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Proposed Connecticut Bill Mandates Mental Health Assessments for Homeschooled Children

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Proposed Connecticut Bill Mandates Mental Health Assessments for Homeschooled Children

 


Hartford, Connecticut – A national homeschooling organization is sounding the alarm against a bill proposed in the Connecticut legislature which would require both public school and homeschooled children to undergo a behavioral health assessment at various stages of child development.

Bill 374, proposed in the General Assembly by sponsors Senator Toni Harp and Representative Toni Walker, is likely in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, which took the lives of 20 children and 6 adults this past December. Some believe that the incident could have been better prevented should there have been sufficient mental health assistance for gunman Adam Lanza, and therefore, the women are seeking to ensure that today’s youth are screened throughout their adolescence for any concerning behavioral problems.

Harp, who serves as the chairman of the Connecticut mental health task force, recently told reporters that while she does not want children to be stigmatized over the matter, she feels that lawmakers need to see how to better care for the mental well-being of youth in order to prevent another tragedy.

“The concern we have is that increasing stigma will mitigate against treatment,” she explained. “What we are doing is looking at our own mental health delivery system to see what the gaps are … in case there was some sort of relationship [between mental illness and Adam Lanza's actions].”

Therefore, the bill that Harp and Walker have introduced to the state legislature seeks to have all children regularly analyzed by a health care provider. It reads, “An Act Requiring Behavioral Health Assessments for Children. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened: That section 10-206 of the general statutes be amended to require (1) each pupil enrolled in public school at grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 and each home-schooled child at ages 12, 14 and 17 to have a confidential behavioral health assessment, the results of which shall be disclosed only to the child’s parent or guardian, and (2) each health care provider performing a child’s behavioral health assessment to complete the appropriate form supplied by the State Board of Education verifying that the child has received the assessment.”

While some do not see reason for concern over the bill, others believe that the requirement would be too intrusive for families. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association recently sent out a call to action over the matter, requesting that citizens contact their representatives to urge them to strike the bill down.

“Proposed Bill 374 would essentially authorize the state to conduct regular social services investigations of homeschooling families without any basis to do so,” outlines senior counsel Dee Black. “These assessments would be conducted by an unspecified health care provider and would be conducted even though there was no indication whatsoever that these children had a behavioral problem. The bill states that the results of the assessments are to be disclosed only to the child’s parent or guardian, but that the health care provider must submit a form to the State Board of Education verifying that the child has received the assessment.”

“According to the Connecticut Behavioral Health Partnership, a state organization made up of the Department of Children and Families, Department of Social Services, Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and others, a behavioral health assessment is quite comprehensive and invasive,” he continued. “It includes ‘a review of physical and mental health, intelligence, school performance, employment, level of function in different domains including family situation and behavior in the community.’”

“This assessment would constitute an unwarranted, gross invasion of family privacy,” Black said. “This bill should be opposed.”

Other organizations such as National Home Education Legal Defense are monitoring the legislation, but are not as concerned as they state that it is too early too tell what the requirements of the bill will entail.

“NHELD does recommend that all parents should be aware, and keep track of, proposed Senate Bill 374,” stated executive director and attorney Deborah Stevenson. “[However,] we don’t know what the final language of the bill will look like, or whether it will be voted on in committee or on the floor of the House or Senate. We need to be careful in how we approach anyone about this at this time.”

“The bill does not specify anything about allowing any social services agency to become involved in your child’s healthcare. It simply states that the fact that an assessment was done will be provided to the State Department of Education,” she said. “While anything is always possible, right now it is only a proposed bill — that is, an idea that is written down.”

The bill is stated to currently be before the legislature’s Public Health Committee for consideration.

by on Feb. 7, 2013 at 1:19 PM
Replies (171-179):
meriana
by Platinum Member on Feb. 11, 2013 at 10:53 AM

 


Quoting Myke:

You make it sound like counseling is only for screwed up people.  Have you ever even been to a counselor?  Counseling can be a good outlet for anyone, for children it is a safe place they can talk about anything they may need to talk about.  Even "well adjusted" kids sometimes have a hard time confiding in parents/adults or even their peers.  Plus, Counselors or Psychologists are trained to handle even the most sensitive of issues that parents might not know how to handle. The "dumb stuff" as you call it might not be so dumb to an adolescent or teenager.  It might feel like life or death to an emotional teenager, you never know.   I can only wish that I could afford it for my girls, what little counseling my oldest daughter gets from the school counselor is very helpful to her and to me for her.

 

Quoting meriana:

So what happens if the mental health professional decides there's some reason the child/children need to be seen in their (or some other mental health/counselors) office. Sure they may find a kid or two that really does need some help but too often these people find problems where none actually exist. Hate to sound really awful but these people only make money if they have patients, the more patients, the more money they make. I can see them "suggesting" counseling for kids over really dumb stuff.

A gal I know adopted two of a relatives girls. I don't know the circumstances but for some reason she began taking them to a counselor when they were really young. I knew them when they girls were teens and STILL seeing the counselor. They were as well adjusted as any teens, did well in school, took part in sports, etc. Counselors have a vested interest in continuing to see their patients and from what I've seen, not only with that family but also a few others over the years, they never get to the point of saying the person no longer needs to see them, they always seem to find another reason the person needs to continue the visits.

 

 

 

I didn't say counseling was only for "screwed up" people. I did say that counselors can find problems where none exist and generally don't tell people they don't need to be seen by said counselor anymore. They are, after all, running a business and with any business, the amount of their income is dependant on the number of customers...in the case of a counselor, patients. Really think they're going to lower their income by telling people, gee you're well adjusted and don't need to come here anymore or that they don't need a counselor at all?

yep, I've dealt with counselors. One was a counselor at my dd's school and dd would go in and talk to her. It was fine for awhile but then she started telling me we should take dd to an outside counselor, of course she had the "perfect" person for us to see. The "problem" was that dd tended to be very much of a drama queen which the counselor was very aware of but she began to make an issue of it and became very insistent that we contact this counselor she suggested. At the same time, we began noticing changes in dd that were anything but positive, it got to the point that I had to tell the principal to keep the woman away from dd. Once that contact was stopped, the negativeness that dd was getting into stopped also. The other problem this counselor wanted addressed was dd's dislike for a certain girl in her class. This girl would start rumors, tell lies, call her names, and on more than one occasion, got into her desk and took her glasses and hid them. She also stole from dd but dd was the one that "needed counseling" by an outside professional according to the counselor. (We went to the principal and teacher and got a stop put to all that nonsense from the other girl)

Sure not all counselors are like that but I fail to see how it really helps when due to privacy laws, the counselor can't or won't tell the parents what is discussed which doesn't help them at all (how can they help or make adjustments/changes if their child is telling a counselor about things but not their parents and the counselor won't tell them either) but does end up giving the child the idea they don't need to talk to their parents because they can go talk to this other person. That's not to say that no child ever needs counseling, I'm sure some really do need it but to assess every child is rediculous and can easily end up with others interfering in and with a parents parenting decisions.

 

Myke
by Member on Feb. 12, 2013 at 11:21 AM


So what's the point of it then?

Quoting booklover74:



Quoting Myke:

First off, the title of this post is extremely misleading. Secondly, I think this would be a marvelous thing.  My daughter is ADHD with Major Depressive Disorder and also shows some signs of Aspergers.  I begged and begged all thru her elementary years for help and was completely ignored.  I dealt with teachers that either had majorly unfair disciplinary actions or refused to deal with her completely by sending her to the office every day to do her work alone without any instruction (did not find out about this until 3/4 thru the year).  If it was mandated that these evaluations be given she would have gotten the help she needed earlier making things much less complicated now.  This country really needs to take mental health much more seriously.

Having an evaluation does not mean anyone will get any help or more help. Nothing in the bill says schools or any place have to offer help because of the evaluation. The state isn't even paying for the evaluations so people would still have the obsticle of affording the evaluation, the same as they do now.

The school would be no more swayed by a state mandated mental health evaluation than they were by whatever evaluation you had done privately, to assess your daughters issues.

The evaluations aren't going to lead to more help for kids because #1 it isn't a requierment of the bill and #2 no funding is allocated for the evaluations much less treatment or help through the schools.

There are already classroom helps in place for students with mental health problems, within the public schools. Many schools simply dance around them and don't let parents know about them. I'm sorry for your daughters problems in school. If this bill had been in place 10, 20 or 30 years ago it would have been of no help to your daughter though.




Myke
by Member on Feb. 23, 2013 at 2:04 PM

No, she had some serious issues at home as well.  Her GP referred to a psychatrist when she was in the 2nd grade, which is when she got her official diagnosis and we started her on medication.  What I meant I guess was that if the school district was required to test kids that maybe that would have been more forthcoming with assistance.  I knew that there were programs at the school but it took until the 6th grade for anyone to tell me what it was that I needed to do to get her enrolled (the right paperwork, etc.). 

Quoting desertlvn:


I'm curious.... Were her symptoms only at school? Could you not have her taken her to a doctor for help? (I'm really just curious and not trying to be rude.)

Quoting Myke:

First off, the title of this post is extremely misleading. Secondly, I think this would be a marvelous thing.  My daughter is ADHD with Major Depressive Disorder and also shows some signs of Aspergers.  I begged and begged all thru her elementary years for help and was completely ignored.  I dealt with teachers that either had majorly unfair disciplinary actions or refused to deal with her completely by sending her to the office every day to do her work alone without any instruction (did not find out about this until 3/4 thru the year).  If it was mandated that these evaluations be given she would have gotten the help she needed earlier making things much less complicated now.  This country really needs to take mental health much more seriously.





Mrs.Subway
by on Feb. 23, 2013 at 3:28 PM

I would like better mental health care for all kids but I don't want this kind of invasion of privacy.


Home-schooled children and children in public schools both have problems. Adam Lanza was home-schooled but Columbine shooters went to public school. This bill is ridiculous.

LiliMama18
by Member on Feb. 23, 2013 at 3:34 PM
I'm not ok with mental health testing at the government level. Way way way too big brother for me. What would they do if a student was indeed considered at risk? Ship them all off to an island? Involuntary medication?

I wouldn't have an issue with more services covered by insurance, or making mental health care somewhat more accessible but the government has no business inside medical records.
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stormcris
by Christy on Feb. 23, 2013 at 3:37 PM

Given some teachers reaction to children with special needs I think this could be very harmful. This seems to be an attempt not to help children but in order to get as many people on the record as having something of which they may misdiagnose.

PamR
by Pam on Feb. 23, 2013 at 3:38 PM

Right now kids go through a number of medical screenings - scoliosis, hearing, vision, etc.  Why not mental health as well?  Possibly some children could be helped - the issue here seems to be that people still perceive mental illness as something different from physical illness.  Scary and shameful.  It's treatable, just like any other illness.  And it doesn't involve shipping them away or even medication, necessarily.  It's a whole lot better to find out a child has an issue before it develops into something worse.

lancet98
by Silver Member on Feb. 23, 2013 at 3:39 PM

 What does that have to do with assessing mental health?


Quoting survivorinohio:


Quoting tooptimistic:

Thoughts?

Not cool IMO

A childs mind is in not a set thing.  what  if kids get stuck in groups where they ultimately dont belong?

I Know my grandson totally flubbed an aptitude test by not completing it and not reading any of the comprehension material.  He told me he did not read it.

He has sisnce changed his approach to school and recently was again on the honor roll last period.

I dont like restricting a kids possibilities at all.


 

lancet98
by Silver Member on Feb. 23, 2013 at 4:02 PM

 

Agree.  

I think 3 assessments of homeschooled kids, one just at pre-teen and two during the teen years(probably a higher risk period), would be a marvelous idea.   If it would find even just one out of a  hundred kids that is developing a serious disorder that could result in risk to himself(either self harm or loss of independence and self determination due to lack of treatment) or others, it would be worth it.   Homeschooled kids can get mental illness, just as kids in schools, can get mental illness. 

It represents 3 appointments.   Three hours.   Given the potential repurcussions of not doing it, I am in favor.

Most parents who home school are doing a fantastic job, not just at educating their kids, but at educating themselves and making responsible decisions.   When their kids get ill, they get them help.   Regardless of what type of illness it turns out to be.

I think the reason this proposal came about is this.  

Adam Lanza's mother took her son out of school when she did not agree with the school's assessment of him.  

My belief is that Mrs Lanza did something many parents did; she simply could not face reality of what was a developing mental illness in her son.  Imagine thinking for years that your child has aspergers or autism, and then this coming along.   You've worked, struggled for eighteen or twenty years to get good quality education for your child, to teach him, to advocate for him.   A lot of people would be devastated - not all would make great choices about what to do next.   Imagine the anger, the grief, the confusion, the - denial.   That's what most people do when they get a blow like that - no.   It can't be true.   It's not true.   I won't let it be true.  I'll fight.  I'll teach him myself.   To hell with those psychologists.   They don't know a thing.  

Mental illness still carries a huge burden of denial, of shame.   People are still locked up in basements and deprived of treatment, help, and even a chance to develop self determination and independence (what ever level is appropriate for that person's level of disability - it's not a fixed thing).  

Even when it became clear he was becoming more and more unstable, she persisted, she ah...'stuck to her guns'.   She'd be the super mom.   She'd work so hard, she would make that those troubling signs and symptoms go away, she'd prove everyone wrong.   She'd teach him things, she'd read books and brew up her own way of dealing with this.   Make the world go away, they're all wrong, they don't understand her darling. 

If such a program could find even one such family, and result in that overwhelmed, in denial, grieving parent being talked to, LISTENED to, and gently encouraged to change their approach, to allow that MAYBE a different kind of help is needed, a tragedy could be prevented.

Sure.   I've known parents who did a fantastic job home schooling and their kids do fantastically on standardized tests and get admitted to colleges and head for good careers.  

And they are  the majority.

 But I have also seen people misuse the situation - to hide child abuse, to hide developmental delays, to hide mental illness, or simply, to continue in denial.   Even kidnapped children have been concealed this way.

And yes, honestly, I think three appointments are a VERY small price to pay, for protecting vulnerable children.  

 

 

Quoting PamR:

Right now kids go through a number of medical screenings - scoliosis, hearing, vision, etc.  Why not mental health as well?  Possibly some children could be helped - the issue here seems to be that people still perceive mental illness as something different from physical illness.  Scary and shameful.  It's treatable, just like any other illness.  And it doesn't involve shipping them away or even medication, necessarily.  It's a whole lot better to find out a child has an issue before it develops into something worse.


 

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