How to secure permission from a parent or guardian
Published: November 4, 2010
Q: When does a children’s author need a permission form to take photographs of a child, and how does this process work?
Nancy I. Sanders
A: Because of the various privacy issues regarding children, any time you interview a child or want to take a photograph, a signed permission form is essential. Whether you use a photograph or interview of a child in a book project, a magazine article, or on your own website or blog, you need a signed permission form from the child’s parent or guardian. This is even true when taking photographs of a book signing in a bookstore and especially on a school visit. Many schools already have signed permission forms they gather at the beginning of each school year, so ask how this policy works before you arrive.
Many smaller publishers today do not need a signed permission form but are fine with an e-mail from an adult or guardian granting you permission to photograph or interview a child. For your records, be sure to keep a copy of the entire e-mail, including date, time and e-mail address. Larger publishers have their own forms they will ask you to have signed. Others don’t have official forms, but might require you to submit a form with your finished manuscript. In either case, or if you don’t yet have a publisher, it’s best to err on the safe side and obtain written permission.
If you need to create your own permission form, be sure to include key information. The name of the parent or guardian of the child should be on the form, along with a statement declaring the adult is the legal guardian or parent of the child. Include the child’s name as well as contact information for both the adult and child (if different than the adult’s) with street address, phone number and e-mail address. A description of the photograph(s) you’ll be taking of the child is good to have, along with a description of the project where the photograph(s) will be published, including any electronic databases your publisher is connected with. If you will be paying a photographer for the photograph, write down this information on the form as well. Finally, the signature of the parent or guardian is required, along with the date the permission form was signed.
If working with numerous subjects, create a generic permission form with blanks to fill in for the child’s name, contact information, image descriptions, and the title of the project you’re working on. A one-page form is easiest to work with. Before getting the form signed, ask your publisher to look it over to make sure it includes all the necessary information.
Obtain two signed forms for each image. Keep one for your records and give one to the child’s parent or guardian. Photocopy your original and submit the copy with your project, unless your publisher wants an original, in which case you will need three signed forms for each image. Always keep an original in your files to avoid frustrations from loss in the mail or other incident.
In this age of digital cameras that capture high-quality pictures anyone can snap, stay on top of the game and obtain permission forms when photographing or interviewing children for your projects.
Nancy I. Sanders is the author of
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. Web: www.nancyisanders.com.