In California, Parents May Soon Effectively Lose Custody of Kids 12 and Older

By Katrina Trinko Published on April 10, 2023

In California, “stranger danger” may be about to acquire a whole new meaning.

Forget warning kids. It’s the parents in California who will need to be terrified of strangers if a new bill passes.

Snuck into AB 665, legislation ostensibly about extending mental health care to lower-income California youths, is a provision that effectively would terminate parents’ rights over their kids as soon as they turn 12.

The California Family Council warns that this bill “would allow children as young as 12 years old to consent to being placed into state funded group homes without parental permission or knowledge.”

As long as a mental health professional signs off on it, the kids can go to such a group home—and it doesn’t matter what their parents think.

“This bill gives a stranger, a school psychologist, power to decide whether a sixth or seventh grader comes home from school that day, and that’s terrifying,” Erin Friday, a California mom of two teens, tells The Daily Signal.

“This bill is essentially stating that parents are criminals that have to prove their innocence to get their child back,” adds Friday, who is a leader of the parent advocacy group Our Duty.


AB 665, which passed out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee last week, builds on a 2010 measure signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican. That law, the Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth Act, allowed California children 12 and older to receive mental health care without their parents’ knowledge if a mental health provider determined it was best not to involve the parents.

That provision was no accident. The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, celebrated the California law in a 2010 report as a “useful model for state or federal legislation to address mental illness among LGBT youth.”

“LGBT youth are likely to avoid using public mental health services if they believe that doing so will cause them to have to reveal their LGBT status to their parents or peers,” the Center for American Progress report said.

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That same report also made the case that mental health services were vital for suicide prevention for LGBT youth: “Providing LGBT adolescents with access to mental health services is essential to helping them cope with the extreme pressures that have led many of them to consider suicide.”

But the data suggests that California’s Mental Health Services for At-Risk Youth Act hasn’t had the effect its boosters hoped for. In 2010, the year the legislation passed, 92 minors in California committed suicide, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nor was 2010 an outlier: Looking at the years 2000-2010, an average of 82 minors a year committed suicide. From 2011-2020, the last year for which data is available, 106 minors a year on average committed suicide in California.

So much for the success of the 2010 law.

Yet instead of reexamining and reforming the old law — which did allow 12-year-olds to access psychological care without parental permission or knowledge, but not residential services — California legislators are now seriously considering expanding the 2010 law and allowing 12-year-olds to go to residential treatment without parental permission.

Of course, that’s an outrageous slap in the face to parental rights.

But it’s also unlikely to help the kids who are troubled and seeking treatment. Pamela Garfield-Jaeger, a licensed clinical social worker since 1999, wrote on her Substack: “In my experience, working with youth in a school setting without parental involvement was ineffective. It was when the parents gave input, shared their point of view and communicated with their teen, [that] the real healing began.”

Garfield-Jaeger, who testified against the new California bill, also warned about the dangers of placing minors in new residences.

“I worked in group homes I know what they are really like, and they are far from ideal,” the social worker said in her testimony. “Residential facilities lead kids to adopt new harmful habits, such as drug use, self-harm, and violent behavior.”

“Youth residential facilities are usually unlocked, and many kids run away into the hands of sex traffickers,” she added.

Why are California lawmakers trying to make it easier for kids to face such horrible fates?

The unspoken reason seems likely here: California lawmakers know that plenty of parents have concerns about minors who pursue gender transition. These are valid concerns: gender transition medical procedures, even for minors, can be extensive — and some of it is irreversible.

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The growing “detransitioner” movement highlights how some people receive transgender treatment, and then have regrets.

“I shouldn’t have been allowed to go through this,” Chloe Cole, a detransitioner who regretted her gender transition after having breast removal surgery at 16, told The Daily Signal Podcast in January.

But California lawmakers don’t want parents to be able to stand in the way of their minor children making these life-changing decisions.

“It is apparent that one result of this bill will be the removal of trans-identified children from the family home,” Garfield-Jaeger said in her testimony. “In the dystopian nightmare we are in, if a parent doesn’t use the child’s chosen pronoun or name, they are labeled dangerous.”

In an interview with Fox News, Friday referred to this legislation as “state-sanctioned kidnapping.”

She’s right — and it’s terrifying that California lawmakers are considering legalizing, not penalizing, kidnapping.


Katrina Trinko is editor-in-chief of The Daily SignalSend an email to Katrina.

Copyright 2023 The Daily Signal

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