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News of police finding a missing Florida toddler along with his parents in Kentucky last week has upset some observers who argue the parents were seeking “alternative medical care” for their 3-year-old son.
Joshua McAdams was found Monday in Georgetown, Kentucky, along with his parents, 27-year-old Joshua McAdams and 22-year-old Taylor Bland-Ball, according to authorities.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office in Tampa, Florida, said the toddler disappeared April 22 after his parents failed to “bring in the child to a medically-necessary hospital procedure” and then refused to follow up with “lifesaving medical care.”
Citing a federal medical privacy law, authorities said they could not provide more specifics on the boy’s condition but said they believed he was in danger.
But some have since questioned whether police were right to apprehend the parents, who may face child neglect charges in Florida.
The Florida Freedom Alliance, a group that aims “to bring together organizations fighting for individual freedoms under one, large united front,” said Joshua “Noah” McAdams had been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
“After 2 rounds of chemotherapy along with dietary intervention, vitamin and herbal supplementation, Noah and his parents celebrated that his cancer was no longer being detected,” the alliance said on its website.
The group said Noah’s parents refused to take him in for further treatments, even though they were bound by laws that require children to undergo the “full recommended treatment plan of pediatric oncologists.”
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said child protective investigators obtained a court order to take the boy into custody, but when they went to serve the order, the family had disappeared.
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That set off a statewide search for the toddler and his parents, who authorities believed were possibly headed to Kentucky. Florida authorities also said the father could be armed.
In Kentucky, Georgetown police said the 3-year-old was going to a local hospital for further evaluation and that they were working with the Kentucky Department for Community Based Services to “resolve the situation with the family.”
The Florida Freedom Alliance criticized the actions of police.
“Noah’s mother is passionate about natural health and aware of the dangers of pharmaceutical interventions, especially if not necessary,” the group said on its website. “Their desire to seek alternative care resulted in medical kidnapping orchestrated by Child Protective Services.”
By Thursday, Noah and his parents were back in Florida, and the parents appeared in a Hillsborough County courtroom.
They are facing possible charges of medical neglect for refusing proper medical treatment for a child considered to be “gravely ill,” the Tampa Bay Times reported.
A judge ruled Noah will go home with his maternal grandparents while the judge decides how his cancer will be treated and whether the parents were within their rights.
“The hospital’s governing body was disorganized and the doctors were not pleasant or professional to us,” McAdams testified. “It seemed like doctors were disappearing on us and just passing down Noah’s information secondhand …”
So the parents said they set out for Ohio, where Bland-Ball said she had arranged for Noah to see a doctor who would provide alternative treatments.
The father also testified that the couple had started treating Noah with CBD oil, fresh foods and clean alkaline water.
Noah’s case comes in the middle of a lively debate over the rights of parents to refuse medical procedures and vaccines for their children, especially as the number of measles cases in a multistate outbreak has grown to the highest mark in 25 years.
Florida Freedom Alliance sponsored a rally in Tallahassee in April against a “vaccine tracking bill” and required vaccinations.
The group said that Noah’s case is not uncommon and that existing laws surrounding pediatric cancer treatment are “unconstitutional and violate not only the fundamental freedoms of the child, but the inalienable rights of the parents.”
On April 29, Florida Freedom Alliance set up a “Noah’s Freedom Fund” on Facebook to raise money for the parents’ legal fees, medical costs, transportation and other expenses associated with “medical kidnapping.”
The fund had raised more than $16,500 from more than 550 donors as of Sunday afternoon.
A Facebook post from Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office announcing the discovery of the toddler and parents in Kentucky has received over 5,000 comments expressing both dismay and approval for the parents’ actions.
“SET THEM FREE. They are not criminals,” one commenter said. “They have done the chemo, he is CANCER FREE…ANY other parent would choose the same. This isn’t right and you know it!”
Others argued Noah was reportedly still in need of medical care at a hospital and that many “alternative medicine” options have not proved as effective as standard care.
While parents have medical authority over their children in most cases, the parens patriae doctrine gives states the right to overrule parents if it’s believed they are not acting in the best interest of the child’s well-being.
Reach Billy Kobin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 502-582-7030. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/subscribe.
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