Who Makes Medical Decisions for Minors in Washington State?

Much of what I tell here is not my story. It is my friend’s story and her daughter’s story. My friend, Julie, is doing all she can to make this story public so that others know what is happening in the State of Washington. Links to her interviews on a local talk radio station are provided below.

My thirteen-year-old daughter has been attending a church youth group since December 2020 and has befriended Julie’s fourteen-year-old daughter, “Angie.” Angie endured abuse by her father and suffers from emotional and mental health issues stemming from that abuse. Julie is now in a new, loving, and supportive marriage, but that does not solve the problems of mental health for Angie. Julie’s other children were also abused. Her son received mental health care and now he and Julie are working towards a healthy mother-son relationship. Two weeks ago, Angie had an emotional breakdown while at youth group and the youth pastor informed Julie that she was taking Angie to a hospital because she was suicidal. Julie had been through this before with her son. Her past experiences with hospitals and other care facilities had positive outcomes, so she was not opposed to the actions taken by the youth pastor. After an overnight stay, the hospital sent Angie to a homeless shelter in Seattle. Angie was in contact with my daughter and other friends during these and the following events.

The workers at the homeless shelter would not respond to any inquiries made by Julie as to her daughter’s condition or next steps in treatment. At every turn, Julie felt that the personnel at the shelter were working against any kind of family reunification. Communications between Angie and my daughter would confirm this. In one message to my daughter, Angie stated she was planning to get a lawyer that would ensure Julie had no decision-making power over her care. Angie used legal terms that most fourteen-year-olds would not be familiar with. She was very likely encouraged to obtain a lawyer by someone at the shelter.

The workers at the shelter also displayed awe-inspiring incompetence. Angie requested a razor, explaining that she wanted to shave. Please keep in mind that Angie was at this shelter because she was suicidal! Angie informed both my daughter and the youth pastor in messages to them that she was self-harming with the razor the shelter worker provided. After more than a week of un-returned calls and obvious interference, Julie decided it was time to take drastic action to get her daughter out of the shelter.

In something like a scene from a movie, it took eight police officers to get Angie out of the homeless shelter and back into the hospital. When Angie finally emerged from the shelter, it was quite clear to those present that she was on drugs. She was so resistant the officers had to restrain her (at Julie’s request). She was finally transported to the hospital and later to a treatment facility in another state where the personnel are free to report to Julie with any inquiries she may have and Julie has decision-making power over her daughter’s care.

Julie’s interviews on this incident are available on podcast and I had my daughter listen to Julie’s side of the story. Up to this point, all my daughter heard was from Angie’s point of view. My daughter insisted that Julie wasn’t telling the truth. Angie’s story is very different. Angie says her mother is not supportive. She says Julie has arbitrary rules at home. Angie believes her mother doesn’t really care about her. Angie is angry and in a lot of emotional pain because of her mother.

While my daughter is observing this through her thirteen-year-old eyes, she also has some experience to help her process the events. My daughter has also gone through a lot of emotional pain in the last few years. My story nearly mirrors Julie’s. My marriage to my daughter’s angry, abusive father was painful. When we divorced my daughter was devastated. When her father began making even more violent threats after the divorce and I got a restraining order, she was angry with both of us, but she felt I was keeping her from her father whom she loves very much. She went through a period of self-harm and many counseling sessions. When I re-married to a loving, supportive man, we moved to his home where my daughter knew no one. This was at the beginning of the shutdowns in 2020. She went through months of isolation and loneliness and depression. I feared she would spiral into such terrible depression she would begin to self-harm again, or even worse. Things did not change until she began attending the youth group in December and made new friends, including Angie.

When my daughter spoke in defense of Angie, I asked her to remember her own emotional struggles, “What if you were also doing drugs during this time? Would you tell stories about me that were half-true to get people on your side?” After a few moments of mulling that over, she nodded in agreement. I explained to her that when a person is on drugs, the stories they tell may contain truth, but are twisted to win people over to their side, especially when the user is a teen who is struggling with emotional and mental health issues. As we talked more, I gave examples of my own failures that she has pointed out and I admitted I had to work on and improve and said that this is what families do. We work together to be more loving toward each other. “It’s probably true that Julie fails Angie in some ways and Julie needs to work on some things, but good care facilities will help families do that. They won’t try to keep the families apart as this facility did.”

This week, in a bizarre coincidence, many healthcare agencies in Washington sent an email alert to their clients throughout the state that patients thirteen years and older have the right to their own healthcare records and parents do not have access to those records without the consent of the minor. The laws that created these policies were established in Washington State several years ago. It is these laws that gave the workers at the homeless shelter the boldness to restrict Julie from accessing any information regarding Angie and led them to believe they could keep Angie hostage in their facility. I spoke with my daughter yesterday and told her I want her to sign consent. She agreed.

What a twisted mindset to believe that thirteen- and fourteen-year-olds have the maturity and mental capacity to make serious healthcare decisions without the guidance, or even the knowledge of, their parents! While there are parents who abuse their power (and their children), most parents do what they believe is in the best interests of their children. They certainly have more maturity and knowledge than their thirteen-year-old child from which they can make better decisions.

We need to revoke these laws in Washington. Children do not belong to the state. Parents have both the responsibility and the right to decide care for their children and incompetent (and likely agenda-driven) social workers should not have the right to interfere with those decisions.

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