What is a Parental Consent Form?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Anyone who is a parent or legal guardian of a child will likely encounter many of the varying types of the parental consent form at some point. Each form is slightly different and might give consent to a variety of things. Many of them address consent for traveling, give permission for a child to engage in a particular activity, or give another person authority rights to make medical decisions in emergency settings. The parent’s consent frees other people to act in certain ways as defined and frees them from fearing recrimination for action. Consent forms are often a combination of giving permission and releasing other people from liability.

Parents must sign a consent form giving their child permission to partake in some activities for liability reasons.
Parents must sign a consent form giving their child permission to partake in some activities for liability reasons.

Schools tend to be the biggest generators of these forms, sending home emergency cards wherein parents give consent for emergency medical treatment or authorize release of children to designated people. Other school forms include those that give permission for a child to travel or go on a field trip. Many times schools have to have this permission prior to being able to legally remove a child from campus. Educational institutions might request parents complete a parental consent form when children participate in things like sexual education programs or if exposure to questionable material is planned.

A parental consent form may allow a nurse to dispense medication to a child.
A parental consent form may allow a nurse to dispense medication to a child.

Many other groups offering services to children will ask for a parental consent form prior to allowing participation. Most sporting programs ask parents to give permission for participation and to waive liability if the child somehow gets hurt. Summer camps operate on the same principal, and these liability waivers are sometimes problematic for parents to sign. In certain ones, parents are asked to not sue even if the actions of employees of a group are criminal or purposefully negligent, and many parents balk at delivering their children over to a group that would not accept blame for purposeful, hurtful actions toward their children. The reason such liability waivers can be so extensive is to lower insurance costs for the group sponsoring the activity, but this is not always a comfort for parents asked to sign these.

In the case of most adults, medical consent is received directly from the patient.
In the case of most adults, medical consent is received directly from the patient.

Less stringent release forms specify limited liability, and on a parental consent form, parents remove some of the potential lawsuits immediately. Giving a camp nurse consent to dispense medications waives the concern that nurse would have if she gave medication without a form. Having a parental consent form that states a child can be picked up by a close friend means the group or school holding that child doesn’t get in legal trouble when it releases the child to the friend.

Schools may require parental consent forms for participation in activities such as sports or field trips.
Schools may require parental consent forms for participation in activities such as sports or field trips.

Other parental consent form types give permission for children to act in certain ways. Among these are consent forms available in some states that allow children to marry under the age of 18 or to get a driver’s license. One issue in many regions is whether abortion clinics should require a parental consent form for minors. There are strong feelings about this issue on both sides.

A parent or legal guardian is required to give consent for matters pertaining to children under the age of 18.
A parent or legal guardian is required to give consent for matters pertaining to children under the age of 18.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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