Parents’ Rights, DCPP, and NJ Child Vaccination Issues
Are Parents’ Rights to Decide on Vaccinations for their Children Limited Due to DCPP Intervention in NJ?
Regarding childrearing, parents differ as to what is suitable for their children. And each family has reasons for their choices. For example, some choose private over public school education. Others home school for various reasons, including religious conviction. Take childhood vaccination, for example. When the state mandates childhood vaccination as a prerequisite to school attendance, some parents may object on health or religious grounds and claim available exemptions from the vaccination requirements. However, when the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) intervenes, more than an exemption may be required to avoid the vaccination mandate.
Learning from a Previous Child Vaccine Dispute with DCPP
In the Matter of Ca.R and C.R., Jr., the Appellate Court ruled that the DCPP could vaccinate the minor children over their parents’ objection when they were under the division’s custody, care, and protection.ld a few weeks old. The parents were living with their two children in a one-bedroom motel, all sleeping in one bed. The father is a convicted, lifelong sex offender and alone with the minor children. Neither of the children had age-appropriate vaccinations due to their parents’ objections.
The DCPP petitioned the family court for permission for a physician to administer age-appropriate vaccinations to the children. At the hearing, the children’s pediatrician testified to the necessity of vaccinations, despite the son’s numerous allergies. The physician testified that an allergist could prepare the son for vaccinations considering the allergies. The mother objected due to religious beliefs and concerns about vaccinations. She relied on the bible and the first amendment to the constitution to support her right to make decisions regarding her children. The court noted in its ruling that there was an outbreak of measles where the children resided.
The Role of the Child Placement Bill of Rights Act in Vaccination Decisions
The children’s mother appealed the family court’s order, and the Appellate Court noted that parents have constitutional rights to raise their children even when they are in foster care. However, the state has a competing and sometimes overriding duty to protect children’s welfare by providing medical care to prevent harm. And according to the Child Placement Bill of Rights Act, the division may petition the court authorizing medical care to foster care children for their care and safety as is their right under the bill. In addition, foster parents are legally responsible for ensuring children in their care receive immunizations unless they object on religious grounds, which, in this case, they did not.
Handling a Parent’s Vaccine Objections in NJ
The mother asserts that New Jersey law allows for an exemption from immunizations for school attendance upon a written request by the parent or parents based on religious grounds. The law does not allow exemptions for philosophical or secular reasons, such as objections to the vaccine. The parents did file such an exemption; however, the Appellate Court agreed with the trial court that the immunizations were not related to school but to the safety of the children in the custody of DCPP.
As such, a different set of laws govern the case outcome. The Appellate Court then detailed the risks associated with contracting measles, especially to those under five, and the current measles outbreak in Ocean County, where the children reside. To reduce the risk to the children and the community, given the contagiousness of measles, the children are safer with the vaccinations, which have a track record of being safe. However, regardless of the current outbreak, the court relies on the state as parens patrie, meaning protectors of those who cannot protect themselves, to justify affirming the lower court’s decision.
Child Protection vs. Parents’ Rights to Choice on Immunization
The court ruled that the state’s police power warrants mandatory vaccination to protect its residents. Finally, even though the parents do not lose their rights entirely when their children are in DCPP custody, disallowing the DCPP to immunize children for their protection would undermine their duties to protect children. The court noted that parents whose children are in DCPP custody are differently situated than parents whose children are not. Also, the court did not distinguish between providing necessary medical care for a health problem and a preventative measure to protect children’s health in the future.
Potential Repercussions for Similar Parents and their Kids in NJ
The implications of In the Matter of Ca.R and C.R., Jr. to parents involved with DCPP are significant. In essence, the Appellate Court prioritized the responsibilities of the division and the state over the parental rights to raise their children according to their beliefs about what is medically safe and religiously appropriate for their children. In other words, the state may supplant its safety measure for children in their care over the children’s parents’ measure. Thus, the state may override a parent’s refusal to provide medical treatment to their children on the same reasoning.
Given the significant Appellate Court ruling, parents accused of abuse or neglect should confer with an informed and experienced child abuse and neglect law attorney with a solid handle on DCPP cases. As the Appellate Court noted, parents have the right to decide for their children, even when they are in state custody. To protect those rights, you need a strong advocate if DCPP disregards your wishes regarding medical care and treatment of your children, whether that treatment is in response to a current condition or because of a potential medical threat.
Discuss Your Child Vaccine Rights as a Parent in a Free Consultation with our Lawyers
You should seek guidance and representation from an attorney who can contest the state’s authority with compelling evidence that the child’s best interest is to adhere to the wishes of their biological parents within the philosophical and religious framework of their family traditions. Additionally, a sharp attorney may challenge the division’s claim that a child’s health is better protected with vaccinations than without. A child’s medical condition may dictate whether a child is better off without vaccinations or certain vaccinations. Thus, a vaccination’s side effects may jeopardize a child’s health, or vaccination components may cause severe allergic reactions. Parents may feel their children are safer when vaccinations are delayed, spread out, or given individually rather than in combination, such as the MMR vaccination. If you have questions or are in need of assistance with a DCPP investigation or related matter involving your child’s medical care in Middletown, Freehold, Westfield, South Brunswick, Woodbridge, Parsippany, Hoboken, or elsewhere in New Jersey, contact our firm now at (908)-356-6900 to speak with an attorney who can help. If you are under investigation by DCPP, we have the knowledge and commitment to protect your parental rights.