A dear friend once tipped me. She said, “Take a yoga bolster and keep it by your bed so that at the start and end of your day it’s handy for you to kneel down and pray on.”
I bought this yoga bolster and it is near my bed. As a mother of four school-age children, I always pray for them. For their safety, for their health, for them to make good friends, for them to realize one day their hopes and their dreams.
Dear moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, would any of you dispute the statement: no one cares about your children like you do?
Your state government disputes it.
As a first-year legislator, reading the many bills that have been presented to me, I have been amazed to learn that our state laws provide several exceptions to parental authority over their minor children, in especially in health decision-making.
According to a 2002 Office Legislative Research report, there are five main areas of healthcare where, by law, no parental notification and/or consent is required: (1) drug treatment and alcoholism, Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Section 17a-688(d); (2) six mental health treatments, CGS Section 19a-14(c); (3) HIV testing, CGS section 19a-582; (4) reproductive health services, including abortions, CGS 19a-601; and (5) treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, CGS 19a-216.
This means that an outside adult can work with your child in any of these areas of health care, but by law you, the parent or guardian, can be kept in the dark. I thought how could this be?
We have a state Department of Children and Families (DCF) to step in to protect children from bad parenting. If DCF is not working, let’s fix DCF. But we can’t have laws based on the idea that the parents are the problem. In a civil society, parents are the primary decision-makers for their children, period.
I quickly learned that wonderful-sounding bill names conceal insidiously bad policy. Our state legislature has passed and the governor has signed a bill called “Law concerning social equity and the health, safety and education of children.”
I voted ‘no’ on this bill because it expanded the scope of health treatments that could take place without parental notification to ‘as many as needed’ – not just six as stated in the previous law. A minor, a child under the age of 16, might experience normal adolescent emotions, say a funny thing to a school counselor or fill out a school survey in a certain way, and suddenly your child might be placed in mental health without your knowledge. And when you find out, because in the end you always will, you will be told that you don’t know your child as well as the experts.
Then came another bill that was overpriced, “Law concerning explanations of benefits”, which allows minors to receive medical treatment and request the insurance company to send the Explanation of Benefits (EOB), i.e. your health insurance bill, to an email address or postal address rather than to you as the policyholder. I asked the Democratic sponsor of this bill how a child would know what an EOB was and got no response. And who teaches this child that he can have the EOB redirected? Where would a child redirect him anyway? And why? So that the parent does not know what services are billed to the family’s health insurance plan?
An insurance industry lobbyist testified that passage of this bill would mean Connecticut’s EOBs would be treated differently from the rest of the country, which would likely increase administrative costs. When you ask what is causing the high cost of health insurance in our state? The answer is: Connecticut Democratic politics.
Once again, I voted “no” to this bill. It was adopted and the Governor signed it. If you receive my eblasts or follow me on social media you will be aware of these types of bills and my votes as I always communicate with my constituents and do my best to share with you what I see in Hartford.
But nothing has raised the alarm about “parental rights” like the wave of omnibus mental health bills that came fast and furious during the short legislative session of 2022. Due to the devastating impact from COVID lockdowns, forced school closures and mask mandates, ‘the’ was on everyone’s lips.
The Senate has proposed two massive mental health bills and the House has proposed one. I voted ‘no’ on both Senate bills and ‘yes’ on the house bill, as I appreciated that it had a more limited scope with funding that would expire, giving everyone a chance evaluate the effectiveness of new government programs before funding them again.
All the bills have been passed and the Governor has signed them. One of the Senate bills, “An Act respecting mental and physical health services for children in schools”, did three things I think parents need to watch out for: (1) provided public funds to hire more social workers, school psychologists, counselors and nurses; (2) a study was needed to consider the creation of a special “permit” allowing these clinical and medical professionals to provide their services to students in schools; and (3) it provided public funds to open more school-based health centers that would include mental health professionals, as well as dentists, ophthalmologists, and doctors.
For those of us who want our schools to focus on academics, we need to carefully watch what happens in our schools as they can turn into medical health centers. This transformation of schools may have good intentions, but we know where those can lead.
I submitted a bill in January 2022 for a “parents’ bill of rights,” which would affirm that in Connecticut, parents are the primary decision-makers for their children. It seems crazy that we have to affirm it, but we do.
I pray for my own children, but I also pray for the future of our state. Get a yoga bolster and join me. With far-sighted help, we can and will lead our state back to common-sense rules, so that it doesn’t seem like it’s us against them, and no law will aid or encourage a stranger to put a gap between you and your child.
Kimberly Fiorello, a Republican, is a state representative for the 149th district, which includes the cities of Greenwich and Stamford.
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