by Diane Robertson
Part two of a two-part series examining California’s overreach into the lives of children and families and the rights of parents.
The main problem with California’s SRC 41 is that it removes full on decision making about children from the parents and gives it to the state, schools, and medical professionals. It gives the state legislature and other adults decision making equal to that of the parents. It makes regulation of several aspects of children’s lives: from home environment and nutrition to free play, organized sports to appropriate transportation, health care, and even mental healthcare. These responsibilities have traditionally been the sole responsibility of the parents and guardians, and the majority of parents and guardians take their roles seriously and do not want states regulating how to care for their children.
Section 1 is about the right of a child to develop a healthy relationship with a supportive adult. This could be parents, grandparents or someone else. This section seems to be establishing two things. The first is maternal care and parenting courses, including home visits, by a state official for all children under the age of 5. The questions people ought to ask is whether or not this will remove choice from mothers and parents regarding prenatal care. Is the state setting up a one size fits all maternity care? Can women choose home births or birthing centers? Are parenting classes mandatory? Will the home visits become mandatory? Do parents really want parenting methods regulated by the state? The best case scenario here is that parenting becomes regulated and taught for a one-size-fits-all method for every household. The worst case scenario is that children will be removed from good homes because of teachings some state employees disagree with.
The second part has to do with work environment for parents which includes a demand for living wages, vacation time, paid sick leave, etc. Most parents would not argue that all of those are great. Every parent wants a living wage and every parent wants to be able to care for their sick children without losing wages. However, one needs to ask, once these things are demanded for all households with children what does that mean when a parent loses a job and no longer has a living wage. Will saying a child is entitled to such things break apart a family that falls short of what state employees require?
Section 2 discusses a child’s living environment. This includes items most people wouldn’t argue over like toxic-free neighborhoods that are physically safe and children having access to affordable, nutritious daily meals. The odd one is safe transportation. (Really?) The problem with things like this is trying to understand what the state intends to do. Would parents be allowed to drive old used cars? Would the state regulate food prices or what kinds of food people with children can and can’t buy for meal preparation? One would expect zoning laws to keep neighborhoods out of range of companies that put toxic chemicals into the environment, but would the state then regulate things more by zoning where children can or cannot live?
Section 3 discussed the right of a child to social and emotional well-being. One would not argue that children should not be physically or sexually abused or bullied. However, as precedent has proven with CPS cases, what is and isn’t abuse may differ from person to person. One person believes children playing outside without someone watching is abuse, while another says not giving children the freedom to play outside without being watched is abuse. One person may believe that teaching young children about homosexuality is abuse while another feels like not teaching young children about homosexuality is abuse. The most frightening language in this section is from subsection (f). It states, “Having parents, elected officials, and other adults consider the effect that decision making will have on a child’s care and community.” This makes the decision making of parents concerning their child equal to the decision making of an elected official or other adults.
Section 4 defines “opportunities that support cognitive, physical, and social development”. This section seems to be a hodge-podge of ideas including state regulations for daycares, pre-schools, sports, student government, and drug treatment programs. It also says that children need access to appropriate legal representation. Without mandating pre-school, this section entitles children to the right to attend preschool and daycare. One might infer that this means the state intends to pay for all early childhood education as well as afterschool care. Whatever the state intends to pay for, the state will regulate how it is to be done.
Section 5 regulates education up to the age of 14. Unlike SB 18, this allows for home schooling according to current state law. It is unclear how the subsections having to do with life skills, technology, and digital citizenship will work with current laws and regulations.
Section 6 addresses workplace regulations for youth. It includes educating teens on labor and non-discrimination laws.
Section 7 is the section that most parents object to. This section regulates what it calls “appropriate health care”. It mandates well child checks, vision screening, hearing screening, preventative dental screening, and well checks with psychologists. It also mandates health insurance for all of the above. It actually reads, “It is the intent of the Legislature by January 1, 2020, to require the development and implementation of annual participation goals for children and youth covered under this paragraph for early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services, and to report to the Legislature annually on the county-level rate of participation of children and youth in screening, diagnostic, and treatment services.” The state will be checking up on whether or not parents are taking their children to a mental health therapist.
This legislation is most dangerous because it attempts to remove the importance of parents in their children’s lives by taking away decision making. Children benefit most from parents making the decisions because their parents love and deeply care for their well-being and success. State employees can never do for a child what a parent can.