California laws

College-Bound Young Adults Should Have These Important Conversations With Their Parents

In one example, when someone turns 18, federal law prohibits healthcare providers from sharing information about their health without their permission. This is where parents can come into the picture, but only if some steps are taken beforehand.

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If you have a child headed to college, you’re probably doing a lot of planning and packing. But there are a few important items to square away to help your child build the future they want -- and to keep them safe. 

This story started in the NBC4 newsroom with an intern, Eva Levin. While she’s learning the business from us, she also shared a story idea.

When Levin left for college, her father had her sign legal documents so he could access her medical records and have a say in her care if she got sick or injured. These are needed because when someone turns 18, federal law prohibits healthcare providers from sharing information about their health without their permission.

Attorney Steve Trytten says this can leave parents in the dark about their child’s health.

“That can be very important in the scenario they’re unconscious or they’re in for a procedure,” he said.

Trytten says young adults should consider signing a HIPAA release, which allows doctors to speak with their parents about their health. He also recommends they sign a healthcare directive, authorizing their parents to make decisions about their care if they’re unable to. Otherwise, Trytten says parents wouldn’t have a say about what they think is best for their child. 

“The health provider will probably make the decision themself. Because they don’t recognize anyone else having authority to make those important decisions without a directive,” he said.


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Levin said signing the documents brought her comfort. 

“It made me feel really secure. If something were to happen, I'd be protected. I’d be safe, my parents would know, they’d be able to make decisions for me,” she said.

Parents may not realize they also won’t have access to their child’s school records, including class schedule, grade and transcripts, even if the parents are paying the tuition. Once they turn 18, students have a right to privacy under FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. But the student can sign a FERPA waiver, giving access to parents. 

And finally, when a child heads off to college, parents might consider adding them as an authorized user to their credit card. This allows them to use the card, but Sara Rathner at NerdWallet says there’s a bigger perk: it helps them build credit, because the card’s activity is reported on the child’s credit report, too. 

“You, as the primary user of the card, are responsible for paying the bills. So if you pay your bills on time, limit your spending, don’t get into too much debt, then your child can benefit from that behavior,” she said. 

Mike Borisov, a student at Glendale Community College, says this has taught him an invaluable lesson.

“If my mom never got me a credit card, I would have never known even what a credit score was, what a credit card could be beneficial for,” he said.

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