Newsom Signs Bill Allowing 12-Year-Olds to Consent to Therapy, Group Homes

Newsom Signs Bill Allowing 12-Year-Olds to Consent to Therapy, Group Homes

A children's shelter in Laguna Beach, Calif., on March 6, 2023. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

10/10/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

A California bill that would allow children ages 12 and older to consent to mental health treatment—and in some cases, to be placed in a “residential shelter”—without parental consent was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 7.
Previously, the state allowed minors 12 and over to consent to such if they were “mature enough to participate intelligently” and if the child was in an abusive situation or in danger of harm to themselves or others, according to the bill’s text.
Assembly Bill 655, introduced in February by Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles), removes the conditions of abuse or potential harm.
Additionally, it requires mental health professionals to consult with the minor before deciding whether to speak with their parents or guardians about the child’s treatment.
Under the new law, children 12 and older may also consent to being placed in a residential shelter on their own, with service providers making their “best efforts to notify the parent or guardian.”
The definition of “residential shelter services” includes “the provision of residential and other support services to minors on a temporary or emergency basis in a facility that services only minors by a governmental agency, a person or agency having a contract with a governmental agency to provide these services, an agency that receives funding from community funds, or a licensed community care facility or crisis resolution center,” according to the bill text.
Those in opposition—such as parent and education advocacy groups like California Capitol Connection, California Parents Union, Our Duty, and Pacific Justice Institute—say they are concerned the law undermines parents’ right to know what their child is experiencing and could result in harm if the child is separated from the parent.
In a statement of opposition in an Assembly Judiciary Committee analysis, California Capitol Connection said it opposed the bill because children “should not be allowed to consent to mental health treatment without parental permission. Parents are the most important relationship that most children will have. They should not be kept out of the development of their child. In most cases, a parent knows what is best for their child.”
Those who support the law—including child advocacy groups such as California Alliance of Child and Family Services, California Children’s Trust, California Coalition for Youth, California High School Democrats, and The Children’s Partnership, a co-sponsor of the bill—frame it as an issue of equity.
The Children’s Partnership noted in a statement of support that while minors 12 and over could previously consent to mental health services on their own under private medical insurance, youth under Medi-Cal could not.
“[The bill] addresses a deeply inequitable policy that creates barriers for youth on Medi-Cal to access mental health treatment,” the group wrote in an Assembly Judiciary Committee analysis. “This bill will ensure youth on Medi-Cal no longer have to meet a higher standard by aligning the Health and Safety Code and the Family Code sections that contain the criteria for consent. No young person should have to wait until they are in severe distress to be able to access critical mental health services.”
The law takes effect July 1, 2024.
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

Author

Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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