Major societal changes affecting the provision of child health care have occurred over the last few decades. In the area of emergency services consent for medical treatment is an important issue. The purpose of this statement is to outline major considerations involving consent and provide the physician with practical guidelines concerning this issue.

Today fewer than one third of children live in two-parent families in which only the father works outside the home. Because of foster care placement, or temporary or permanent arrangements with relatives or friends, parents may not be available to give consent for treatment of their children.