Health departments in several states might be in violation of federal law for promoting anonymous sex-text hotlines aimed at minors, family advocacy groups have warned.
A number of organizations nationwide are drawing attention to these services, such as one called "BrdsNBz," a textline used in Virginia, that are being funded through Title V grants. Those grants are designated for abstinence education or “education exclusively on sexual risk avoidance that teaches youth to voluntarily refrain from sexual activity.”
“Virginia’s sex textline is clearly not providing abstinence education and therefore represents, at best, an obvious misuse of federal funds, or worse, a flat out violation of federal law,” Victoria Cobb, president of The Family Foundation of Virginia, said in a statement, according to LifeSite News.
“While we are disappointed to learn of this misuse, we are glad we can help raise awareness of these textlines targeting teens and circumventing parents in multiple states,” she added.
The textline facilitates active discussion of sexual acts that are not in keeping with federal law. In one real-life text exchange, the textline replied to a question that asked, "how old should I be" before having sex? In response, the textline advised: "It's not about age and all about when you feel 'ready.' This happens for different people at different ages."
Cobb and eight other pro-family group leaders in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, Florida, Texas, Indiana, and New Mexico, penned an open letter to the Department of Health and Human Services to address the problems and submitted evidence of misuse of government funds.
The BrdsNBz program came to Cobb's attention after parents complained when postcards addressed to their children arrived at their homes. The postcards invited children to join a sex-text hotline to ask questions about sex, gender identity, and relationships. Their anonymous questions would be answered in 24 hours by a stranger. The postcards containing the state-sponsored textline were mailed to 96,000 homes.
Family leaders who signed onto the letter to HHS noted that they feared many parents never knew about the postcards that were sent to their children who might be talking about sexual topics with strangers on the other end of the textline.
The BrdsNBz program and similar textlines for youth have been promoted in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Maryland, Florida, Texas, Indiana, New Mexico, and Virginia, with some states seeming to have funded it with Title V money.
According to information received from the Virginia Department of Health that was obtained through a FOIA request, parents of minors are not allowed to access communications between their minor children and BrdsNBz.
"Hence, even if a parent did find out that his/her child had been texting an unknown adult anonymously about all manner of sexual topics, s/he would not be permitted to see those conversations if the child had already deleted them from his/her phone," the letter added.