Protect and Notify

This post is a follow up to a previous one. Read it here if you haven’t already.

How might we protect the girls who report abusive homes while simultaneously protecting parents rights to protect and their children? By parents rights I mean those parents that do not abuse their children and would support them.

This is my problem with lack of parental notification in cases of adoption, abortion, STD testing and the like.

While I understand they are intended to protect children who come from abusive homes, the professionals may have no proof the home is abusive until it may be too late. Teens may presume or outright lie out of fear.  They might also be telling the truth. While we believe that teen (without proof), we take away parental rights.

My sister in law and I debated this at length recently only that conversation topic centered around testing for sexually transmitted diseases.  In my state (and many others) teens can be tested and treated for STDS without parental knowledge. As a responsible, non abusive, engaged parent, I find this worrisome.

Again, the argument is that it is protecting children from abusive homes.  Okay, fine. I get that. I respect that. However, while you are protecting the kid next door from his parents, you are taking away my rights as a parent. I don’t abuse my child. I pay for his insurance, take care of his physical and mental health needs AND I am held legally and morally responsible for his actions.  I resent the fact that my children could be treated for a disease and I would never know.

What medication would they give him? What side effects might he experience under my roof that I might not have any clue how to deal with as I did not know someone treated my son without my knowledge? Would they use my insurance or taxpayer money? Why would they use taxpayer money when I have a good income and he is doubly insured?

My sister in law (a social services professional working in the inner cities) and I went several rounds on this.  I do not have a problem in theory, with the idea of STD testing of teens.  I have a problem with it being done without parental knowledge.  After much heated discussion, my sister in law agreed with my suggestion that if the goal is to protect teens from STDS, then we should require mandatory testing of all teens within public schools (much like they require vaccinations).  Of course, this was just our suggestion and is not currently practice.  The only way I know, for me, to address it is to discuss with my sons (which I did) and urge them to come to me, express my willingness to support. I stated yes, I would be disappointed but their future, health and safety is what it is most important.  I will also discuss with their pediatrician at annual visits. Yet even still, with that, my son could be treated for an STD without my knowledge.

STD was used for illustrative purposes only. However the challenges apply to adoption and abortion as well.

So I ask again, can we protect parents rights while also protecting children who truly are at risk of being abused at home?

12 Thoughts.

  1. I am torn about this. I worry that having it be mandatory to inform a parent of treatment of an STD may lead to a young person not being treated at all because they are too ashamed of telling a parent. I especially worry about this with young women because it is my understanding that certain STD’s can have no symptoms but can cause irreparable harm to their reproductive organs (gonorrhea comes to mind).

    Personally, my husband and I will be fostering an open atmosphere about sex and protection, but not every household is so open.

    I do agree with you that I would want to know about any medications and their side effects that my children were taking. After all, when they are minors, we as their parents are ultimately responsible for their well being.

    Bottom line: I see both sides of the issue but I think I lean more towards not requiring parental consent.

    • Yup. I understand you reasons and your being torn. How about my idea of just making STD testing mandatory for all teens? Just like vaccinations? This way all teens are protected and parents KNOW in advance and their rights are retained?

      I think what you are getting at is if the teen is confirmed to be positive for STD – should the parent then be notified? Why is a sexual issue treated so differently say from lice, scabies or other infectious disease that goes around? We are so freaking scared and ashamed of sex it is ree-donk-ulous.

      I worry about precedent here. We keep getting more of our individual rights taken away. If we dont hold parents accountable and responsible, why have them at all? Clearly I am being a bit ridiculous here but think about it. What else will “they” be able to do to, with your child without your knowledge? Should they be able to vaccinate your child for say, HPV?

  2. Vaccines aren’t mandatory. All states have medical exemptions, 48 states also have religious exemptions, and more than 20 states have additional philosophical objections.

    I would not support “mandatory” testing for STDs for a lot of reasons. First, there’s the expense. Who would pay for it? Second, it’s an invasion of privacy. There are more, but I’d take up a lot of space in your comments box.

    As a society, we apparently accept that teenagers, who are still children, are going to choose to have sex. Having sex is an adult choice. If they are able to make that adult choice, then they need to be allowed to make the other adult choices that go with it. No one is arguing that we should ban teenagers from having sex, but they are arguing that we should curtail the other freedoms that go along with sex – their freedom to choose what to do after they have sex. That choice isn’t yours or mine, as their parents. Like the choice to have sex in the first place, it is theirs.

    • Excellent point Robyn. In some places you can claim such vaccination exemption. But that was not the point of this post, even if not an entirely accurate statement. Thank you for correcting me. I find myself wishing my college and school district allowed for your stated “philosophical” exemption. In my state (hence where my example is drawn from) you get religious or medical. I have neither. Recently attempted to register for a fully ONLINE program and they would not let me register without proof of vaccination. I have the choice to get the boosters or LIE about religious since medical is not an option. This would be the same case for any parent of a child entering our school district. They either comply (hence my poor use of the word mandatory), or find some other schooling option.

      I agree with your questions on who pays for STDS testing. Since it is available today, without parental notification, I find myself wondering same. WHO is paying for it? If my son walked into a school office and asked to secretly be tested (even when his parents have money and insurance) I am assuming the state or taxpayers are paying??

      Am I to assume (its not clear) that your feeling on the point of the posts (parental notification) is that if teens are having sex (even if parents dont know they are having sex) that they are considered adults and that is why the powers that be can refuse to notify parents about abortion, adoption, STD testing or other? I think that is what I am reading by your last two statements. If your child is found to be having sex, there is a termination of SOME of your parental rights and responsibilities but not all?

      • Actually, the state cannot inquire about the nature of your religious beliefs, although they will try to do so. It’s unconstitutional. I did a lot of research about this. As you might have guessed, our family doesn’t do vaccinations. I do recall that atheists in general have a very hard time claiming a religious exemption, just morally speaking, because they don’t believe in religion at all.
        But that’s beside the point of parental notification. On that note…
        Yes, I think you got my point about parental notifications. We’re (society is) going to let teens make the choice to have sex, so we have to let them make the choice about what to do after sex. I don’t know about whether there is a legal termination of parental responsibilities at that point, but I don’t see how you can say “OK Greta, now you’ve made the choice to have sex, but I get to make the choice about what you do with the pregnancy/baby.” Whether the parent would choose abortion, adoption, or teen parenting is irrelevant. Ultimately, it should be up to the teen.
        Now, should the parents still be required to support said teen if she/he chooses what the parent wouldn’t? I don’t know the legal answer to that question.

        • “Now, should the parents still be required to support said teen if she/he chooses what the parent wouldn’t? I don’t know the legal answer to that question.”

          Is it just a legal question? Or moral? Clearly (as we have been discussing) complex issue. However, if the state/government is going to take control of your child’s body (by legally omitting the parent in such decisions), it would seem they should take control of all aspects, no? If you grant the child (teen) rights of the adult, they should get all rights. We (as parents) cannot have it both ways. Seems a bit odd to consider the teen an adult in certain circumstances but not in all. How do they navigate that? Cite the example in recent interview I posted. Lisette was 15 year old mother, parenting her children, no support from her own mother, yet when she needed emergency surgery, she needed to get parental approval? WTH?

  3. In response to Robyn C – Although teens may engage in adult activities they should not treated as adults when they do so. I have a 16 year old daughter. She had sex. I found out by accident while looking through her ipod one night. I have a very close relationship with her. We live in a loving home. There has never been abuse. By all accounts this was a child who had her act together. We eat together every night, we spend hours together as a family. And yet…she was beyond petrified to tell me she had made this mistake. As a result of her first mistake she continued to engage in bad behavior because she felt so awful. It was only after I, as her mom, got involved, that she was able to articulate what had happened and only then did she admit that she had gotten herself into such a mess but she didn’t know how to get out of it on her own. Parents deserve to know what is going on with their teen. We can’t leave kids up to their own devices. The teen brain does not work like that. I asked my daughter why she had not told me right away and she said she didn’t know, the she herself had no idea what was going on in her brain and she knew she was going against everything she had been taught and everything she thought she believed. I don’t mean to meander off point here, but I guess what I am trying to say to the ultimate question of how all of this parental notification is handled is that it seems to be so complicated that I myself have now just taken to the mindset that I have to be on constant guard in my own home. And if my children’s friends tell me anything about what is going on in their lives I feel a moral obligation to tell those children’s parents. I have had to do this once in the past year and it was painfully hard, but the mother I told was grateful to no longer be in the dark and was able to approach her child. I think we have to start small. This is so complicated. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, I did have a baby and placed him for adoption and that has colored ( for good and bad) the way I approach all of my parenting now. Start small. I think this blog and all the discussion about this is a huge help.

    • Yes, parents should know what’s going on with their teens. However, I tend to think, overall, that it is the parents’ fault (for lack of a better word) when they don’t. I don’t have teenagers yet, but I was a teenager, with a mother who probably thought I told her everything. I didn’t. My sister didn’t. My sister was into a heap of bad stuff. (I had a father at home too, he was just an a**.) The fact was, they weren’t very engaged with us. We ate dinner together every night. We had family game night. We watched TV as a family. But, they weren’t interested in asking tough questions. They weren’t interested in proper discipline. My mom thought that by being our friend, she could know everything we were doing and make sure we were safe. She thought that she wasn’t being the bad guy, so everything would be good between us all. It wasn’t. Meanwhile, by being the bad guy, my dad thought he could scare us into doing what he wanted us to do. That didn’t work either.
      I don’t look forward to my children’s teenage years. I don’t think I’m going to be the perfect parent. I’m not saying that this is an easy topic, or one with a right answer. I just think, unless we’re going to ban teenage sex – which is an obviously bad idea – then we have to let teens be the ones who decide the consequences.

      • I’m replying to myself because I want to clarify. I don’t think the original commenter is a bad parent. I think all “normal” parents (again, for lack of a better word), think their teenagers will tell them everything if they meet certain criteria. But, to paraphrase the original commenter, that’s not how teenage brains work. I don’t think we’re going to change the nature of teenagers, which adults have been lamenting since at least the time of Socrates. (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/63219-our-youth-now-love-luxury-they-have-bad-manners-contempt)

        • I am a pretty “normal” parent and am quite the opposite. I don’t think my son will tell me anything (and recently experienced something that supports this). I actually EXPECT my child to tell me zilch for that reason I am actively involved in his online activities, know who is friends are, confirm where he is going, etc. I believe it part of growing up to shield information from your parents, to test waters, to try and make your own decisions, to see how much you can get away with, to act like an adult when you are something in between child and adult. I know I certainly did as a teen. I am not going to fool myself and think my sons will tell me things. It is my job to ask, inquire, validate, check up, etc.

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