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College HIPAA release and FERPA consent forms…why they come up short

On Behalf of | Jun 29, 2022 | Estate Planning - Estate Administration & Probate

Summer is finally here! Many families are enjoying their last few months together before sending their child off to college for the first time in the fall. Purchasing dorm room supplies, school supplies, and filling out university paperwork are among the few things on most people’s lists.  With regard to university paperwork, most colleges will provide a FERPA Consent Form and HIPPA Release to their students. Unfortunately, after your child turns 18, these documents alone will not be enough to allow you as a parent to continue caring for your child as you have always done.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. FERPA gives parents rights with regard to their child’s education records, but once your child turns 18, they are legally considered to be an adult and those rights now belong solely to the student.  The FERPA Consent Form is completed by your child, and it gives the college authorization to share your child’s education records with you.

In addition to losing access to your child’s education records when they turn 18, you also lose the ability to access their medical records and make decisions regarding their care.  The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) is a federal law that was enacted to protect sensitive patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge. A HIPAA Release can provide you access to your child’s medical records. If you child is away at school and a medical emergency arises, you may have trouble trying to determine what condition your child is in and what the treatment possibilities are in the absence of HIPAA Release.

These documents are a great starting point for most families because they give you, as a parent, the right to access information.  Access to information is only half the battle. These documents do not give you the right to take any action or make any decisions on your child’s behalf if your child is in a situation where they are no longer able to speak for themselves.

There are two additional documents that will provide you with the authority you need to be able to continue to parent your child in a time of need. These documents will also provide you with peace of mind, knowing that in the event of an emergency you can be there for your child like you always have.

The first document is a General Financial Power of Attorney designating you as Agent. This form is signed by your child and provides you with the authority to make important financial and other decisions for your child when they are unable to do so (i.e. open their mail, pay any bills, file their taxes, etc.).

The second document is a medical power of attorney, also known as an Advance Medical Directive.  The Advance Medical Directive, signed by your child, contains its own HIPAA privacy release so, in addition to providing you access to your child’s medical records, it also allows you the right to make decisions regarding your child’s medical care and treatment if they are unable to do so themselves.

No parent ever wants to be in a position where they cannot help their own child, especially in a medical emergency.  In addition to the FERPA Consent Form and HIPPA Release, consider having your child execute a financial power of attorney and advance medical directive after they turn 18. If you are interested in discussing documents for your child, contact us for a free consultation.