According to the American Medical Association, consent occurs when communication between a patient and provider results in the patient’s agreement to undergo a specific medical service. In school-based health, most young people are under the age of 18 and therefore need their parent or guardian to consent to treatment on behalf of them for most services. In California, we have minor consent laws which enable young people aged 12 and over to consent to some services.
Minor consent laws allow young people aged 12 and over to consent to certain services without parent or guardian involvement. Minors may consent to certain services related to sexual and reproductive health, mental health, and drug and alcohol treatment. For details, please see the National Center for Youth Law’s California Minor Consent and Confidentiality Laws grid. When a young person accesses services under minor consent laws, those services are to be maintained confidentially – meaning that providers are bound by law to not share this information, including with parents/guardians.
In order to receive services, not only does a person need to consent to them, but they also need to be able to access them. School-based health centers (SBHCs) increase access to services by offering them in a place that is familiar, trusted, and convenient – in school.
SBHCs play a unique role for young people consenting to services under minor consent laws. Not only do SBHCS increase access to minor consent services but also they enable young people to access these services in a truly confidential manner. Young people who need minor consent services do not have to worry about transportation to and from their appointment and can have their absence from class excused. SBHCs help enable young people to consent and access services that they are entitled to by California law.
Minor Consent Reproductive Health Rights in California (AB 499)
Assembly Bill 499, signed by the Governor in October 2011, created a new minor consent health right in California. Previously, the law allowed minors to consent to diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, but did not allow them to consent to services that would prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Under AB 499, adolescents aged 12 and over can give their own consent for services that prevent sexually transmitted diseases, including both the HPV vaccine and post-exposure HIV prophylaxis. AB 499 amended section 6296 of the Family Code.
Minor Consent Mental Health Rights in California (SB 543)
Senate Bill 543, signed by the Governor in October 2010, created a new minor consent mental health right in California. This table describes Health and Safety Code 124260, the minor consent law created by SB 543, and highlights the differences between Health and Safety 124260 and Family Code 6924, the previous minor consent mental health statute. Please note that “Section 124260 of the Health and Safety Code shall not apply to the receipt of benefits under the Medi-Cal program.” This means that if the minor’s mental health services are/will be covered under EPSDT, the provider must get parent/guardian consent. To learn more, visit National Center for Youth Law.
Minor Consent Rights in California
A revised edition of Understanding Confidentiality and Minor Consent in California was completed in 2010 by the Adolescent Health Working Group and the California Adolescent Health Collaborative. Designed for busy providers, the new module includes materials that you are free to copy and distribute. Updates and additions in this new edition include: updated legal information; added resources for youth; a new section for parents/guardians; information addressing issues of HIPAA and FERPA.
Print copies of this publication can be downloaded from the Adolescent Health Working Group website, which also offers other related resources, such as pocket cards and posters. If you have questions regarding the toolkit or its accompanying training and resources, please call the Adolescent Health Working Group at (415) 554-8429 or the California Adolescent Health Collaborative at (510) 285-5712.
National Center for Youth Law
National Center for Youth Law (NCYL) website has a plethora of up-to-date national and local news concerning youth law. NCYL is a private, non-profit law office serving the legal needs of children and their families. A key resource for navigating minor consent and providers’ reporting requirements was prepared by Rebecca Gudeman of NCYL:
Minor Consent, Confidentiality, and Child Abuse Reporting in California.
Confidential Medical Release: Frequently Asked Questions from Schools & Districts provides guidance to schools on excusing students from school to attend confidential medical appointments.
Frequently Asked Questions about Minor Consent for Substance Use Disorder Services in California has information on Family Code 6929.
NCYL also has a website designed to help California adolescent health care providers understand the many laws that impact their work, with a focus on reproductive health. The NCYL site contains information produced by NCYL as well as other organizations specializing in adolescent health care.
Teen Health Rights
The National Center for Youth Law’s Teen Health Rights Initiative was established to provide resources and information to health care providers about California laws pertaining to minor consent, confidentiality, child abuse reporting, and other adolescent health concerns. Based on provider requests for information, the initiative’s staff research and create manuals, forms, and other resources to facilitate health care delivery to adolescents. Staff also respond to requests for technical assistance, education and training.