California Democrats on Tuesday advanced a bill that would let children as young as 12 years old check into group homes without parental consent, which critics say would enable the "state-sanctioned kidnapping" of children.
The state's Assembly Judiciary Committee approved the bill, which would allow mental health professionals to commit children to residential facilities upon request, even if the child had not claimed abuse or neglect. The bill instructs counselors to determine whether or not to inform a patient's parents "after consulting with the minor." The bill's authors say their bill is meant to address recent increases in suicide 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.
Critics say these provisions reveal the bill's true intention: helping lawmakers and mental health professionals take custody of children whose parents don't support their efforts to change genders.
"This bill is state-sanctioned kidnapping," Erin Friday, a San Francisco lawyer, said during a Tuesday committee hearing. Friday, a longtime Democrat, helps lead Our Duty, an international support network for parents of the growing number of children who think they are transgender.
Friday and another witness, clinical social worker Pamela Yeager, told lawmakers that the law would empower school counselors to send children straight to a group home if the children say their parents don't approve of their transgender identities.
Blue states have increasingly sought to pass laws that exclude parents out of conversations about children's health and well-being. Just last week, Oregon Democrats advanced a sweeping bill to let kids as young as 15 opt for sex changes without their parents' involvement. Minnesota Democrats also hope to make their state a "haven" for self-identified transgender youth. California says it already prohibits teachers from telling parents if students are questioning their gender, though the policy was set by a state agency rather than law.
Democrats claim the bill simply gives the 40 percent of California children on Medicaid access to the same care as those covered by private insurance. A 2010 law let privately insured minors as young as 12 seek therapy and psychiatric help without their parents' involvement, but does not permit them to enter group homes. Children on Medicaid can also seek therapy without consent, but only if they claim abuse or danger at home.
California progressives claim that allowing children to access therapy without parental consent will reduce LGBT youth suicide. But opponents note that since the state allowed children to seek psychiatric care on their own, teen suicides have climbed statewide.
The bill will head to the Assembly floor for a vote before moving to the Senate.
Update March 29, 2:50 p.m.: This piece has been updated to clarify that a California agency, rather than a law, prohibits teachers from telling parents if students are questioning their gender.