Last week, California lawmakers advanced a radical new bill, AB 665, that would allow children as young as 12-years-old to consent to being placed into state funded group homes without parental permission or knowledge. Critics are rightfully equating this to “state-sanctioned kidnapping.”
The state’s Assembly Judiciary Committee passed the bill, allowing mental health professionals to place children in residential facilities upon a minor’s request, even if the children are not experiencing abuse or neglect at home. The bill also lets professionals decide whether or not to inform a child’s parents “after consulting with the minor.” The bill’s authors claim it will help decrease suicidality among “youth, particularly Black and Latinx youth.”
“For LGBTQ+ youth, the rejection from parents, harassment in school, and the overall LGBTQ negativity present in society can lead to depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, and other negative outcomes. Over one-half of surveyed LGBTQ+ youth reported that not being able to get permission from their parents or guardians was sometimes or always a barrier to accessing mental health services,” the bill reads.
During the hearing, witnesses in opposition told lawmakers that the law would enable school counselors to send children straight to a group home if the children say their parents aren’t supportive of their “gender identities.”
CFC Director of Capitol Engagement Greg Burt interviewed one of these witnesses, licensed social worker Pamela Garfield-Jaeger, who has worked in group homes and testified in opposition to AB 665.
“California state is working overtime to separate children from parents,” she said. “Our opposition was saying how mental health is declining in California and across the country, and I think one of the biggest culprits of that is children are being separated from their parents. If we work together with families, I think that would improve mental health tremendously. They’re proposing something that, I believe, is going to have the complete opposite effect.”
Pamela also shed light on the atmosphere of group homes for children. She explained that in the past, even when there were allegations of abuse, pulling a child out of a home and into a foster home was a last resort option. Putting them into a group home was the very last resort after a foster home. Group homes are dedicated for children with serious behavioral issues. “To think that this is going to be the first step for children is a scary prospect,” she said.
She also noted that in group homes, children get together and learn bad behaviors, such as cutting and substance abuse from each other. At a group home Pamela was working at, one of the counselors was smoking marijuana with the children.
Further, boys and girls are housed together, and it is easy for them to escape. Many of the children run away and end up in even worse situations, like sex trafficking.
This bill is now headed to the Assembly floor where every legislator will vote on it.
Parents can’t wait until this nightmare becomes a reality. They need to speak up and demand that their rights be respected.