Virginia’s New Emergency Contact Program


Q. Last week, my husband got into a car accident. It was minor, luckily, and although he was a little shaken up and had whiplash, he was fine otherwise. When he called us from the hospital, the children and I were extremely worried, as you can imagine. What if the accident were more severe, and he was unable to reach us? How would the hospital know who to call? 

I think I heard recently about some type of Emergency Contact Program that Virginia DMV has? If you know about this program, can you tell us more about it and how we can sign ourselves and our children up? And is there anything we do to ensure our children will be taken care of by the people we want, in the way that we wantshould something serious ever happen to both of us?

A.The program you mentioned, Virginia’s Emergency Contact Program, is a free public service which allows citizens to store emergency contact information. This new program gives law enforcement a way to notify a participant’s family or friends in the event of a serious crash or other emergency that leaves him or her unable to communicate.

The program is free and available to residents with a valid Virginia driver’s license, identification card, learner’s permit, commercial driver’s license, or temporary driver’s license. Participants can list up to two emergency contacts that the DMV securely stores. The information will only be used by law enforcement in an emergency situation.

Participation is voluntary. Parents and guardians who would like to enroll a child under age 15 must first obtain a child ID card for their child.

“Although we hope our customers never have to use it, we are pleased to be able to offer this service in the event that it may one day be helpful in an emergency situation,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. “Before you are involved in a serious crash or other emergency, make sure law enforcement officers have the information they need to get a loved one by your side. Sign up today for Virginia’s Emergency Contact Program.”

The DMV offers three ways to sign up or make changes to your emergency contact information:

• Online:
• In person: Visit any DMV customer service center
• By mail: Send the completed application to:
Virginia DMV
Attn: Data Integrity Work Center
PO Box 27412
Richmond, VA 23269

What if you were in a serious accident, or if you became incapacitated? How could you ensure your children will be protected?

If you were killed or incapacitated in an accident, the police will typically show up at your house to notify the family. If the police find your kids home alone, or with a babysitter, they will often have no choice but to call in Child Protective Services and have your kids removed from your home until the system can figure out what to do, and that may take weeks or even months. Obviously this is not what you would want for your children.

Therefore, if you’re a mom or dad with one or more children at home under the age of 18, you may need a Child Protection Plan. Many people believe that if they have a Will, then it is sufficient to protect your children if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Here’s why it’s not:

• What if police can’t locate it?: The police typically won’t know where to find your Will, so your kids will often wind up in the hands of strangers until everyone can figure out what to do.

• A Will doesn’t actually appoint guardians: Even if the police did somehow obtain a copy of your Will, a Will doesn’t actually appoint guardians. A Will only nominates guardians for your children after your death; a Court must make the actual legal appointment.

• A Will only works if you die, not if you become temporarily or permanently incapacitated.

• A Will doesn’t even become effective until it is admitted to probate (which often occurs weeks or months after death), and then it can take additional weeks or months for the Court to officially appoint your guardians.

In the meantime, who is going to take care of your children? Who is going to be authorized to obtain medical treatment if a child requires it? Unfortunately, it is typically the Child Protective Services system, through its network of Foster Care volunteers.

What is a Child Protection Plan?

A Child Protection Plan is a set of legal documents that includes an Appointment of Temporary Guardian for someone you choose to take immediate custody of your children, a Parental Consent for Medical Treatment form, and a Medical Information form containing information on your child’s medical allergies and conditions, pediatrician information, health insurance information, immunization record, and medication list.
If you are in an accident, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are not turned over to Child Protective Services and temporary Foster Care because instead the police have clear instructions from you as to who can take temporary legal custody of your children, such as a close friend or neighbor. If the unthinkable happens, your Child Protection Plan will help ensure that your children are not turned over to Foster Care strangers chosen by an overburdened social services system that doesn’t care about your wishes or who you would prefer to take custody of your children.

By planning in advance with a Child Protection Plan, you’ll rest easy knowing your child will always be cared for by the people YOU want if tragedy strikes.

At the Farr Law Firm, we are specially equipped to meet the unique planning needs of families with minor children, to make sure their kids are totally protected.  We are attuned to the concerns of parents and counsel our clients on issues such as choosing a guardian, how to best provide for long-term expenses, and issues related to blended families. We are also one of a limited number of firms that offer the documents that make up our Child Protection Plan, which provides for the maximum protection of minor children.

In addition to the Child Protection Plan (for those who have children who are minors), every adult over the age of 18 should have an Incapacity Plan that includes a Financial Power of Attorney, an Advance Medical Directive, and an Advance Care Plan.  If you haven’t done estate planning or incapacity planning, please call us to set up an appointment for an initial consultation:

Fairfax Child Protection Planning Attorney: 703-691-1888
Fredericksburg Child Protection Planning Attorney: 540-479-1435
Rockville Child Protection Planning Attorney: 301-519-8041
DC Child Protection Planning Attorney: 202-587-2797
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About Evan H Farr, CELA, CAP

Evan H. Farr is a 4-time Best-Selling author in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning. In addition to being one of approximately 500 Certified Elder Law Attorneys in the Country, Evan is one of approximately 100 members of the Council of Advanced Practitioners of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and is a Charter Member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners.