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Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act of 2008

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Location: Washington, DC


STOP CHILD ABUSE IN RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS FOR TEENS ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - June 24, 2008)

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Mrs. BACHMANN. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to offer a motion which will ensure that parents of children in residential treatment facilities have control over any medication being prescribed to their child. While the bill, as currently written, would require a parent or legal guardian to disclose to the facility any prescription drugs their child is currently taking, the facility would not be required to receive parental consent for the child to be issued a prescription for any new medication.

This issue is very real for me. As a mother and a foster mother who has cared for children in similar situations, I strongly believe in the importance of the role of the parent or legal guardian in a child's life. This is especially true when it comes to matters as serious as the health and well-being of that child. Prescription drugs, such as medication to treat psychiatric conditions can have a major impact on the mind and body of an adult, let alone the young mind and body of a child. Our professionals deal with this on a regular basis in mental health facilities all across the nation. Especially tragic is the statistically high number of children of color who are placed on prescription psychotropic drugs, often with severe misgivings from parents or guardians. Such a critical decision should only be made by a qualified medical doctor and only after the expressed consent of a parent or legal guardian is given.

Mr. Speaker, the bill before us today would allow staff in residential treatment facilities to impose their will on children, without affording those children the protection and guidance of their closest family. Whether the parent, whose intimate relationship and familiarity with their child is critical in choosing a treatment path, feels it is in their child's best interest or not, any medication could be prescribed.

That is a historic leap in loss of parental rights over their children. Parents remain legally and financially liable for their children's mental and physical welfare yet this bill has government stripping parents of their right to consent to medical treatment via prescription drugs for their children. This bill says parents are good enough to pay the bill, but they can't be trusted to make decisions regarding their child's health. That is insulting, demeaning, and wrong.

The purpose of this amendment is to protect children who are in a very vulnerable situation away from their families in a residential treatment facility where they are supposed to be receiving help for very difficult problems. The parents and guardians that have raised and cared for these children, who know and understand their children and their medical histories best, should know about any new or changed medications to exercise their role as primary medical decision makers for their offspring. The right of consent should be explicitly stated in this legislation meant to protect these vulnerable youth.

That being said, this motion does not infringe on the role of the medical faculty at a treatment facility. The expertise of the staff and physicians would still be fully utilized in the diagnosis, and upon parental consent, the dispensing of prescription medication. Moreover, this motion would not require parental notification for non-prescription medication. A child in a residential treatment facility would not be hindered in obtaining any over-the-counter (OTC) medication such as aspirin. Only prescription drugs, which can have such far-reaching effects on the patient, would be applicable to the terms of this motion.

The prescription drugs often used in these facilities, especially the mental health drugs, have extremely serious, and sometimes fatal side effects. These include suicide, homicide, psychosis, heart problems, tics and movement disorders, diabetes and obesity.

Mr. Speaker, Members understand, a parent is one of the most powerful influences in a child's life. In the case of a child in a residential treatment facility, it is imperative that his or her parent or legal guardian be given proper authority over the course of treatment recommended by the treatment facility.

I believe this is an important addition to this bill and I urge my colleages to support the addition of this language.

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