Tuesday, April 19, 2011
6 year old Florida child taken from her parents by police and forcibly held in psych ward.
Photo 1: another child being arrested from school in Texas: Flickr
Photo 2: actual child who was handcuffed by police, taken from her parents, and sent to a psych ward
I just don’t understand what is happening to children in the US, and particularly Florida.
Recently in Keystone Heights, Florida, a 6 year old girl’s parents had taken her to the doctor to be evaluated for mood swings in connection with her ADHD medicine. Without explanation the little girl was given a long medical questionnaire to fill out. During the evaluation she bubbled in the answer “yes” to the question “have you ever thought of killing yourself”. Did a 6 year old child really understand the full ramifications of the question she was bubbling in the answer to?
Suddenly, the mental health professionals told her parents they were invoking the Baker Act. The police were called, the child was handcuffed and taken away from her parents and held in a psychiatric ward overnight. Her parents were not permitted to see her.
This is not an isolated incident in Florida. Last year more than 11,000 Florida children were Baker Acted from school. Sometimes these children are given strong psychotropic drugs, all without parental consent.
The Baker Act is the name given for the Florida Mental Health Act which is a Florida statute giving schools and medical professionals the right to involuntarily commit someone (or a child) to a mental health facility for up to 72 hours for observation if it is thought they are a threat to themselves or to others.
A couple years ago a 7 year old boy had a tantrum in class, and he was taken away by police and Baker Acted into a psych ward overnight.
A few years ago I met a family who were home schooling their 7 year old son. He had been bullied at school and the school was ignoring it. When he broke down in tears one day the school principal decided he was a threat to himself and decided to Baker Act him. He was handcuffed and taken in a police patrol car to a psychiatric ward overnight for evaluation. His parents were also refused permission to contact him. As soon as custody of the child was returned to the parents, they withdrew him from school and home schooled him. This child has nightmares about his time in the psychiatric hospital.
I think the Baker Act is being used too often. A USF Report shows fewer children are Baker Acted during the summer months when school is not in session. It appears schools are resorting to using the Baker Act to avoid dealing with students who have problems by shipping the student off somewhere else. Kind of the same way they don't have a bullying problem by ignoring it or blaming the victim.
When you take your child to the doctor, or send them off to school in the morning, you don't expect to be stripped of your parental rights by the end of the day.