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California residents fear mental health professionals are one step closer to giving custody of minors 12 and older to the state after lawmakers advanced a bill on Tuesday that aligns with existing laws for children to receive certain services without parental consent.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Assembly Bill 665, which gives minors over the targeted age group authority to receive mental health services from counselors and therapists who could allegedly sign off on children checking into state-run youth shelters as long they provide evidence of serious physical or mental harm to themselves or others, or if they’re a victim of incest or child abuse.
Although the bill’s text does not explicitly contain language that changes the state’s child welfare system or removal processes, some Californians allege the law — authored by Democrats Assembly Member Wendy Carrillo and State Senator Scott Wiener — indicates “parental separation and emancipation of minors.”
“The authors want to change the law to let a 12-year-old opt out of their home on a whim, invoking parental separation and emancipation of minors without any claim of danger or parental consent,” Nicole Pearson, an attorney, said in her testimony against the bill, according to The Washington Free Beacon. “This is child emancipation.”
Wiener, however, argues the bill “protects children.”
“It makes children safer,” he said. “It makes children healthier. It’s unfortunate that this bill, like so many, has been caught up in this right-wing outrage machine.”
Carrillo claimed the state would “never” pass a law that strips parental discretion or remove access to their children.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation and lies about this bill to the point that it has national and international attention as to how we treat mental health services for young people in the United States and California,” she said.
According to the National Center for Youth Law, minors of the targeted age group can receive healthcare through private health insurance plans and have the authorization to consent to outpatient care on their behalf when considered mature enough to participate. The new bill would give youth over 12 the ability to consent to mental health counseling regardless of insurance type.
“Youth relying on the state’s Medi-Cal program — offered to families with lower incomes — cannot access mental health care on their own without approval from a parent or guardian, unless they meet a much higher need level,” the center’s website reads. “This added barrier to support prevents many tweens and teens from getting the care they need and threatens their well-being.”
Weiner also noted the bill only applies to low-income children in Medi-Cal, the state’s Medicaid program.
Pearson said in her testimony that if lawmakers wanted to remove the parental consent requirement for minors to receive mental health services through Medi-Cal, they could change California’s welfare code and keep state-run shelters’ admittance rules the same.
However, the National Center for Youth Law’s attorney Taylor Chambers said that changing the code would convolute billing for doctors and counselors.
California Democrats have launched a campaign to strip parental authority over their children, specifically in the name of “gender affirmation.” Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced separate legislation to accuse parents of child abuse if they refuse to affirm their children’s gender identity.
Last year, Weiner authored a bill that passed, making California a haven for children who wish to go through transgender surgeries and parents who support them in the procedures while making it more difficult for those who do not want their child to go through such treatments.