What Happens If I Need to Go to the ER and Have to Take My 7 Yo with Me?

Updated on October 16, 2013
A.M. asks from Silver Spring, MD
25 answers

I have a few chronic illnesses that occasionally land me in the ER. I can usually hold out long enough to arrange for someone to stay with my 7 year old and someone else to accompany me to the hospital. This works fine during the daytime and early evening.
However, late night it's harder to get someone here quickly. My ex always sleeps through the phone ringing. My elderly parents and young adult daughter live about an hour away from me. Most of my friends are single parents with equally young kids so a middle of the night trip to the ER to pick up my child is unlikely. The one neighbor who seemed a potential caregiver moved away.
So, I am nervous that eventually I will need to bring her along to the ER because of lack of child care. What happens in such cases? Will a social worker be called automatically or will the hospital give time for a relative to arrive? If a social worker is called, will he or she be likely to recognize that we're only in a bad spot for about an hour?
Thanks in advance.

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So What Happened?

I appreciate everyone's advice, especially Je$$ica We$$ica's and those moms who recommended a bag of activities.
I have 3 chronic illnesses that are fairly complex to explain (I've had to educate myself so I can explain to nonspecialist medical personnel what to do/not do). Going to the ER while in an acute episode is part of my medical action plan with 2 specialists and my insurance company. In the type of situation I describe, I need treatment in a hospital not urgent care at 10 pm, not my primary care physician's office at 8 am the next morning. During a severe flare, I need to move with urgency to get IV fluids and IV forms of medications (some I already take daily, others are for flare ups). Sometimes scans are needed to rule out severe blockages and other damage. If I can get stabilized then, I usually won't be hospitalized.
When this happens, I can't drive myself (too much pain or too lightheaded) but I haven't needed an ambulance yet. My plans has been to take a taxi with my 7 year old. She's not the crying, screaming type but I doubt ER personnel will allow her to be in the room during these procedures.
I won't bore you by running down the entire list of reasons why no one in my neighborhood is an option (she attends private school so we don't have that sort of relationship with the kids at the neighborhood school, etc). However, my church is 5 minutes away and I appreciate the suggestion of coordinating emergency care through them.
Knowing that an ER visit with kid in tow isn't an automatic trigger for a social worker is comforting. I respect the difficult work they do, but I have had students followed by child protective services over a single incident.
Thanks again for guidance, assurance, and well-wishes offered.

Featured Answers


answers from San Francisco on

I actually had to go to the ER one time when my husband wasn't home. I took both of my kids with me. They were 7 and 10 at the time. Nobody said a word about it; the kids just came into the room with me. The kind doctor gave them stickers. Everything worked out fine. Nobody talked about calling CPS or anything like that!

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Since you know it could happen you should prepare for this.
I would not trust the hospital staff or social services to be looking after my child if I were incapacitated.
You'll feel better if you have a reliable contingency plan in place.

Give these people a call and see if they can help you or if they can't maybe they could suggest where you could look.


You might be able to find an emergency baby sitter through SitterCity.


5 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Portland on

As a mom and a police officer I've had experience with this. You can take her with you. She can go into the exam room with you, too. If it's inappropriate for her to be present for the exam she can step out. This isn't ideal but I wouldn't be concerned. It's unlikely for this to happen because you are focused on finding someone to watch her.

Have you considered using an urgent care clinic? They are able to be more personal. You could visit several and choose one before you need it.

27 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Good lord AngieOPlasty!!!! That didn't just *sound* harsh, it WAS harsh! You would actually call the authorities on this poor woman and say she can't take care of her child?! I'm glad I don't live near you. My husband travels for work and I am alone a lot. What would happen if I wound up in your ER with my 2 kids in tow? Would you have someone take them away from me? I'm now considered an unfit mother? UGH.

Anyway, I agree with the posters who said if you're well enough to drive yourself to the ER then maybe you can make a stop on the way to drop your kiddo at a friend's house? I know MANY MANY moms would step up to help someone in your situation - particularly if if just means you'd be dropping your child off. If I were you though, I probably would do what someone else suggested below - find a good babysitter that can be on call. Use this sitter a few times so your kid will be comfortable with her. Maybe I shouldn't have assumed this, but it sounds like this may not ever happen. You just want to be prepared. Kudos to you for looking for ideas on how to make it all work. That's what we're here for.

15 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If you can drive yourself to the ER - then how sick are you? I'm sorry if that sounds rude or mean, that's not how I mean it. But if you drive yourself to the ER - why are you going? I am sure there are illnesses that require immediate attention - again - I don't know your illnesses so my line of thought is - if she can drive herself - is she really that sick?

If you are taken via ambulance, I don't know what would happen. Especially if you get admitted to the hospital.

So why not contact your local hospital and speak to them about it and their rules and what they have to report and when.

I'm in Reston - about 45 minutes from you. So you are not alone. What would I do? I would contact my hospital, ask questions - get answers, then set up a support network - someone that I KNOW I can count on to answer when i call and be there as well.

Good luck!

12 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

I would call a friend in a case like that, but my friends all have husbands, much older kids or they have no kids at all. An hour's not so far away for family. I''m sure your daughter can handle sitting there and being "bored" for an hour or so, right? Maybe have a bag of books, paper, colored pencils, etc. on hand for just such an emergency. She should be fine until family arrives. I don't think anyone's going to report you or cause trouble, I imagine people show up all the time in the ER with kids in tow.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

As a minister I often get called to the ER to advocate for a patient. These people are usually someone I know but not always. Middle of the night the ER is either dead or hopping. If I saw someone bring a child with them because they needed treatment I would be happy they didn't leave the child unattended at home. As a single Mom you need to do the very best you can every day for your child but sometimes no matter how many plans you have or how many people you have on 'stand-by' to help in an emergency situation ca-ca happens.
You could try calling the hospital administration office and ask them if they would have a volunteer or clergy person available if you needed them. Get a 'go-bag' ready for your daughter. Put in a change of clothes, or at least clean undies and socks and PJ's, hair brush, comb, toothbrush, tooth paste etc, coloring books, story books, crayons, pencils -- stuff to keep her occupied and clean if needed.
If you belong to a church call and ask the paster if he and his wife could take her in an emergency or if they know a family who could help. If you belong to any Mom's groups (look on meetup.com) or work outside the home ASK around. Even though I wouldn't be happy about be woken up in the middle of the night I would happily help out anyone in need. If nothing else I could meet you at the ER and take her to my house to sleep and have breakfast and drop her off at school the next day. Hopefully by the time she is out of school her auntie or grandma could be there to take care of her.
I know I am not the only person in the world who would step up and help someone in need, you just need to find a few people, just in case.

BTW: I have a 'go-bag' ready at all times. It's a big tote bag with a change of clothes, personal care items, a book etc just in case I need to spend a night with someone at the hospital.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think the suggestion to contact your local hospital is a good one, as is the one about potentially dropping your child at a friend's on the way to the hospital.

Also, I just wanted to say I didn't read your comment about a social worker being called as you thinking that one would be called to act as your babysitter. I took it as a concern that the hospital would call your local child protective services or department of social services (or whatever they call it in Maryland). I would *think* that, depending on your condition, the hospital wll give you time to get a care-giver there.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

First, ask your friends. It will be inconvenient, but I would do it for someone I consider to be a friend. They may be willing, I mean it's not like your going out for drinks or a movie.

Second, I don't know if it's possible, but maybe you should consider moving closer to family. It sounds like that is what you really need. Also have you asked your daughter? You are her mother, the one who gave her life and raised her and that is her sister. She may not mind. You would still have to take your daughter with you until she got there, but its an option.

I have been to the ER before and seen people with their kids in tow. No one says anything to them. I have never seen or heard of them calling social services. You are not neglecting her and I doubt they would think you were. It's an emergency. Now if you were really bad off and unresponsive, I would assume they would call them, but only so that they could call someone to come get her. The doctor wouldn't have time to do it.
It's not a situation were you would be in danger of losing your child or a case being opened.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm sure it would be fine to have her there for an hour if grandma or big sis is coming to get her. I also like the idea of a classmate's parents being on call. I would do that for someone I know.
When you go to the ER, are you conscious? Can you talk to them and tell them who to call and that they could be there in an hour, or would your daughter need to speak for you? Does an ambulance pick you up? I would get my ducks in a row. If you go to the same hospital each time, see if they can have it in your chart to call so and so if you have your daughter with you. If an ambulance picks you up, have all the numbers written somewhere that your daughter can access them to give to the EMTs.
I really can't imagine the hospital handing her over to a social worker right away. Emergencies happen. You just happen to know that you need to plan for your potential emergencies. Most parents would not have that luxury, for lack of a better word.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

If you have an emergency you really don't have a choice but to bring your child. I am sure the hospital will call a social worker or aide to sit with your child.
Honestly though I think you should ask a parent of classmate at your child's school. Since my husband is home I would do this for anyone that needed help even if you were only an acquaintance of mine. Of course you need to feel comfortable leaving your child with that person.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Make contact with your pastor and ask for help from your church community.

If push comes to shove, she's 7. She should be able to come back with you and wait. Bring her some things to do and some snacks. She'll be okay.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Could you swing by those parents of young children and drop daughter off?

You might consider finding a good church home. We tend to look out for one another.

Doe your daughter have a good friend who's family could look after her if need be? I've done that before for a good friend of my son whose family had an emergency.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Maybe I'm not understanding but are you driving yourself? If yes, then ask a friend if you can drop her off. I would absolutely help anyone out at any time of the day or night, as often as needed, single or married.

Best wishes

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Is there any way to move closer to your family? If you're that sick, it would probably be better for you to be closer to your support system.

Alternatively, there is at least one daycare in my area that offers 24 hour care. Perhaps do some research in your area and see if such a thing is a possibility and make an appointment to do a tour and explain the possibility of your needing them on an occasional basis in an emergency.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Do you have, a GOOD neighbor you completely trust and can be trusted?

Depending on what is going on per your ER visit, a child may not even be allowed in or per certain procedures/tests or whatnot.

Or, find a Babysitter who will take emergency spur of the moment jobs.
Someone who is background checked and licensed or employed with a licensed company.

Or, call the Hospital you go to, and ask them, what would happen if your child is with you? And/or does the hospital have anything for those scenarios.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I have taken the kids to the ER with me when the need arouse. There is no need to call a social worker, that's a bit extreme don't you think? They understand that emergency's happen.

When you're sick it might be better to stop trying to put it off until you're able to go without her. Chances are you'll have an emergency during the night and have to get her up and take her with you. SO go ahead and go when you need to so you can lessen the chance you'll have to go during the nighttime hours.

I also say just take her with you. Do your best to keep her sleeping or at least sitting quietly. I usually lay the kiddo's on the bed and I sit in the chair. This way it shows I am giving the kiddo's priority and their rest is important to me.

If you do have chronic illness can you get a nurse to stay with you to help out? I had a friend who had some illness where she wore a urine bag all the time. She would get so ill sometimes that she had a written order for a nurse to come stay 24/7. This letter made the HUD office allow her a 3 bedroom apartment instead of a 2 bedroom for her and her daughter. She had to be able to supply that nurse with a private room to sleep in.

Several times a year a nurse would come stay with her due to her health.

It's just a thought though. If you have a true emergency and need immediate medical care then you have no choice except to take the kiddo's. They understand this and if they call child welfare on your for it then I would not trust those doc's to treat me anymore.

IF they put you in the hospital that's when you call someone to come get her. Just explain that you are being admitted and they won't let her come to ICU or where ever they put you and that you need help right away. That will show you have a support system and that you are doing okay.

Make a plan with several people you know. Tell them that you need to make a list of a couple of people that you can call at any time for help. That you will ONLY call them if you are being admitted and that you won't wear out your welcome with them. Then they need to agree to come, at any time, to the hospital when you are being admitted and pick up your child. This way you have a plan and a couple of backups.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

Hospitals aren't going to call a social worker to arrange for baby-sitting for you, not even if you're admitted as an inpatient (unless you're unexpectedly admitted in a different state from your home). And a hospital - especially the er - is no place for a child. You need to figure it out. The nurses who are caring for you do NOT want to be responsible for your child.

Honestly, and this may sound harsh - as a nurse myself, if I had a patient come in the er with no one else to care for her kid, I wouldn't call a social worker. I'd call cos to report a parent unable to care for her child and a child in need of immediate placement.

Honestly if this is a frequent occurrence perhaps your kiddo should live with your ex. If whatever you suffer from is so poorly controlled that you often find yourself in the er, that doesn't sound like a good situation for your child. What if you don't make it to the er? What happens to your child then?

I'd really find a way to get ahold of your ex. .... Or send kiddo to live w/ ex.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

I don't know how your hospitals work, but here you would certainly have an hour or more of waiting time, so there would be plenty of time for a family member to come and take over child care before you are seen by a doctor. This is assuming you are conscious and capable of watching your child. I would keep a bag of stuff for your child ready just in case (books, snacks, colouring etc.). Call your daughter before you leave for the hospital. Work on getting to know some more neighbours.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I have brought my kids to the ER when I sprained my ankle. They sat there and were bored out of their minds.

Why would you think they would give you a babysitter, I mean social worker?

Oh, and this answer is based on it sounding like you drive yourself there. By seven he should be more than able to do as he is told and stay in a seat.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I haven't had any recent ER trips, but this is something that I worry about too in the event that my husband isn't home (I have severe chronic pain issues and severe digestive issues)... and I do have friends and family in-state within 20-30 minutes as well as immediately local. I'm also afraid of bothering people and infringing on their plans/rest/life during "off hours." I don't want to be a burden to people.

That said.

Is your former husband really "sleeping through" your calls or does he just turn his phone off? I might have a very frank discussion with him about the seriousness of your situation and how you're concerned about it affecting the children.

If it's one of those emergencies that can allow you to plan ahead a little bit, I'm not so sure that waiting an hour for your adult daughter would be so horrible. An emergency that you can "plan" would be one where you can drive yourself and organize everyone into the car and coordinate things as you go.

In an immediate emergency, it would be unlikely you can drive yourself and you would need to leave immediately without a real plan. In that kind of emergency no one is going to judge you or call CPS/DCYF for bringing your children to the ER with you. NO ONE. People understand, or they should, that emergencies happen. That's why we have emergency rooms. It doesn't make you a terrible parent by any means. Because you know that there's a moderate-high chance, pack yourself an overnight bag and one for your children that includes a change of clothes, snacks, books, a game, drinks, and maybe let them each have their own bag. Keep the bags all near the door. Or, as I now see responses below me, a "go bag" for each person. Then once you're at the hospital you'll have more leeway time for getting someone to come collect the children.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pocatello on

The GoBag is exactly what I was going to suggest. I'd include a juice box and some crackers as well as coloring stuff, if you need a small one, like a backpack she can handle herself. I've had to take my small son to a mommy only appt before & while it wasn't pleasant, we survived it. These things happen to all of us. ER visits can be long so have something ready to go to keep her occupied & I would think if it were an issue at all, they would let family come get her.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Richmond on

once a social worker decides you need "help", they are incredibly hard to discourage, so the thing to do is to have a plan in place ahead of potential emergencies so that a social worker wont "just happen to show up" while you have a small screaming, scared child in your arms and an emergency on your hands..we have worked out an emergency plan with not only our upstairs neighbours but also my sister..so somebody is always available in case of emergencies..my husband works in maryland, but we live in virginia, we have a adventurous toddler and no second car, so theres always something going on..
its certainly not extreme nor paranoid to believe that a social worker might very well take it upon themselves to "help you" even though you have already told them you dont need "help", vast majority off the time, a cps worker wont even be bothered to identify themselves as cps when talking to a parent ( especially if the parent has health issues ), i have personally to deal with a cps worker" interviewing" me because of a false report forwarded to them by a doctor and a head nurse who routinely filed false cps reports due to their own prejudices..

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I wish I lived near you. I feel for you. Give an extra set of your door keys to a family member. You may need to go in the middle of the night. Your child may be asleep. They can let themselves in.

Find an older couple nearby. Seniors love to feel needed. I'm 55 and would love to have a role like this. We feel alone and relish family. Join a church and become active. Church ladies live to help.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Hi, Persimmon:

What are your chronic illnesses that cause you to go to the ER?

Just want to know about how you can take care of yourself and
prevent this reaction.

Good luck.

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