Fact Check: California Law Would NOT Allow Children 'As Young As 12' To Be Sent 'To Group Homes Without Parents' Permission'

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich

STORY UPDATED: check for updates below.

Fact Check: California Law Would NOT Allow Children 'As Young As 12' To Be Sent 'To Group Homes Without Parents' Permission'	Aligns Laws

Is California considering a bill that will send children "as young as 12" to be sent "to group homes without the parents permission," potentially allowing minors to receive gender-affirming medical or surgical care? No, that's not true: AB665 is a proposed bill to align two existing state laws that define the circumstances under which a minor 12 and older may seek mental health services without the consent of their parent or guardian. The bill does not call for children to be "sent to group homes without parents' permission." Mental health services as defined do not include surgical or medical procedures and gender-affirming care "has absolutely nothing to do with AB 665," a legal expert told Lead Stories.

The claim originated in a 10-minute broadcast published by One America News (OAN) on June 5, 2023, (archived here) titled, "Proposed CA Bill To Remove Children From Their Parents' Homes." A description of the clip read:

California is now considering a bill, AB 665, that would send children as young as 12-years-old to group home without parents permission. One America's Stella Escobedo spoke with Nicole Pearson, a lawyer, who opposes the bill, and is encouraging parents to contact lawmakers.

Below is how the broadcast appeared at the time of writing:

Screen Shot 2023-06-15 at 10.42.46 AM.png

(Source: OAN screenshot taken Thurs June 15 10:42:46 UTC 2023)

OAN host Stella Escobedo said during the broadcast that children "in transition ... could potentially be taken out of the home without the parent's permission at all," implying that AB665 would allow minors 12 and older to receive gender-affirming medical or surgical services without the consent of their parent or guardian.

However, gender-affirming care "has absolutely nothing to do with AB 665," Rachel Velcoff Hults, director for mental health at the California nonprofit National Center for Youth Law, which co-sponsored the bill, told Lead Stories in an email received June 20, 2023.

Luciana Svidler, director of policy and training at the Children's Law Center of California, also confirmed to Lead Stories in an email received on June 22, 2023, that "AB 665 is not about affirming services" but rather that "youth 12 and older are able to consent to their own mental health care - regardless of what type of insurance coverage they have." The organization is not associated with the proposed legislation.

AB665 corrects an outdated legal cross-reference

In a phone call with Lead Stories on June 19, 2023, the Office of the Legislative Counsel of California, a nonpartisan public agency supporting the California Legislature, referred Lead Stories to analyses of AB665 from different components of the Legislature.

According to its language, AB6665 aligns "the existing laws by removing the additional requirement that, in order to consent to mental health treatment or counseling on an outpatient basis, or to residential shelter services, the minor must present a danger of serious physical or mental harm to themselves or to others, or be the alleged victim of incest or child abuse."

At the time of writing, these two pieces of legislation were Health and Safety Code section 124260, which authorizes those between 12 and 17 years old to consent to mental health services if an attending professional deems them intelligent enough to do so, and Family Code section 6924, which, in addition to the above requirement, requires that a child must present a risk to themselves or others, or be a victim of alleged incest or abuse.

AB665 strikes the abuse or incest component.

If it is voted into law, beginning July 1, 2024, AB665 would allow those 12 years and older to "consent to outpatient mental health treatment and residential shelter services" if a treating professional determines that they are "mature enough to participate intelligently."

"The bill is specific to outpatient mental health care and what is referred to as 'temporary shelter care facilities.' The bill does not prescribe particular interventions or therapies as part of 'outpatient mental health care,'" Angela Vázquez, policy director at national youth services organization The Children's Partnership, which co-sponsored the bill, told Lead Stories in an email received on June 20, 2023.

Bill does not allow children to receive services other than those related to mental health

"Mental health services and gender-affirming care are not the same," Svidler told Lead Stories, adding that such services "are critical to ensuring the well-being of our clients. Many transgender and gender diverse youth seek mental health support just like their cisgender peers do for a variety of issues, many of which do not pertain to their gender identity or sexual orientation."

Mental health services are defined under AB665 as "the provision of mental health treatment or counseling on an outpatient basis." AB665 does not change the scope of such services minors may consent to.

"This does not include a right to consent to medical procedures, inpatient care, or prescription medications, which still require consent from a parent or guardian," Hults said.

Furthermore, the bill does not include gender-affirming invasive medical or surgical procedures under mental health services, which currently require parental consent under California law, Hults and Vázquez confirmed to Lead Stories. Counseling about gender identity may be allowed under AB665.

Providers are required to contact parents or guardians unless it is deemed unsafe to do so

It is "absolutely not" true, Hults said, that a parent would "never know" what happened to their child, as was stated in the OAN broadcast.

"Under current law, if a youth consents to emergency residential shelter, such as seeking shelter in a teen homeless shelter, the shelter is required by law to notify the parent. AB 665 does not change this," she said.

AB665 further requires that the treating professional "shall make their best efforts to notify the parent or guardian" of services and only exclude them if "the involvement would be inappropriate." All decisions and attempts at contact must be documented in the client record.

A "professional person" is defined by AB665 as one who is designated as a mental health professional; a marriage and family therapist; a licensed educational psychologist; a credentialed school psychologist; a clinical psychologist; the chief administrator of an agency providing mental health treatment, counseling services, or residential shelter services; a person registered as an associate marriage and family therapist, who is working under the supervision of a licensed professional; a licensed professional clinical counselor; or a person registered as an associate professional clinical counselor, who is working under the supervision of a licensed professional.

"AB 665 does not change existing health privacy or confidentiality laws. Although patient-client privilege is important in the medical profession, generally minors cannot consent -- against their parents' wishes and without their parents' knowledge -- to medical procedures. This law does not change that. Notably, there are situations in the child welfare system where a parent's right to information and consent could be limited by the court," said Svidler.

AB665 does not determine custody arrangements and under California law, the termination of parental rights requires a court order.

AB665 makes mental health services more accessible to low-income children

AB665 would also allow youth on Medi-Cal, the state Medicaid program, to use their benefits to pay for outpatient mental health counseling without parental consent. As the code currently stands, this only applies to those who are privately insured.

The bill passed the California State Assembly in April 2023 and passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 20, 2023. As of this writing, AB665 is awaiting a Senate vote. No date has been set. If the Senate votes to pass the bill, it will move onto the governor's desk to be signed into law.

Lead Stories has also reported that California did not legalize pedophilia, that state legislators did not introduce a bill that would allow parents to kill their babies up to seven days after birth and that California did not pass a "pro-pedophilia bill" that would make it legal to have sex with children.


  • 2023-06-23T17:39:41Z 2023-06-23T17:39:41Z
    Adds quote from the director of policy and training at the Children's Law Center of California.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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