Your student needs a RED FOLDER tucked into the top drawer of his desk that holds all the emergency information in the event of injury or hospitalization.

His voice, as well as yours, can be heard because the RED FOLDER gives you permission with HIPAA authorization, medical power of attorney, and durable power of attorney. It also contains insurance information, emergency contact list, list of allergies, list of doctors, and prior medical information. If he can’t speak, his roommate or RA can grab the red folder out of the top drawer of his desk and head for help.

Without it, regulations prevent parents from medical information on patients over 18. (In addition to the need to be privy to potential medical issues, you may also want to know about your student’s financial obligations or whatever relates to their tuition or student loans.) Though you are paying the bills, you may have little say in how your adult child is being treated.

I thought about starting this column with a horrific story involving a student injured in an accident and the parents denied access to medical information because of HIPAA laws, and tuition and financial information because of FERPA. The roommate doesn’t know what to do or who to call. But that’s a scare tactic. You can see I chose to begin with “Your student needs a RED FOLDER” to encourage parents to be proactive.

Quick Facts:

  • It’s simple to later remove someone with authorization.
  • If you fill out one with the university, it won’t help you off campus.
  • You can have it activated now or at the moment the student loses competency (springing power). But do you want to have to wait for that diagnosis or evaluation?
  • You’ll need two witnesses and a notary.

Good Ideas:

  • Put an electronic copy on your phone in the event your student is unable to get to the paper copy, or unable to communicate.
  • Have your student give you their own emergency contact list of their roommates, friends and other pertinent info such as the phone numbers for student health, their primary care physician and the local hospital. Update yearly.

Valuable Links with Full Disclaimer. These are a starting place. You’re on your own to find the most appropriate forms for your student’s needs and his or her particular university and residence. These links will help prompt discussion but always check with an attorney to make sure they are exactly what you need.

If your adult child is unconscious and cannot verbalize consent, you NEED the signed documents enclosed in the RED FOLDER even though you don’t WANT to NEED the RED FOLDER. Independence comes at a high price if a parent and student lose their voice. The RED FOLDER helps everybody at the moment you wish you didn’t NEED it.

    Emergency Contact List
    Copy of Insurance Cards
    List of Doctors
    Medical History
    Shot Record (date of last Tetanus)
    Blood Type
    HIPAA Authorization
    Medical Power of Attorney
    Durable Power of Attorney
    List of Allergies
    University Financial Release Document

I’d love to learn what else YOU would put in the RED FOLDER or if you’ve had any experience with a situation like this. Please share your suggestions or personal experience using the form below to aid us as we compile an expanded Red Folder Hot Sheet to add to our growing list of helpful info on

ann_stewartby Ann Marie Stewart
Mother of two UVA Hoos
Author of “Stars in the Grass”

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