A Yoga Bolster and Your Parental Rights

State Rep. Kimberly Fiorello, R-Greenwich

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A dear friend once gave me a tip.  She said, “Get a yoga bolster and keep it next to your bed so at the start and end of your day, it’s handy for getting on your knees and praying.” 

I bought that yoga bolster and it is by my bed.  As a mother of four school-aged children, I’m always praying for them.  For their safety, for their health, for them to make nice friends, for them to reach their hopes and dreams one day.

Dear moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, would any of you dispute the statement: nobody cares about your children quite like you do? 

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Your state government disputes it.  

As a freshman lawmaker, in reading the many bills that came before me, I was stunned to learn that our state laws carve out several exceptions to parental authority over their minor children, particularly in making healthcare decisions. 

According to an Office Legislative Research report from 2002, there are five major areas of health care in which, by law, no parental notification and/or consent is required:  (1) treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, Connecticut General Statutes (CGS) Section 17a-688(d); (2) six mental health treatments, CGS Section 19a-14(c); (3) testing for HIV, CGS section 19a-582; (4) reproductive health services including abortions, CGS 19a-601; and (5) treatment for sexually-transmitted diseases, CGS 19a-216.

Meaning, an outside adult can work with your child on any of these areas of health care but, by law, you, the parent or guardian, can be kept in the dark.  I thought how could this be?

We have a state Department of Children and Families (DCF) to step in to protect children from bad parents.  If DCF isn’t working, let’s fix DCF.  But we can’t have laws premised on the idea that parents are the problem.  In a civil society, parents are the primary decision makers for their children, period.

I quickly learned wonderful-sounding bill names hide some insidiously bad policy.  Our state legislature passed and the governor signed a bill called “An Act Concerning Social Equity and the Health, Safety and Education of Children.”  

I voted “no” on this bill because it expanded the scope of health treatments that could occur without parental notification to “as many as necessary” – not just six as listed under prior law.  A minor, a child under the age of 16, could be experiencing normal teenage emotions, say a funny thing to a school counselor or fill out a school survey a certain way, and suddenly your child could be placed into mental health services without your knowing.  And when you do find out, because eventually you always find out, you will be told you don’t know your child as well as the experts do. 

Then came another bill that was beyond the pale, “An Act Concerning Explanations of Benefits,”  which allows minors to receive medical treatments and direct the insurance company to send the explanation of benefits (EOB), a.k.a. the bill from your health insurance, to a different email or mailing address rather than to you as the insurance holder.  I asked the Democrat sponsor of this bill how a child would know what an EOB was and received no reply.  And who is teaching this child that he/she can have the EOB redirected?  Where would a child redirect it to anyways?  And why?  To keep the parent ignorant of what services are being charged to the family’s health insurance plan?

One lobbyist from the insurance industry submitted testimony noting that passage of this bill would mean EOBs in Connecticut would be treated differently than in the rest of the country and this would likely raise administrative costs. When you ask what is driving the high cost of health insurance in our state?  The answer is: Connecticut Democrat policies.

Again, I voted “no” on this bill.  It passed and the Governor signed it.  If you receive my eblasts or follow me on social media, you would know about these kinds of bills and my votes because I am always communicating with my constituents and trying my best to share with you what I am seeing in Hartford.

But nothing raised “parental rights” alarm bells like the spate of omnibus mental health bills that came fast and furious during the short legislative session of 2022. Because of the devastating impact of COVID lock downs, forced school closures and mask mandates, “mental health” was on everyone’s lips. 

The senate offered two massive mental health bills and the house offered one.  I voted “no” on both bills from the senate and “yes” on the house bill, because I appreciated that it was more limited in scope with funding that would sunset, giving everyone a chance to evaluate the effectiveness of the new government programs before funding them again.

All the bills passed and the governor signed them.  One of the Senate bills, “An Act Concerning Childhood Mental and Physical Health Services in Schools”, did three things that I think parents must be vigilant about: (1) it provided state money to hire more social workers, school psychologists, counselors, and nurses; (2) it required a study to look into creating a special “permit” to allow these clinical and medical professionals to provide their services to students in schools; and (3) it provided state money to open more school-based health centers that would include mental health professionals, plus dentists, eye doctors, and physicians. 

For those of us who want our schools to focus on academics, we must watch carefully what is happening at our schools because they may be morphing into medical health centers.  This transformation of schools may have good intentions, but we know where those can lead.

I submitted a bill in January 2022 for a “Parental Bill of Rights,” which would assert that in Connecticut parents are the primary decision makers for their children.  Seems crazy we have to assert this, but we do.

I pray for my own children, but I also pray for the future of our state. Get a yoga bolster and join me.  With provident help, we can and we will lead our state towards common sense rules again, so it doesn’t feel like it’s us vs. them, and no law will aid and abet an outsider putting a wedge between you and your child. 

Kimberly Fiorello, a Republican, serves as State Representative for the 149th District which includes the towns of Greenwich and Stamford.