October 25, 2002
PARENTAL CONTROL AND TEENAGERS' RIGHTS
By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst
You asked about parents' control over teenagers and what ability teens have to make decisions without their parents' consent.
Connecticut law gives parents the (1) obligation to care for and control their minor (under age 18) children and (2) authority to make major decisions affecting their education and welfare, including consenting to marriage; enlisting in the armed forces; and major medical, psychiatric, or surgical treatment (CGS § 45a-604). The law gives parents several tools to help them assert this control, but it also carves out several exceptions to their authority, particularly in making health care decisions.
TOOLS FOR PARENTAL CONTROL
A parent who believes a teen is beyond his control can ask the Juvenile Court for help. If the child is under age 16, he can ask the court to declare the family a "family with service needs" (FWSN). The court can provide counseling and other services to a FWSN family; it can also order a FWSN child to remain at home, observe a curfew, or go to school, among other alternatives, and can punish a child who disobeys its orders.
A parent of a 16- or 17-year old can ask the Juvenile Court to find the child to be a youth in crisis (YIC). Such a finding makes the child eligible for court services and court orders, including requiring community service and limiting his driving privileges. But the court cannot punish a YIC who disobeys its orders (CGS §§ 46b-148-149a, 150f and g). We have enclosed OLR report 2002-R-0599, which addresses recent changes in these laws and those concerning runaways.
If a teen refuses psychiatric or substance abuse treatment, his parents can ask a probate court to commit him to a psychiatric hospital (CGS § 19a-497) or a drug or alcohol treatment facility (CGS § 19a-685).
EXCEPTIONS TO PARENTAL AUTHORITY
Several statutes carve out exceptions to parents' general authority to make decisions for teens under CGS § 45a-604. Briefly,
· A teen can drop out of school before he turns age 18, but only if his parents consent to his dropping out or he graduates. His parents must go to the school district office and sign a withdrawal form (CGS § 10-184).
· A teen can obtain treatment for drug or alcohol abuse without parental consent, and the fact that he or she sought treatment is confidential and cannot be disclosed to parents without the teen's consent (CGS § 17a-688(d)).
· A minor can receive at least six outpatient mental health treatment sessions without parental consent and without the provider notifying the parents if (1) requiring consent or notice would cause the minor to reject treatment, (2) treatment is clinically indicated, (3) failure to provide treatment would be seriously detrimental to the minor's well being, (4) the minor has voluntarily sought treatment, and (5) the provider believes the minor is mature enough to participate productively in treatment. After the sixth session, the provider must tell the minor that parental consent, notification, or involvement is required, unless he determines that telling the parent continues to be seriously detrimental to the minor's well-being. A provider cannot notify a parent about treatment without the minor's consent (CGS § 19a-14).
· A minor can be tested for HIV without parental consent. The minor can consent for him or herself and receive the test results (CGS § 19a-582).
· A teen under age 16 must receive pregnancy information counseling before obtaining an abortion. The counselor must discuss the possibility of involving her parents in the decision on the pregnancy. A 16- or 17-year old can obtain an abortion without parental consent (CGS § 19a-600-602).
· A teen can receive treatment for a venereal disease without parental consent (CGS § 19a-216).
· A married minor or a teen parent can consent to medical, dental, health, and hospital services for his or her child and is liable for the costs of that care (CGS § 19a-285).
· The police can transport a 16- or 17-year old runaway to a public or private facility in order to safeguard the child's welfare without telling his or her parents. The person in charge of the receiving facility must, if practicable, tell the parents within 12 hours of the child's whereabouts (CGS § 17a-185).