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The Baker Act and Your Rights as Parents

by | Nov 11, 2015


The Baker Act (Translation)

John Eddy Sarmiento, Reporter: Since 1971 in the State of Florida there is a law that considers the possibility that any person could be mentally ill.
Rosa Prieto, Spokesperson for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR): The situation is that there is a law called the Baker Act in the State of Florida and this law allows your children to be taken from school to a psychiatric hospital for 72 hours.
John Eddy Sarmiento, Reporter: The Act was named after the Miami´s Representative in the State of Florida Maxine Baker, who had strong interest in mental health matters, but for this law to be applied certain prerequisites are needed that apparently are not being fulfilled.
Rosa Prieto, Spokesperson for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR): It requires three things: first one has to be a mentally ill person, second one refuses to receive treatment and third one is a risk for his family, himself or other people.
John Eddy Sarmiento, Reporter: Many parents are unaware of this law which seems to violate the basic rights of people.
Carolina Lombardo, Mother: As a mother I can tell you that I am completely shocked. The fact of knowing that there is a law where your children can be taken without your consent simply because there is an evaluation from a teacher or policeman…
John Eddy Sarmiento, Reporter: Due to these events, the Citizen Commission on Human Rights created a document that would help parents assert their parental rights.
Rosa Prieto, Spokesperson for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR): It is not a document that goes against any law or against the Baker Law itself but it helps to protect parental rights. What would happen is, if your son has a problem in school and you signed this document before, the school will hopefully call you and you can take your son home.
Carolina Lombardo, Mother: Like myself, many parents and many people, do not know that this is happening in the State of Florida. That we have this Act, the Baker Act, and they can take me to a psychiatric hospital without my consent, I mean, without even asking me even when I am a grown-up.
John Eddy Sarmiento, Reporter: The Citizen Commission on Human Rights with headquarters in Clearwater seeks to protect the civil rights of the most affected people.
Rosa Prieto, Spokesperson for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR): In 2014 there were over 181,000 involuntary commitments in Florida and 31,045 of these were children that were Baker Acted. We are also working to prevent children from been indiscriminately drugged for nonexistent illnesses for example the typical case of the hyperactive kid.
John Eddy Sarmiento, Reporter: Even though it is not the intention to eliminate the law, they are trying to modify its actions to benefit children and their families.
Carolina Lombardo, Mother: Read, get informed, know what is going on and then make a decision.

38 Comments

  1. Jacqueline s Levine

    My 16 year old daughter slashed her wristt badly and was taken by friends. She was treated as an emergency while I was en route. Once stable we were not informed or given any information on her apparent involuntary baker act. No psychologist saw her for over three days. She has a sitter 24 hours a day and the rules and rights, baker sct or any other pertinent information has not been communicated. She’s had two surgeries and will undergo another. I am fighting for her privacy fleury g certain times as she poses no immediate threat to herself or staff. I am at whits end over no information on baker act. Did they extend it? Can they? Nothing has been shared. They threatened to have me physically removed from the room for trying to let her sleep. I’m non confrontational and cooperative. This all seems overwhelming and I still have no answers on what’s going on other than her medical treatment.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      It sounds as if she has not received medical clearance which means that the “Baker Act Clock” has been paused. Please call 800-782-2878 in the mornings and ask to speak to an advocate who will be able to walk you through the law and your rights.

  2. Jessica Velez

    My daughter was sent to Bayonett Point Hospital ED from school Friday under the impression she was having a seizure. She was not it was a severe panic attack. After the doctor there spoke with her she admitted to self harm and thoughts of suicide. Though she has not self harmed in 3-4 months. I told him I thought she was depressed and had trauma related to all 3 schools here in Florida with bullying harassment even assault being strangled by a boy from behind during an art class. Which I was told by the school to not press charges. We decided she did need help so me and my daughter now 11 agreed to the baker act it was totally voluntary. They sent her 2 hours away to Suncoast Behavioral in Bradenton we live in Pasco County. Since her arrival there Suncoast has no clue on its correct visitation or call times. Put me on call with another parent we were both horrified. They only have a 30 minute window in which to call your child…over 20 kids there and only 2 phones for this use…..They also failed to contact me after her evaluation. I called to find put because I looked up this baker act law I knew a minor must be evaluated during the first 12 hours after being admitted. Then they tell they want to keep her for up to 5 days and start her on medication!? They never called to ask me if this is what I want for my child or what medication they want to give her….I’m concerned because she is so far from home and I’m not being kept in the loop of her treatment there. She spunded so frightened and its breaking my heart. Tomorrow will be the third day I have contacted her vice principle to set a meeting Tuesday with the school social worker to make a plan for her. Possibly even seek in home therapy due to the lack of transportation and funding and seeing the counselor at school. I will speak with the Suncoast social worker tomorrow and give her the principles personal number so we are all in the loop. Im wondering will Suncoast release my daughter to me?

    Reply
    • CCHR

      If your daughter does not meet the criteria for involuntary placement then yes they will release her to you. You should specifically ask if they have determined that she meets the criteria for an involuntary Baker Act or if they have actually placed her under a Baker Act without informing you they have done so. Despite the fact that you willingly sent your child for treatment they may have initiated an involuntary Baker Act. If this is the case then they cannot hold her longer than 72 hours without filing a petition with with the court for an involuntary placement hearing. If she is listed as “voluntary” you may request discharge at any time. Not sure what insurance you have but keeping her for “5 days” seems arbitrary at best. They cannot administer drugs or treatment without your consent. I have forwarded your comment to one of the advocates who answers calls on our hotline. Please call tomorrow 800-782-2878

  3. Nikki

    My 14 year old son was showing off at school and jumped off the second story balcony. Someone went and told on him and to get out of trouble after they suggested it he said he did it to hurt himself. He was not hurt not even a scratch. They then baker acted him for 3 days without contacting me first. He is making good grades, is social, happy when he is not in trouble, and he has never had a history with mental illness. Now this is on his record and he will not be able to join the military as he was wanting to do. I am just wondering if there is anything I can do to get this off his record and make sure the school does not do this again?

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call 727-442-8820 and ask to speak to Eileen. She can answer your questions.

  4. Jon

    Don’t take your child to John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital for her to talk to someone.
    My daughter called me from school, because she was having a bad day. I picked her up and informed the school I was taking my daughter to her therapist. However, her therapist was out sick, so I took my daughter to John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, just for her to talk to someone. The hospital did not inform me that John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital did not have a psychologist of therapist, but quickly accepted us, stating they would provide the care needed. After a doctor generalist at John Hopkins All Children’s talked to my daughter, the doctor wrote a report — completely not true – stating that my daughter attempted suicide at school, but was intercepted by the school staff who sent her to John Hopkins.
    Again, let me repeat: my daughter called me from her French Class. She made a bee-line to meet me. The school wasn’t even aware of her leaving until I informed them. When I protested this to The John Hopkins All Children’s staff, security guards appeared. At one point, five security guards surrounded me and threatened to force me out of the hospital without my child “if I didn’t show respect.” I asked one of them what they would do to me if I attempted to take my daughter from the hospital. They refused to give me an answer, except to threaten, “You don’t want to go there!”. Two senior staff members appeared and spoke with me in private, and admitted that the doctor’s report was inconsistent. They promised to find out and confirm what had happened. But when they returned, they had apparently changed their mind. I repeated that the report could not be confirmed by the school because it was not true. They obviously had not contacted the school, and were just following orders. When I pointed out, once more, the impossibility of the report, one of the five security guards again threatened to throw me out.
    I asked to speak with the legal representative at John Hopkins All Children, and was given a telephone number, but no one picked up during the 5 times I called. At last, I googled John Hopkins All Children management and directly called the Chief Legal Counsel. I informed her I was being harassed and threatened. When I asked her what would happen to me if I tried to simply walk my daughter out of John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, she refused to answer me, stating she, “couldn’t answer a hypothetical questions.” One of the staff quietly confided to me that I was right to protest and demand answers, and then left.
    My daughter was moved to an empty, cinderblock room with no bed, no chairs, no television, no desk, no carpet — nothing. It might have been an empty broom closet. There was nothing to do except curl up in this completely bare room. After I asked for a bed, one of the security guards pushed one into the room. The hospital did not feed my daughter lunch or dinner until I demanded they do so, hours after what could be considered a typical dining time. I asked dozens of questions for information that any parent should have. I received contradictory answers, or simply the words “thats our policy.” At one point, I opened on my cellphone Florida’s legal statutes regarding the Baker Act, but no one would look at it. Despite what I told them the law was, exactly, they kept referring back to “our policy.” In the end, twelve hours after we arrived, three security guards escorted me to the ambulance in which they strapped my daughter into, and drove her away in. I couldn’t even get an answer regarding whether I could driver her myself. In the end, John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital provided no medical, psychological, therapeutic, or informational support or assistance. They provided no expertise. They lied to me about what they could provide, when we first appeared. They lied in their story about the school preventing a suicide attempt. They refused to provide me with even the most basic information. They ignored the Florida Statutes I tried to show them. They intimidated, threatened and harassed me when I protested. They harmed my daughter. She left John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital traumatized and depressed. They probably made lots of money for the barren, empty room in which they kept my daughter, and doctors who were not qualified in psychiatry or therapy.
    My daughter was quickly released by a psychiatrist at the new location, supporting my original protests.
    How can I find out what my rights are, both before entering hospital, and at a hospital. How can I make sure John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital significantly changes its processes and “policies”.
    I don’t want this to be repeated by any other family.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call 800-782-2878 and ask to speak to Eileen or Pat. They can help.

  5. Robert

    hello, my 6yr. old daughter was baker acted yesterday from school even though her lifestream counselor told them not to do it previously. she has ADHD and possible Autism.
    the school r.c.o called my wife afterwords and just told her that they were sending her to the hospitol because they though she injured herself. they didnt tell her they baker acted her. we didnt find out till after we talked to the doctor at the hospitol that the school or rco. done that. luckly the doctor reversed it because she didnt think it was in our childs best interest for that to happen. can they even baker act a 6yr old? and what is the age limit??? and were they wrong to go against her behavioral counselors orders??

    Reply
    • CCHR

      There is no age limit on a Baker Act. Children between the ages of 2-5 are Baker Acted every year. It does appear that your rights and those of your child have been violated. Please call 800-782-2878 and ask to speak with Eileen or Pat. They will be able to direct your to the appropriate statutes, rules and/or regulations.

  6. Kelsey Garrett

    I took my daughter to a hospital after she took to much of her medication and was baker acted. Now the hospital says if there is no bed open at a psychiatric facility they can hold her indefinitely until one opens. It was my understanding they had 72 hrs from medically clearing her regardless. Can you please let me know if I am incorrect. I want to be informed for when I go back as to what my rights are as her mother.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call 800-782-2878 and ask for Eileen.

  7. Crystal Saffold

    Hi my seven year old was at school and got upset and ran out of class when the tried to approach him he climbed on a railing. The school called for therapist which came out and questioned my son and told him was he trying to hurt hisself which he told them no . When I got to the school they would not let me see him until school officer got there then I was told I had to voluntarily have him evaluated got to the hospital and was told they no longer do voluntarily and that the officer would be baker acting him even at the hospitals my son told them he was not trying to hurt hisself he just climbed up the railing because he was mad. My seven year old was held for 72 hour. Is this legal

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Your experience is all too common and there may have been violations of the law. Please call 800-782-2878 and ask to speak with Eileen.

  8. Nikki J. Taylor

    Something has to change and where do we start? My 11-year old grandson was Baker Acted on three separate occasions from January 2019 to April 2019, with the first occurring 2-weeks after his father, my son’s unexpected passing. In his grief, my grandson told his teacher that he wanted to die and be with his father. He was sent to talk to a counselor where he was questioned as to how he would kill himself. To which he had to think of a way. Once he identified a completely ridiculous and highly improbable method of ending his life, the paperwork, I’m assuming a list of questions that the counselor asked him was sent to the school’s resource officer and the determination was made. He was handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car and taken away. His mother was not notified until he was at the Mental Health facility. At no point was she contacted until after the fact and with each subsequent Baker Act, my grandson’s behavior while being handcuffed became more aggressive, to his being hogtied on the last occasion. My grandson confided in me after the first incident, he would never get into the back of a police car again. He thought he could talk to and trust these adults to help him, as we had suggested that if he was upset to talk to his teacher, a counselor or resource officer. Unfortunately, nothing could have been further from the truth. The school was completely aware of the loss of his father. The school was also aware of the fact that my grandson was under the care of a licensed mental health professional for bereavement and other related issues. I personally attended meetings at my grandson’s school upon his return and tried desperately to apply some common sense to these situations, to which there was none. At no point were we ever provided with a copy of the school counselor’s questionnaire, the resource officer’s admitting document, nor were we allowed to see my grandson at the facility he was taken to until after a mental health evaluation was completed, with each occasion being the following afternoon, almost 24-hours later. Each and every time, we were met by a security officer at the facility and denied. When we asked my grandson’s school for copies of the documents to explain the criteria used and why they felt the need to have him Baker Acted, we were denied. We tried to impress upon the school our need to understand, as how would we be able to address the issues and help? Upon my grandson’s release from the mental health facility, it was determined that his behavior was that of a normal grieving child. The third and last time he was taken to the mental health facility, he was immediately released, as it was determined that he was still a child going through the stages of grief. We have since provided his school a notarized copy of the Non-Consent document to which they would not sign and it was passed around from professional to professional (Assistant Principal, School Counselor, Resource Officer, Teacher, Teaching Assistant, etc,) At no point did the school ever acknowledge the document beyond telling us that someone within the school district would be reviewing it for legal purposes. The meeting ended with the School Resource Officer letting us know that he had a duty to perform and he would not be constrained in any way by the Non-Consent. We have heard absolutely nothing since. The Baker Act is clearly being abused and misused and can be detrimental to the well being of a child, as in my grandson and our family’s experience. Please, if there is anything I can do to assist with the passing of laws/legislature making it mandatory that parents are notified immediately or that a parent must be present during a school counselor’s questioning of a child, I stand-by ready and willing to assist. I know if my son was here, he would be fighting for his child.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Your story is absolutely heartbreaking. I am so very sorry for the loss of your son and for what has happened to your grandson. The answer to your question is YES there is something you can do to not only protect your grandson but to help protect the tens of thousands of children are are inappropriately Baker Acted each year. Someone from CCHR will email you but you may also call 1-800-782-2878.

  9. Sherry Garcia

    My son was baker acted approximately 24 hours ago. The facility told us a Dr will contact us today after his Psych assessment, we have heard nothing. There’s no visitation on Sunday and he will get a phone call to me at 7pm tomorrow night. My son suggested to a friend on a social media site that he just wanted to die- this person called local law enforcement that came into the family home and took him out in handcuffs. He has no history of mental illness, no drug use, no alcohol use, he’s a honors and AP kid and this was isolated. We are worried for her son and do not know our rights, we don’t know what to do and we are desperate to talk with someone. Please help us. I called the 800 number and left a msg but with such a stressful situation I’m worried it can take several hours to hear from someone.

    Reply
  10. Jeff Thomsen

    My son is about to be baker acted how can i fight this? He took a box of benadryl after a fight with his girlfriend, he really was being stupid not really suicidal

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call 800-782-2878 and ask for Eileen.

  11. Maria Edwards

    I am in desperate need of help. if my nephew was illegally baker acted and he is still being held at a facility. HOW DO I GET HIM HOME? ugh I’ve tried calling your number and leaving a message. can someone call me?

    Reply
  12. Dr.Clarissa Clark

    Hello my son was bakeract today just because he was upset and the friend he was talking with got scared and called the police because she thought he was going to hurt himself. I am outraged at the moment a person expresses themselves of being upset a person can call the police just because you did not answer the phone when they call you back. This make nonsense what so ever and then a police show up stating this that and the other. My son has a right to Express himself but, if you say certain things people think you are about to kill your self. This law has to change for the benefit of our children sake.

    Reply
  13. Beck

    My 9 year old has been diagnosed with adhd/anxiety/adjustment disorder with disturbance in emotion and behavior- and we suspect ASD which we are doing a retest of the Neuropsychological evaluation soon next month. I have been very open with his school and we were a week in to changing his medication and he was having aggressive tantrums at school. They would up putting him in handcuffs, calling me, telling me they were Baker acting him and they could take him or I could sign him out but I had to take him to the facility. He calmed down, as he always does after a tantrum and willingly got into the back of the police car. I guess I just don’t understand why he was still baker acted when he was not in danger of harming himself or others in the near future and we were already receiving treatment for his diagnosis 🙁

    Reply
    • CCHR

      There are three criteria that must be met in order to Baker Act anyone including a child. The information you have provided suggests that these criteria were not met and that your rights and the rights of your child have been violated. Please call 800-782-2878 and ask for Eileen.

  14. jessica marshall

    My 10 year olds father had him baker acted and refuses to let me know what’s going on, what rights do I have as mother to a minor when it comes to finding out where my child is and what’s going on?

    Reply
    • CCHR

      I am sorry we did not see this earlier. Please call 800-782-2878 and ask for Eileen.

  15. Andrew Murray

    My 9 year old son was baker acted from school and his mother and I weren’t even informed that there was an issue until he was on his way to meridian. We just want our son back.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Do you need help? If so please call our office at 800-782-2878

  16. Diane

    My 11 yr old Granddaughter and her 10 yr old friend from school were baker acted today Thur the school resource officer. Not only were they baker acted today but also two other children from the same school that were also baker acted but nothing to do with my granddaughter and her friend. Pretty peculiar that 4 minor children from the same school were baker acted. It certainly appears to me that the resource officer at the school is reacting inappropriately to this type of situation. That is some pretty extreme measures to take on minor children. They had her what they called examined at the mental health adult facility that she was sent to That is not licensed to treat minors in Hernando County at Springbrook. They called in a adolescent psychologist who asked my granddaughter one question and from that determined that he would not revoke the Baker act and they had her transferred to Gracepoint In Tampa. We need to know how to get my granddaughter of this facility. She has a very strong family support system that will provide whatever Care she needs on an outpatient basis. We desperately need help. This Decision that the resource officer made on 4 children today is absurd And obvious overreaction regarding these minor children from the same school. Explain that how in the world a school would have the necessity to Baker act 4 minor children on the same day how often are they doing this at this school ( Challenger )? obviously someone is under trained on how to deal with minors children’s mental health concerns and issues. Baker acting minors certainly is not the answer as It appears that his school resorts to this method to deal with the minors situations. What happened to calling the parents and discussing that maybe the child needs counseling. How has it come to the resolution to go straight to baker acting minors with no history of mental illness, I’m floored. I’m also looking for an attorney regarding this situation to bring a case against the school and the facility. This situation has been greatly miss handled.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call our office.

  17. Robyn

    In reading the reply on Oct. 4th to Telzey’s comment I have A LOT of questions about my daughter being Baker Acted this past weekend at Brandon Regional for statements about suicide. Is there someone I can speak with about this? And then they held her for 72 hrs in a terrible facility! Started her on meds and as of right now..81 hrs later, I’ve not spoken with a Psychiatrist yet.. and they did ask permission to start her on Zoloft yesterday.

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Please call CCHR at 800-782-2878 and ask to speak with a case worker. They can help.

  18. Telzey

    We voluntarily took our daughter to get a psych evaluation because she was having thoughts of suicide due to bullying at school. The hospital baker acted her even though we would have voluntarily made sure she got the help she needed. She was discharged days later. Now we are signing her up for a new school. Are we obligated to disclose that she was baker acted to the new school even though everything happened outside of school?

    Reply
    • CCHR

      I am sorry to hear about your daughter. While we cannot provide legal advice, in our opinion your daughter was illegally Baker Acted as she did not meet the criteria for an involuntary hold. The law allows for voluntary admission and to be held involuntarily you first have to refuse to receive a voluntary examination. There are three criteria that all must be met to initiate an involuntary examination and hold. As far as the new requirement put in place by the Public Safety Act, there is concern that asking for private healthcare information is a violation of HIPPA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, a US law designed to provide privacy standards to protect patients’ medical records and other health information provided to health plans, doctors, hospitals and other health care providers. From what I understand there are school districts that have refused to put this requirement in place as they feel that it is a violation. As a parent you have the fundamental right to do what is best for your child.

  19. Kevin & Kelly Heins

    Hi we are trying to get our 15 year old out of Suncoast Behavioral health center after she was baker act on Monday April 2nd . We haven’t had anything explained to us about our rights and everyday we are told something different. We are from NY and just want her to get out so we can bring her to her psychiatrist and therapist that are fully aware of he situation back ho e in NY. It is now Thursday 4/5 with no signs of her being discharged. We need help desperately!

    Reply
    • CCHR

      I just alerted one of our case managers to your comment and they will reach out to you but if you call this number 800-782-2878 you will be routed to the first available person and they can help you immediately.

  20. Juan Cardenas

    My son in an attempt to get out of doing an assignment wrote a note on his paperwork stating that he was going to kill himself just to get out of doing work. The deputy baker acted him and now he is in a psychiatric facility.
    How do we get our son back home?

    Reply
    • CCHR

      Someone from our office will contact you as soon as possible or you can call us at 800-782-2878

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