CLEARWATER, Fla., April 10, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) is on a crusade to restore parents' rights to ensure the welfare of their children, by informing them that Florida's Baker Act permits minors to be committed to psychiatric institutions without parental knowledge or consent.
A non-profit mental health watchdog, CCHR is dedicated to eradicating abuses committed in the field of mental health. It is supported by the Church of Scientology, which initially co-founded the group in 1969 with the late Dr. Thomas Szasz, professor of psychiatry emeritus.
Ms. Diane Stein, CCHR Clearwater President, reports the group receives numerous calls from parents whose children were unjustly and involuntarily taken from school and committed without the parents' permission or knowledge. "Some of these children are as young as 6 or 7 years old and do not meet the criteria for involuntary commitment," Stein said. "This is a violation of the rights of the child involved and… a gross violation of parental rights." For example, CCHR recently learned of the involuntary commitment of a 7-year-old autistic child, who was taken away in handcuffs.
According to the 2014 Annual Report of Baker Act Data prepared for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, over 17 percent of the 181,471 involuntary examinations in 2014 were initiated on minors. That means more than 30,000 youngsters were involuntarily committed.
CCHR is carrying out a campaign to educate families on their rights and to let them know how they can protect themselves and their children. To date, they have mailed 18,000 postcards to Tampa Bay households exposing this practice and they have also launched a new website to educate parents, www.bakeractrights.org.
The Baker Act law states that a person, including a child, may only be examined if "Without care or treatment, the person is likely to suffer from neglect or refuse to care for himself or herself; such neglect or refusal poses a real and present threat of substantial harm to his or her well-being; and it is not apparent that such harm may be avoided through the help of willing family members or friends or the provision of other services."
CCHR has created a petition to amend the Baker Act to specify that:
- Parents or legal guardians are notified immediately by the school officials (not the police) BEFORE the police are contacted and BEFORE involuntary examination is initiated.
- Parents or legal guardians are told to come to their child's school immediately and get their child and are to be given information on the situation. If no contact at first call, all emergency numbers for the child are called until someone is reached.
- At NO time is a child removed from school premises (unless there is an imminent danger situation) without parental presence. The only exception would be a case in which there is an extreme and imminent danger to self or others that cannot be handled despite honest efforts on the part of the school and school officials. In other words, parents or legal guardians are given the option to take full responsibility for their child and work with the school and police to calm the situation down before involuntary examination is initiated.
The online petition and other resources are available at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stop-involuntary-commitment-of-children to stop the involuntary commitment of children in Florida.
The Citizen's Commission on Human Rights was founded in 1969 as a global watchdog committed to investigate and expose human rights violations in the field of mental health. It is responsible for helping to enact more than 150 laws protecting individuals from abusive or coercive practices. In July 2015, the Church of Scientology dedicated CCHR's Florida headquarters in downtown Clearwater.
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SOURCE Citizens Commission on Human Rights