Monday, May 01, 2017

SB 18 Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of California: joint committee and SCR 41 Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of California

SB 18 is the Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of California: joint committee. SB 18 was amended on Monday April 3, 2017. SB 18 is now a bill that creates a joint committee of senators and assembly members. The bill would create, until November 30, 2024, the Joint Legislative Committee on Children and Youth, with 18 members appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules and the Speaker of the Assembly, as specified. The bill would require the committee to develop “California’s Promise to its Children and Youth,” a framework for the care and welfare of children and youth in various contexts, including, but not limited to, health care, nutrition, homeless assistance, education, and foster care, as specified. The bill would require the committee to consider an unspecified Senate Concurrent Resolution (we now know it is SCR 41), the Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of California, if it is enacted and takes effect on or before January 1, 2018, for purposes of developing the framework.

(2) The committee shall consider Senate Concurrent Resolution No. (we now know it is SCR 41), the Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of California, if it is enacted and takes effect on or before January 1, 2018, for purposes of developing the framework described in paragraph (1).
SB 18 highlights who the committee will reach out to and consult in developing the framework for California’s Children and Youth. Missing from this list of various special interests is any regard for the FAMILY and PARENTS. 

(b) By November 30, 2020, in consultation with medical organizations involved in child health care, educational organizations and institutions, organizations in child development and welfare, and applicable state agencies and commissions, the committee shall develop a plan to implement the framework by January 1, 2024.

(c) By November 30, 2020, in consultation with experts and organizations in tax reform, academia, research institutes, business, labor, local government, the Franchise Tax Board, the State Board of Equalization, and applicable state agencies and commissions, the committee shall identify and propose comprehensive tax reform solutions to increase revenue predictability and ensure sufficiency of revenues adequate to support the implementation of the framework, for presentation to the Legislature and, if necessary, to the voters of California.

SB 18 also is filled with references to tax code rather than a focus on children. Shouldn't a bill that is supposed to be a Bill of Rights for Children focus on children?

SCR 41 is a Senate Concurrent Resolution. The language that was previously introduced as the Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of California was seven sections of vague open ended wording. This wording was already troublesome. The LA Times editorial board agreed and wrote a piece on it titled “A lofty—and troubling—proposed bill of rights for California kids” on February 7, 2017. The draft that Common Sense gave at their Kids Rally on March 13 went into greater detail for each of the seven sections and this language was even more troubling. SB 18 was amended and became a committee bill that tied a concurrent resolution at the time of unknown name and unknown bill number. The draft of SB 18 from March 13, 2017  is now the Senate Concurrent Resolution introduced in the evening on 4/18/2017, SCR 41 titled the Bill of Rights for the Children and Youth of California. 

These questions raised from SCR 41 are particularly concerning. This is not at all an exhaustive list of the numerous problems of both SB 18 and SCR 41.

(1) (I) Remaining with a parent, legal guardian, or caregiver, except when authorities determine separation is in the best interest of the child.
What authorities? Who decides what is in the best interest of the child? What is the standard that describes this? Of course we want children who are being neglected or abused protected but there are already laws in place for this outside this bill of rights.

(3) (F) Having parents, elected officials, and other adults consider the effect that decisionmaking will have on a child’s care and community.
Why are elected officials or other adults making decisions about a child’s care? Adding the word community there at the end is troubling. While people certainly should care about others in one's community, it doesn't mean that that the needs of community should always come before the unique needs of the child, the person or the family. 

(5) (B) Access to the educational services and supports necessary to support and accommodate the child’s individual abilities and needs in the most inclusive environment possible, regardless of a student’s level of need or ability.
Are we considering the unique needs of children? Inclusion is wonderful. But children are not one-size-fits-all. For some children, inclusion doesn’t work for them and they need more intensive and an individualized education. After all, that is why they have an IEP, INDIVIDUALIZED Education Program.

(7) (A) (vi) Other necessary health care, diagnostic services, treatment, and other measures, including medical or remedial services, provided in a facility, a home, or other setting, recommended by a physician or other licensed practitioner of the healing arts within the scope of his or her practice under state law, for the maximum reduction of physical or mental disability, to correct or ameliorate defects and physical and mental illnesses and conditions discovered by the screening services described in this paragraph to support an individual in achieving his or her best possible functional level.
Again are we considering the unique needs of children and the unique needs of the family? There are cultural sensitivities that should be addressed here as well. In some cultures, alternative treatments take precedence over traditional medicine. To put this right into perspective if a child has a physician recommending medication to ameliorate the condition of say ADD or attention deficit disorder and the parent wishes to use more natural medicine rather than pharmaceutical medication that parent would be violating the rights of their child. 

(2) The right to live in a safe and healthy environment
 The right to a healthy environment, does this mean the family and kids need to make sure they take pharmaceutical medications and no room for alternative treatments? 

(A) Living in an environmentally and physically safe and stable home.
(E) Living in neighborhoods and communities that are physically safe
If you are a family that is living in poverty you may not be able to guarantee that your child lives in the safest neighborhood. These sections blame impoverished parents and families for their poverty. To what end? 

If your child or your family does not fit into the standards described in this bill of rights what would happen? If you as a parent are in violation of this bill or rights what would happen? These are the questions for which we have no answer. 

These bills, SB 18 and SCR41 continue to be dangerously open ended and should be opposed.

Bill Text
SCR 41

Thursday, December 15, 2016

California Senate Bill 18 Unnecessary, Vague and Dangerously Open Ended

On the surface, Senate Bill 18, recently introduced by Senator Pan, looks like a good idea. It is titled The Children and Youth of CA Bill of Rights. The bill outlines seven different areas which children and youth should be protected. However, the seven areas outlined are vague and open ended which ultimately seems to not be consistent with the best interest of children and families.

Most people want to protect children. Most parents want to protect their children. Progressive minded people care for all chldren. However this particular bill seems to be a step in the wrong direction.

SB 18 is unnecessary. There are already laws in place that address the extreme cases in which children do not have protection and nurturing from their parent or guardian. In fact, the first line of SB18 states: "Existing law provides for the care and welfare of children and youth in various contexts, including, but not limited to, child welfare services, foster care, health care, nutrition, homeless assistance, and education." So, admittedly the author is aware that these areas of need are already covered by California law. Further, there are over 300 Welfare and Institution codes already in place that protect the children of California. They give social services the authority to intervene when basic needs are not being met, including adequate medical/mental health care, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and making sure kids have adequate food, clothing, shelter, and education.

The question becomes do you remove the parental rights of all California parents due to the negative behavior and decisions of a few, when there are already laws in place to respond to them? The answer is NO. To do so would be unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court has affirmed parents' fundamental right to raise their children as they see fit. In the case of Troxel v. Granville, the United States Supreme Court stated: “The liberty interest … of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental liberty interests recognized. It is cardinal … that the custody, care, and nurture of the child reside first in the parents, whose primary function and freedom include preparation for obligations the state can neither supply nor hinder. It cannot [therefore]… be doubted that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right of parents to make decisions concerning the care, custody, and control of their children.” Id. at 65 (2000). SB18 looks to remove this right from parents and place it in the hands of the State.

What seems to be quite dangerous about SB 18 is that is both vague and open ended. Once amended, the bill might not be consistent with the best interests of children and families.

Here are some areas below that may be impacted because of the vague nature of SB 18

LGBT Families- If the state determines that it's in the best interest of a child to develop bonds with a mother and father, what does that mean for families that don't comply with that "traditional" model? Or for single parents?

Special Needs Families- We all know that each child with special needs is unique and requires individualized care and services. But if the state, under authority of SB18, decides that all children with a specific diagnosis should be treated and served in a certain way, that removes the right of the parents to make decisions not consistent with the state's one-size-fits-all "research-based" standard of care. That's unconstitutional.

Pharmaceutical choice- If the state determines that children exhibiting certain behaviors should be medicated, that would effectively remove the ability of the parent to utilize alternatives to medication.

SB 18 is not the answer to California's problems. Certainly children need the seven key elements outlined in the bill. But SB 18 is not the vehicle to ensure those needs are met. There is nothing in SB18 that indicates that the most vulnerable children--those at risk because their families are under untenable stress--would be any better served with the passage of this bill. Instead the state is seeking to take on more intrusive oversight of children and families whose kids are NOT at risk. This is beyond the scope of the state's power. We do not need to waste California’s funding, time, and effort on SB18. Put that funding , time and effort toward what we have in place now. Let's improve the social services system we already have in place. Pay social workers more and decrease their excessive case loads. Let's improve our public education system and raise CA's national rank in that area. Let's improve the foster care system and better protect those children from imminent harm. We don't need to spend 5 years researching what our kids need. We already know what our kids need. And again, there are laws in place to address when parents fail to meet those needs. The state does not know best. Parents know best. And the United States Supreme Court agrees with us--parents should provide children with protection, special care, and assistance, not the state.

Call your California legislator and ask them to vote NO on SB 18. Ask them not to co author SB 18 either.

Learn more about the efforts to fight #SB18

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Read SB 18