Foster mom says she's willing to lose infant over flu shot mandate

TACOMA, Wash. -- Foster families are under a new mandate that everyone in their house needs a flu shot if they have foster kids under two years of age.

If they don't comply, the children will be taken from them. At least one foster mom is going to fight that.

Foster parent Jamie Smith of Tacoma has a new addition to her foster home.

"He was born on Christmas. He's our little Christmas baby," Smith said.

Seven other babies have come through her home, including Bonnie, who is now 4-years old and adopted by the Smith family.

But the little 2-week-old may get taken away by the state unless Smith and all the members of her house get a flu shot. That includes the older foster kids in her care. She's not going to comply.

"I've done a lot of research on it and I don't like some of the side effects that it has," she said.

Smith says she's worried about mercury in the vaccine and its effects on the brain. She doesn't want her or her five children exposed to that even if it means losing the little one.

"I've thought about that a lot," said Smith. "Unfortunately, I have to think about our kids who are in the house first and to me they're more important, their safety, than trying to fight to keep this little guy."

She isn't getting the shot, but her electrician husband did. He works for MultiCare and they require all employees to get a shot. Nurses at Multicare's Tacoma General and Good Samaritan Hospitals are suing the company over its insistence they get flu shots or face termination.

"It is serious," said Heather Stephens-Selby of the Washington State Nurses Association.

Now the foster families who handle young foster children are under the same gun. They hope by speaking out the state will ease up and keep the foster families together.

"I'm hoping that we can raise enough of a voice that the state will at least give waivers or do something so the children won't be taken out of their homes," Smith said.

The Department of Social and Health Services, which oversees foster care, issued this statement: "Our rules are designed to protect the safety and well-being of children, which is the sole focus of DSHS Children's Administration. We selected this age group because these are the children who are most vulnerable to illness. We are examining issues being brought to our attention now and have made no decisions regarding changes."

The deadline for getting flu shots is the end of February.