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State May Vaccinate Children in Its Custody, Even Over Parents' Objection

So a New Jersey appellate court held today.


From N.J. Div. of Child Protection & Permanency v. J.B. (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div.):

The age appropriate immunizations required by N.J.A.C. 3A:51-7.1(a)(2) are a reasonable means of ensuring the health and safety of the children in the care and custody of the Division, especially during a measles outbreak. Parental rights must yield to the safety and well-being of Son and Daughter under these circumstances. See, e.g., Sadlock, 137 N.J.L. at 88 ("[T]he police power of a state must be held to embrace, at least, such reasonable regulations established directly by legislative enactment as will protect the public health and the public safety." (quoting Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11, 25 (1905))). Requiring immunization is an appropriate use of the State's police power. Providing age-appropriate vaccinations to Son and Daughter will protect them from needlessly contracting diseases that would subject them to potentially serious complications. Children in the care and custody of the Division deserve nothing less.

The children have been in the continuous care and custody of the Division since October 2017. {Father is a Megan's Law offender subject to community supervision for life. As such, Father is prohibited from "initiating, establishing, or maintaining" or "attempting to initiate, establish, or maintain contact with any minor" and from "residing with any minor," which includes "[s]taying overnight at a location where a minor is present" without prior approval from the District parole Supervisor. [The children were removed from mother's custody because, despite that prohibition,] Father was living with the children and Mother was allowing Father to have unsupervised contact with them.} While parents do not lose all of their parental rights when their children are placed under the care, custody, and supervision of the Division as a result of substantiated abuse and neglect, they are situated differently than parents who retain legal and physical custody.

When children are removed from parents under Title 9, the Division is charged with the duty to provide appropriate medical care and treatment. We view this duty as encompassing the authority to administer age-appropriate immunizations over the religious objections of the parents. See In the Interest of C.R., 570 S.E.2d 609 (Ga. Ct. App. 2002); In re Deng, 887 N.W.2d 445 (Mich. Ct. App. 2016); In re Stratton, 571 S.E.2d 234 (N.C. Ct. App. 2002); Dep't of Human Servs. v. S.M. (In re M.M.), 323 P.3d 947 (Or. 2014). To rule otherwise would needlessly jeopardize the health and safety of children in placement and undermine the discharge of the Division's duty to provide care, particularly when a known risk of exposure to a disease preventable by vaccination is present.