Many children are not in the custody of either biological parent. They may be in
foster care, under the care of a relative, with a potential adoptive parent, or in
other situations in which their caregiver is not a biological parent. If the child
has a legally appointed guardian, the guardian must consent to the child’s care
in the same fashion as for an adult ward.
In some of these cases, no one has asked the court to appoint a guardian for
the child. These children are in legal limbo; no one may consent to their care,
but it is unthinkable to deny them necessary care because of their legal status.
A child in need of immediate care should be treated as necessary while the
hospital seeks to have the caregiver appointed as temporary guardian for the
child. If the child is in need of simple elective care, that care should be
postponed until a guardian is appointed. The physician should always notify
child protective services when a child needs a legal guardian.