Who Provides Consent for Foster Kids in Tennessee?
By Olivia Wann, JD
In dentistry, we know that informed consent allows patients to make decisions in their dental care. We are aware that parents and legal guardians provide consent for minors. But the question arises, who provides consent for minors who are in foster homes?
According to the State of Tennessee Department of Children’s Services in their publication, Administrative Policies and Procedures: 20.24 effective May 23, 2023, when children are in the legal custody of the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), the DCS has the authority to consent to routine medical care or to delegate the authority for consent for routine medical care to individuals responsible for the day-to-day care of the child. DCS is the legal custodian. As such, DCS entrusts foster parents and other care providers with authority and responsibility for the care of the child(ren) in their care. This includes authority for well-care treatment and assessments of vision and hearing. This also includes routine health services such as routine dental procedures including extractions.
In Tennessee, a doctor may perform emergency medical or surgical treatment on a minor without parent consent or court order where such physician has a good faith belief that delay in rendering emergency care would result in a serious threat to the life of the minor or serious worsening of the condition.
It is important to note that when the need arises for a surgical procedure and/or anesthesia, the parent(s) should be engaged in all perioperative decisions and appointments. The parents make the decision of whether to provide informed consent for the surgery and/or anesthesia unless their rights have been terminated.
Keep in mind that the child’s DCS Caregiver (to include the foster parent) should participate in healthcare appointments. Parents are encouraged to attend the appointment provided their rights are not terminated.
The parents are informed that DCS is the legal custodial of the named child and as such is authorized to consent or to delegate its consent authority to ordinary care and or necessary medical care. The parents sign form CS-0206, Authorization for Routine Health Services for Minors. Even if the parent does not sign the form, DCS is still authorized to consent to ordinary care and/or necessary medical care and/or treatment.
To read the policy: https://files.dcs.tn.gov/policies/chap20/20.24.pdf
Alabama requirements are much different: https://dhr.alabama.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/OHC-05-Health-Medical-Care.pdf