your child is crucial. If you become moderately sick and need to stay in bed, having this one person who can take care of your child, allowing you time to get well, can make the difference.  As we know, children, especially young children need constant care and attention.
  • Do my children have another guardian or parent who can step into a caring role? Talking to and planning with your child’s other legal guardian, if they have one, is important. Agreeing what you can both do, to care for your child full-time if the primary carer became sick will allow you to talk more openly with your child.
  • Am I comfortable with this or do I need to consider someone else from my family or friendship group? Are they suitable or are they older and cocooning or do they have an underlying health condition that may mean they should not have my child with them if I have contracted COVID-19? Considering whom you would choose first, second, third might be important when looking at becoming sick during COVID-19. Many parents would pick a grandparent to care for a child. At this time, this may not be possible for the reasons listed above. Looking deeper into the family circle might allow you more options. Considering aunties, uncles, mature cousins or very close friends might be the right option for you and your child.
  • Who do I need to speak to about this to ensure there are no difficulties with whatever decision I make? Their other parent, guardian, grandparents etc.Planning around potentially getting sick and sharing this plan with your family will not only support your child if you get sick but it will support your family to pull together. Making it clear that you have nominated a person, that they have agreed to step in and will need support from other family members will make this time safer for your child.  When choosing a member of your family to care for your child, you do not need to take any legal actions for short term care.
  • What is Temporary Guardianship and when should I consider it? Temporary Guardianship allows a parent to nominate another adult for a brief period to care for their child. This would usually be necessary if the parent and legal guardian were to become seriously ill and unable to care for their child. Appointing a Temporary Guardian is not as daunting as you may think. The District Court Offices are open to deal with urgent matters such as this. The forms to complete are available from Treoir .  Legal advice can be sought from the Legal Aid Board if required. Completing the Temporary Guardian forms will offer you peace of mind in case of emergency. The form can be stored safely in your home in event of becoming seriously ill.  For further information on temporary guardianship click here.
  • Can the other parent become primary carer if I become unwell? During COVID-19, families with court ordered arrangements to support shared parenting are being asked to agree alternative plans as and when they need to. If you and the child’s other parent feel the best plan for your child is for the other parent to become the primary carer for an agreed time, this can happen by consent. Returning to the court order is paramount once the parent is well enough again. To vary the order permanently will require an application to the courts. Read more here about how to make decisions about access during this crisis.
  • What role does Tusla, the Child & Family Agency play if my children need alternative care? Tusla are the Child and Family Agency in Ireland. They have a responsibility to support children who need additional or alternative care. For some parents there are no family members to ask or turn to in time of emergency.  Talking with askonefamily helpline (01-662 9212) or your local Family Resource Centre can offer you support in accessing and understanding what Tusla can offer you. Tusla can be contacted directly on free phone 1800 226 771 or online here.
  • What if I am the only parent my child has? Do I need to create a will?It is always a good idea to have a will particularly if you are parenting alone even if this seems like an unpleasant thing to have to do. However, for children it can create a level of security if something unforeseen were to happen and it will ensure your wishes are followed. The Legal Aid Board can offer advice and support in this  here. Considering the options around who is best placed to care for your child in the short and long term are key to supporting you and your child to feel prepared and less anxious if you were to become ill. Taking time now while you are well to explore and make a plan will help you and your children feel prepared. To read our tips on talking to your child about you becoming ill click here.