On Tuesday, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the state’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) cannot vaccinate children in its temporary custody without parental consent.
Though emergency medical treatment can still be provided by DCF, the court ruled that parents have a right to continue making medical decisions for their children, even when they are in the custody of the state.
“When immediate medical treatment is not required to ensure the good health of the child … the commissioner must attempt to obtain the consent of the parents as the child’s coguardians,” said the Connecticut Supreme Court’s Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers in a concurring opinion.
The high court’s 7-0 decision overturned the ruling of a lower court that allowed DCF to vaccinate two children who had recently been removed from their parents.
The children, ages 1 and 2, were taken into DCF’s custody last year after police had to intervene during a physical fight between their parents. The family had been living in a minivan, moving from Florida to Connecticut. Upon meeting the children, a DCF social worker said they appeared filthy, smelled of urine and had many bruises, according to an article in the Hartford Courant.
Soon after, the children were placed in temporary state custody and underwent medical evaluations, which showed that they never received any vaccinations. Though the parents did not contest the agency’s neglect charges, they opposed the department’s regular vaccination procedures for common diseases. The parents sued DCF to block the department from vaccinating their children on religious grounds.
In its decision on Tuesday, the Connecticut Supreme Court determined that parents can refuse the state’s order to vaccinate their children.
“The Connecticut legislature has already concluded as a matter of public policy that the interest of parents in opting not to vaccinate their children on religious grounds outweighs the child’s interest in being immune from certain diseases,” wrote Rogers.
Now living with another family in Connecticut, the children still have not been vaccinated.