A few weeks ago we planned to answer your questions about parents’ rights in the final episode of the Parental Rights Podcast. While we had an urgent news story come up instead, we still wanted to go through your questions and answer them as best we could.

Where listeners asked similar questions, we’ve combined those into one question and answer.

Your Rights As a Parent

Several of you asked a question that we get a lot, which is, “What are my rights as a parent, and can the court system take them away?”

Your rights, as determined by law and expressed by the U.S. Supreme Court, are to “direct the upbringing and education” of your children, to “prepare them for additional obligations,” and to be responsible for their “care, custody, and control.”

Those are your rights as a parent under the U.S. Constitution.

However, those rights have been understood and applied differently by different states. Some states have passed laws and statutes that protect parental rights, but others haven’t. And in some states those laws mean parents are respected, but in others it means there are just new and different ways to violate your rights as a parent.

To learn more about the laws of your state, check out our breakdown here.

The best way to know your rights, especially if you are in an ongoing court situation, is to talk to a lawyer who is licensed in your state. A lawyer’s counsel is important because they are educated on the laws of your state, and will be able to advise you on which of your rights are protected by specific laws.

If you are in the middle of such a situation and don’t have a lawyer to advise you, you can check out our referral list of legal organizations, available here.

To answer the second part of the question, courts may not deprive you of the liberty to raise your children without first affording you due process. However, as with any right, your parental rights can be taken away if you miss-use them, since no one has a right to abuse a child.

While we’re working to reform the system because it is too quick to intrude on parental rights, each case is different and must be evaluated independently. That’s where lawyers are helpful in determining the legal implications of what happened and what it means for your case.

Sharing Your Story

Ari from Philadelphia asked us, “How should we go about sharing our stories in an effort to bring awareness to this ongoing intrusion to our rights,” which is an excellent question!

Sharing stories is a crucial part of raising awareness for this issue. But before we can go into how you can share your story, you need to ask yourself if you should share your story.

If your experience is ongoing, you will need to speak with a lawyer first, because sometimes going public can lead to retaliation by the investigators (it’s illegal, but it happens). And sometimes going public actually violates the order of the court, which can lead to serious legal repercussions. Make sure you don’t go public with your story until it is safe to do so.

So, once you’ve determined that it is okay to go public (or once your experience with the courts has concluded) how do you share your story?

Whether it’s an experience that has happened to you, someone you know, or an ongoing news story, there are a couple of helpful ways to share your experience:

             1) Social Media – The online platform is limitless, and enables you to educate people both by sharing your story and by having respectful, productive discussions about this issue and your experiences with it.

             2) Conversations – A lot of people just don’t know that this stuff happens. You can help change that by telling people about the issue and sharing your experience with it – at whatever level of detail you most feel comfortable with.

If you want some resources to help with these conversations, we have some printouts available here.

Protecting Medical Choice

A few of you also asked, “What are our rights as a parent to make medical decisions for our child, and what can we do to protect that right?”

At ParentalRights.org, we support your fundamental right to make necessary health and medical decisions for your child (It’s just part of being a parent). But, from Justina Pelletier to Charlie Gard, that right has been hotly contested over the past decade. While we’re working to safeguard that right through legislation, there are some things you can do to help protect yourself and your children in potentially difficult medical situations.

First, before diving in, an excellent resource for understanding this issue is a discussion we had with Dr. Lainna Callentine a few years ago, which you can check out here.

Really, the first action to take is to find a doctor you trust before any situation arises. That way, if you run into trouble with a doctor you don’t know (perhaps at the ER), you will have a trusted family doctor to support you in your decisions.

The second thing is not to assume that there is going to be a problem. If you work with the doctors as much as possible, they should be willing to work with you. And on the off chance that a problem arises, know how to contact your trusted family doctor or lawyer for help. (See question #1 for helpful resources on this point.)

Thank you for participating in the first season of the Parental Rights Podcast! We’ll be back in October for Season 2, and in the meantime you can listen to Season 1 here.

Check out the rest of our website for more information on parental rights, and join us today as we fight to pass good legislation to protect you and your children!