PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) - It's been a longtime practice among parents who believe in natural immunizations. Chickenpox parties are popular with families who want their children to catch the disease, rather than be vaccinated. However, a visit to a Plano mom's home by Child Protective Services this week has triggered worries within the community that authorities may be prosecuting them as bad parents.
The mom said that CPS knocked on her door this week because she was hosting a chickenpox party for kids whose parents are opposed to vaccinations. Parents who support the practice stated that they are being bullied online by people who report them to the police.
Amanda Witt is among those DFW area parents who believe that the best way for their kids to stay healthy is to sometimes get sick. "It's only this generation that's been conditioned to believe that it is somehow bad," said Witt.
The mom from Plano moderates a private Facebook page for more than 300 parents who believe that it is safer for children to get the chickenpox than it is for them to be vaccinated against it. She explained, "When one child has chickenpox, we promote playdates throughout."
Witt can handle the critics, who have their own page mocking her beliefs, but she said that recently they have gone too far.
An overseas Facebook group is devoted to publicly shaming anti-vaccine parents, Witt stated. They reported one of her friends to CPS in Collin County, who sent a case worker to Witt's front door. "What is shocking to me about that is there hasn't been a law broken," said Witt. "Chickenpox parties are not considered dangerous. They're not illegal."
But criminal law attorney Pete Schulte explained how a parent could be prosecuted. "If a child is introduced to the chickenpox and becomes seriously ill, or dies, then the parents could face criminal liability out of the penal code," he said.
The mother who was questioned by CPS refused to speak, but the incident has spread fear among the anti-vaccine community, including Witt. "I feel bullied and victimized," Witt said. "I'd like for my parental rights to be respected. I didn't break the law. My children are well cared for and it is my choice."
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