HSLDA’s Stonewalling of Child Abuse Investigations

This is the third post in a series on the role the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) plays in aiding and abetting child abuse. In the last post I wrote about HSLDA’s efforts to decrease the reporting of child abuse; in this post I will write about the role HSLDA has played in encouraging the obstructing of child abuse investigations. In a nutshell, HSLDA encourages its member families to do whatever they have to to prevent social workers from talking to their children alone, has pioneered legal strategies aimed at enabling parents to stonewall child abuse investigations, encourages children and parents alike to regard social workers with fear and suspicion, and portrays child abuse investigations themselves as abusive.

Standard Bearers of the Fourth Amendment

The fourth amendment protects citizens against unreasonable search and seizure; it is because of this amendment that law enforcement must have a warrant to enter your house. HSLDA is adamant in its insistence that the fourth amendment gives parents the right to deny Child Protective Services workers access to their homes and children without a warrant. In fact, HSLDA has been so dogged in pursuing litigation to extend parents’ fourth amendment rights that a legal comment published in UMKC Law Review in 2004 was titled “Standard Bearers of the Fourth Amendment: The Curious Involvement of Home School Advocates in Constitutional Challenges to Child Abuse Investigations.”

Just what is HSLDA’s line on the fourth amendment? Well, in his 2001 testimony urging that the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) be amended, HSLDA’s Christopher Klicka made the following suggestion:

Specific Declaration of the 4th Amendment Probable Cause Standard: Social workers must be held accountable to the same 4th Amendment standards as the police and other law enforcement authorities. As a condition of receiving federal funds, states should be mandated to declare in their state code that a warrant, supported by probable cause, must be obtained before a social worker can enter the home without consent of the parents.

HSLDA was actually partially successful in its attempt to amend CAPTA: As a result of their efforts, a provision requiring that social workers be trained regarding the requirements of the fourth amendment was added to the bill. Now while HSLDA’s laser focus on the fourth amendment as a way to protect homeschooling families against child abuse investigations may seem fishy, it is true that the fourth amendment does protect families against intrusions of law enforcement without a warrant, so applying this same standard to CPS workers, who serve as government agents, is not really that out there (whether or not I agree with it, of course, is another matter). Where it gets strange is what comes next.

Don’t Let the Social Worker In!

HSLDA insists that requiring social workers to get either the parents’ consent or a warrant before entering a home and interviewing children won’t actually get in the way of child abuse investigations, explaining as follows:

Obviously, nothing in the Constitution prevents a social worker from going to a home and simply asking to come in. If the parent or guardian says “yes”, there is no constitutional violation whatsoever provided that there was no coercion.

This covers the vast majority of investigations. The overwhelming response of people being investigated is to allow the social worker to enter the home and conduct whatever investigation is reasonably necessary.

This is very odd given what HSLDA advises its members:

Never let the social worker in your house without a warrant or court order. All the casesthat you have heard about where children are snatched from the home usually involve families waiving their Fourth Amendment right to be free from such searches and seizures by agreeing to allow the social worker to come inside the home. A warrant requires “probable cause” which does not include an anonymous tip or a mere suspicion

In the Stumbo case, when a social worker came to the door to investigate suspected child abuse after a tipster made a report about an unattended naked two year old in the family’s driveway, HSLDA advised the family not to let the social worker in. The Stumbos followed HSLDA’s advice, denying social workers access to their children, and as a result what might have been a simple investigation revealing no suggestions of child abuse and leading to the tip being unsubstantiated and the case dismissed instead turned into a drawn-out court battle that lasted for years.

Growing up in an HSLDA member family, I remember what I was taught was the number one most important thing to remember in case of a social worker coming to the door: Never, never, never let a social worker into the home, and never let the social worker talk to any of the children alone. The reason for this, I was told, was that social workers would fake evidence and plant false memories in children, meaning that if even the most innocent homeschooling family let a social worker into the house they would end up losing custody of their children. I never thought about the reality that, in practice, urging parents against allowing CPS workers into their homes or access to their children might both make the families appear extremely suspicious and serve to impede the investigation and discovery of real and devastating child abuse.

Just What Is Probable Cause?

If HSLDA member families follow HSLDA’s advice, social workers will always have to get warrants to investigate child abuse complaints against homeschooling families. To get a warrant the social worker will have to establish probable cause, and HSLDA is adamant in wanting the strictest standards used in determining just what constitutes probable cause—and that means anonymous tips or “mere suspicion” of child abuse, however earnest or dire, are out.

In the Stumbo case the social worker responded to the parents’ refusal to allow access to their home or children by going to a judge and getting a warrant. HSLDA responded by taking legal action to challenge this warrant—and ultimately won.

In one article, HSLDA offers an example of probable cause: A grandmother calls CPS, providing her name and personal information, and reports that her grandson has been locked in his room for days without food and that she has seen him and he looks pale and weak. HSLDA states that in this case, if the CPS worker can verify the identity and relationship of the caller, he would then have probable cause and could get a warrant. Later, the article states that “It is not enough to have information that the children are in some form of serious danger. The evidence must also pass a test of reliability that our justice system calls probable cause. … Anonymous tips are never probable cause.”

Let’s take a look at how things would work if HSLDA has its way: When a tipster calls CPS to expresses concerns about a homeschooling family, a social worker will be dispatched to the family’s home in an attempt to ascertain whether there is any justification for these concerns. On HSLDA’s advice, the family will turn the social worker away without allowing her access to their home or children in order to investigate the allegations. The social worker can then go to a judge, and must present some form of information that will pass the “test of reliability” and serve as “probable cause”—and this information must all be obtained and presented without any access to the family’s home or children. If the tip is anonymous or the repost rests on “mere suspicions” or the allegations are not deemed to pass the “test of reliability,” regardless of the severity of the accusations, the judge will deny the warrant and the case will be dismissed, all without the social worker ever having any contact with the family’s children. Seen in this way, it’s not hard to see that HSLDA is intent on throwing up any possible roadblock in the path of child abuse investigation.

Don’t Let Them Talk to the Kids!

Perhaps this is the most disturbing part: HSLDA does whatever it has to to keep CPS workers from contact with homeschooling children, rejoicing every time they successfully keep children from private interviews with the social workers sent to investigate child abuse tips a family. In one article in its Home School Court Report, an article that is extremely representative of the stories recorded there, HSLDA exults over a successful case against child abuse investigations as follows:

A Home School Legal Defense Association member family in Jackson County recently contacted us for assistance in a Department of Social Services investigation alleging physical abuse.

The investigation was prompted by a report to DSS alleging inappropriate discipline of their child approximately two years ago. Although the report just covered one child, the social worker insisted that she be allowed to interview all of the children in the home.

HSLDA contacted the social worker, explaining that our members were eager to address the allegations made against them and were prepared to meet with the social worker to respond to questions about the report. However, we clarified that the parents would not discuss any matters beyond the specific allegations, and that they would strenuously oppose subjecting their children to the trauma of any interrogation by social workers.

The family recently received a letter stating that the investigation was terminated as “unfounded.”

In case after case after case after case after case after case, HSLDA makes it clear that allowing social workers to speak with children alone is the absolute worst thing a parent can do, and is something to be avoided at all costs. This is the thing a parent must never do. HSLDA seems completely unaware that sometimes a private interview with a social worker is the only chance an abused child has to speak out about her abuse, and that having a parent or other relative present often impedes abused children’s ability to speak openly of their abuse. But then, HSLDA also seems unaware that any of its member families could possibly abuse their children.

In fact, here is a statement by HSLDA directly addressing the importance of opposing private interviews between children and social workers:

Private interviews with a social worker can be extremely traumatic for a child. Social workers sometimes ask inappropriate, personal, and offensive questions which can destroy a child’s innocence or security. HSLDA works hard to avoid such traumatic interviews wherever possible.

HSLDA isn’t shy, then, about its opposition to letting social workers speak privately with children. In case after case listed in their Court Report and on their website, they crow over how they cowed social workers out of being able to meet one-on-one with homeschooling children. HSLDA may insist that social workers plant stories of abuse and traumatize children during these private interviews, but the simple reality is that HSLDA is working its hardest to cut off any chance abused children might have of actually speaking to social workers about their abuse.

For more on how HSLDA teaches parents to deal with CPS workers—and more on the fear and suspicion with which HSLDA encourages parents to view CPS workers—take a minute to read this play in two acts involving “Mr. Innocent,” “Mr. Wise,” “Little Eager,” and “Orwell,” the social worker. This play is an excellent peek into exactly how I was taught growing up to view social workers and deal with CPS investigations. And you may have guessed it already—the goal is to avoid allowing CPS to speak privately with the children.

Child Abuse Investigations as Abusive to Children

HSLDA also has a track record of arguing that children must be protected from child abuse investigations. For example, in explaining opposition to mandatory reporting laws HSLDA has said the following:

HSLDA has seen firsthand how malicious or ignorant child abuse and neglect allegations have destroyed innocent families. A family has few protections against the power of CPS agencies. And even if a CPS investigation is closed as unfounded, the trauma to a young child, to an innocent family as a stranger (albeit maybe a well-intentioned stranger) enters the home and threatens to remove the children, is lasting and profound.

And, after winning one case, HSLDA reported as follows:

Elated by this sudden victory after months of worry, the Willittses returned to normal life. Their refusal to back down-even in the face of relentless intimidation-had protected their children from a traumatic interview and their family from any further invasion of privacy. We thank God for the positive resolution of this case.

HSLDA often describes CPS investigations as abusive toward families, thus co-opting the rhetoric of abuse. I’m unsure of whether HSLDA is aware of how insensitive this makes them look—or if they’re aware that even HSLDA member families can be abusive. Either way, the idea that child abuse investigations are this horribly abusive thing that families and children must be protected against at all costs serves in practice to aid abusive parents seeking to hide the evidence of their abuse and minimizes the abuse that many children suffer every day at the hands of their parents.

Teaching Children (and Parents) to Fear Social Workers

I would suggest that whatever “trauma” is in fact suffered by homeschooled children interviewed by CPS workers is the result of HSLDA literature urging children to be afraid of social workers. When I was a child, I was terrified of CPS workers, viewing them as an evil boogeyman out to take me away from my parents at the drop of a hat. Where did I get this fear? From HSLDA. In spades. HSLDA sows fear among homeschooling parents and children because that fear is what keeps its coffers full—after all, if homeschooling parents are not afraid, they will not buy HSLDA’s legal insurance.

In fact, HSLDA founder Michael Farris even wrote a horror novel called Anonymous Tip, which detailed the story of a woman whose daughter was removed from her custody by a conniving social worker who faked evidence after a child abuse tip called in by the woman’s deadbeat ex. I’m sure I’m not the only homeschooler who read Farris’s novel and took it very, very seriously—and the play I referenced earlier was likely taken similarly seriously.

Through its books, email alerts, and magazine, HSLDA plants a fear of social workers and CPS investigations deep in the heart of both parents and children—even leading them to believe that CPS workers commonly remove children from their parents without justification, and that this could happen to them too—and then crows to the rooftops about the trauma that results from child abuse investigations. If HSLDA wasn’t sowing this fear in the first place, parents and children wouldn’t be frightened to death when social workers show up at the door to investigate a complaint and make sure everything is alright.

But there’s more to this, too. When HSLDA teaches children to be afraid of social workers, it is teaching them to see their helpline as the enemy. CPS workers ought to be seen as friends and supporters of children, there to listen to kids and help protect them from abuse. Sure, there may be the random bad social worker, but by and large social workers are dedicated individuals who believe deeply in helping children. Social work isn’t something you go into for the money. And yet, HSLDA is busy teaching children to view social workers as objects of terror, which of course means that homeschooled children won’t see social workers as people they can trust and go to when they need help.

This Isn’t Hypothetical

I think it’s important to realize that this isn’t some abstract hypothetical we’re talking about. In early 2012 a fifteen year old homeschooled Wisconsin girl was found starving, walking alone along the side of the road, having escaped the prison cell her basement room had become.

The girl, now 15, was found by a passerby earlier this month as she walked in her pajamas and barefoot along a McFarland road. Authorities said the girl weighed 70 pounds.

The complaint states the girl’s face appeared sunken with her collarbones sticking out, and that she was”gorging” on food after authorities got her to care. The complaint states the girl gained 17 pounds in a matter of days.

According to the complaint, the girl told authorities Drabek-Chritton often denied her food, while Chritton claimed food would trigger diabetic reactions and render the girl prone to violence. Court documents state Drabek, two small children in the household, and Chritton and Drabek-Chritton would eat normally, while the girl would scavenge for food from garbage and go days at a time without eating. Her stepmother, Drabek-Chritton, was listed in court records as 370 pounds. Authorities said there was no evidence to support family claims of the girl’s alleged medical conditions, including eating disorders.

It seems there had been child abuse tips lodged against this family in the past:

“It also appears that the family in the past was not cooperative with the department of human services or the city of Madison police department,” Moeser said. Court documents state Chritton and Drabek-Chritton refused social workers access to their home during at least one investigation, and refused staff access to Drabek and the girl at times when both were minors. State and county officials were unavailable to comment on whether court actions were considered or attempted to overcome parental objections during investigations, with officials citing confidentiality rules.

I don’t know whether this homeschooling family was an HSLDA member family, but I do know that they step by step followed the course of action HSLDA recommends families follow in dealing with child abuse investigations, and that following HSLDA’s advice enabled them to hide their abuse of their daughter, abuse that only came to light when the girl physically escaped the hell her home had become. HSLDA’s policies for the handling of child abuse investigations aren’t just hypothetical—they have real world implications and affect real children’s lives in profoundly negative ways.

Conclusion

HSLDA may not see itself as doing everything in its power to obstruct child abuse investigations, but that is in practice what it is indeed doing. HSLDA urges its members against allowing social workers to investigate allegations of child abuse without a warrant and at the same time is working to increase the standards of what counts as “probable cause,” thus making it harder for social workers to get warrants to investigate abuse. At the same time, HSLDA does everything in its power to avoid letting social workers personally interview children, thus cutting off any possibility children who are being abused by their parents have of speaking out about that abuse. Meanwhile, HSLDA keeps homeschooled children so scared silly of social workers that it is more than likely that many abused homeschooled children wouldn’t report their own abuse if they had the chance. Meanwhile, HSLDA paints the child abuse investigations themselves as the problem, and as a dire threat to children.

Instead of doing its utmost to obstruct child abuse investigations, why doesn’t HSLDA instead urge its members to comply with investigations in order to dispel allegations of abuse? Why not focus on ensuring that CPS follows their own best practices and rules, thus minimizing false positives in child abuse investigations, rather than viewing CPS as the enemy to be opposed and obstructed? Or for that matter, why deal with child abuse allegations in the first place? Why not stick with the accusations that deal directly with homeschooling, such as ensuring that local officials know state law and that member families comply with those laws?

There are many possible responses to these questions, of course. Perhaps protecting parental rights against any limitations whatsoever is HSLDA’s primary goal, with homeschooling merely a tool to this end, and perhaps this has led to HSLDA defending parents against investigations of child abuse. Perhaps HSLDA’s definition of child abuse does not elide with the CPS’s definition of child abuse. Perhaps many HSLDA member families do have something to hide, and HSLDA knows it. Perhaps HSLDA’s focus on the primacy of parental rights means that the organization is not actually interested in doing things to protect children against abuse at the hands of their parents.

As one last example of how HSLDA views child abuse accusations and investigations, let me quote from an HSLDA article on Japanese homeschoolers:

Recent revisions to the Juvenile Law have strengthened child abuse reporting laws. There is now the possibility for neighbors of homeschool families to give notice to the Child Consultation Center (Zidoh-Sohdan-shyo in Japanese) that homeschooled children are abused by their parents. Regrettably, the Child Consultation Centers in each district are now required to investigate each and every abuse notice. Unsubstantiated abuse claims are expected to increase and to affect homeschool families adversely.

Regrettably.

In case it is not already clear, HSLDA considers Child Protective Services investigations simply annoyances homeschoolers should not have to deal with rather than seeing them as important means of locating and helping abused children. Once again, it’s like HSLDA is completely unaware that some homeschooling families might actually physically abuse their children, or that some homeschooled children might be in need of help. HSLDA would probably deny these allegations, of course, and would point to statements deploring child abuse, calling for “true” child abusers to be prosecuted, and arguing that the corporal punishment parents employ should be “reasonable.” In the next segment of this series we will examine HSLDA’s ideas about just what actually constitutes child abuse.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Mafrin

    I can’t even… No. Just no.
    I live in a far more secular country than the US, and I have to say that what I have learned of your country is absolutely horrifying. While Australia also has its fair share of religious right-wing loonies (hello, Jim Wallace), I have never heard anything quite as disgusting as this. I sincerely hope you are able to bring light to the damage that HSLDA is doing.

    I can’t even put words to how shocked and disgusted I am. I honestly had no idea that there was this kind of evil in the world.

  • Nea

    Perhaps HSLDA’s focus on the primacy of parental rights means that the organization is not actually interested in doing things to protect children against abuse at the hands of their parents.

    There’s no “perhaps” about it. THEY KNOW the whole view of “father must not be challenged” and “even babies need beating” is already abusive. The ability of the fringe society to survive requires hiding the natural consequences of its philosophies.

    • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

      Scuse me, but, “THIS!”

      If they have nothing to hide, why go to such great lengths to impede and obstruct a harmless chat with the kids?

      Normally I’m all about knowing and asserting your rights, but there are (very, very few) times when one’s rights are superseded by others’ right to safety. This is one of them.

      • BabyRaptor

        These sick assholes don’t think kids have rights. That’s the problem.

        They yell and scream about how life starts at conception, and a two-cell chunk of tissue has an “innate, god-given right” to be born that completely negates everything about the woman involved even if she would die, but once they’re born, they lose all that apparently.

        Fucking sadistic assholes. And somehow the Liberals are the evil ones.

  • David S.

    Wow. I started that play, and turns out that when you’re discussing hitting a six-year-old on the bare bottom with a wooden paddle, that I do in fact believe that’s abuse that CPS should handle. That’s not being Orwellian. And threatening to use the paddle on that child for telling the CPS agent where the paddle is? Even if one could justify using the paddle in the first place, that would be incredibly disproportionate, if punishment were justified at all.

    • ako

      Yeah, that play made a different impression me from what I think they were trying to convey. Some bits of what the straw-social worker said was genuinely ridiculous, but if the ‘innocent’ parents were really routinely hitting a six-year-old with a wooden paddle, and wanted to go after the kid with a paddle for telling what happened, it’d make sense to investigate further, at least to the point of checking for injuries. It made me wonder what the ‘wise’ parents were getting away with.

      • The_L

        Likewise. Especially since I’ve recently read some of the foreign-adoption horror stories out there, of children who weigh half what they should. The “Wise” family gave me serious bad vibes, and the “Innocents” certainly didn’t look remotely innocent to me at all.

  • Christine

    I am terrified by this “never let children be interviewed alone” stance. The presence of their parents in the interview is one of the things cited for why the Shafia girls were not removed from their home before their parents murdered them. (This was not a case of “abused them to death”, but a premeditated murder with attempted cover-up. Very big news up here.)

  • Conuly

    Libby Anne, even if it makes you “look guilty” you shouldn’t let the cops into your house without a warrant, whether you’ve been breaking the law or not. You also shouldn’t speak to them without a lawyer. This is basic legal advice that *any* lawyer will give you, no matter whom they are affiliated with or what you’re suspected of doing.

    Yes, bad people who abuse their kids are likely to follow this advice. But on the off chance that somebody really is out to get you, you should follow that advice as well. Telling people who don’t abuse their kids to just let people walk into their homes isn’t going to protect abused children. Yes, it’s reprehensible that the HSLDA is more concerned with protecting abusers than their kids (and yes, paddling kids is abuse), but that is still good advice to follow if you haven’t been doing anything wrong.

    • jemand

      I understand not allowing people into the home, that is legally protected, but children are NOT possessions.

      I don’t see a constitutional bar to requiring things like interviews without the parents present, even without a warrant, as long as it’s videotaped to protect against any unreasonable questioning, etc.

      It may not be the law now, but it would make a fairly good balance, I think.

      • Conuly

        I agree on that front, allowing interviews without parents present. Seems like common sense to me. However, I will point out that the HSLDA is not totally insane in saying that kids can be led to say things that aren’t true. That really has happened in the past (the whole satanic ritual abuse scare, for starters), though nowadays we are more aware of it. Taping the interview to make sure that this doesn’t happen seems a fine compromise between wanting to get the truth and wanting to make sure you don’t accidentally get more than that.

    • David S.

      I understand the basis for the advice, but a reality where we can’t talk to the police without an attorney present is not one I want to live or that’s feasible to exist. You’re talking about a society where attorneys are more common then they are today, and police and CPS are inhibited in even the most basic actions. And if you force the police and CPS to get warrants for every little thing, they will; judges won’t even bother looking at the things any more, and you’ll have moved us down the road to the police state.

      • Conuly

        So, basically, you’re saying that we retain the freedom to not incriminate ourselves so long as we agree never to exercise it?

      • Christine

        A right that becomes a duty is not a right. If I have to have an attorney every time I talk to the police about anything, it becomes a burden. And I say this as someone who would, in most cases, need some sort of advocate.

      • Conuly

        It’s not a duty, it’s common sense. And while you might be willing to waive your rights, it’s a bit much to ask or expect the rest of us to.

      • Christine

        “Libby Anne, even if it makes you “look guilty” you shouldn’t let the cops into your house without a warrant, whether you’ve been breaking the law or not. You also shouldn’t speak to them without a lawyer.”

        I’m not sure how David S and me saying that it’s not necessary to have a lawyer, that sometimes it’s ok to talk to them without your lawyer present is us asking you to waive your rights. There is a middle ground between “you should not have to always do X” and “never do X”. We are not saying that no one should ever insist on the presence of a lawyer, we are saying that it’s a very good idea to continue non-antagonistic relations when it is prudent to do so.

      • David S.

        I want to live in a world where police are friends of the community, where they can get their jobs done with a minimum of stress. You’re welcome to refuse to talk to the police without a lawyer, and I would encourage you to do so in some cases. But if everyone acts like a potential suspect, they’re going to treat everyone as a potential suspect. If you’re not going to cut them a break, they’re not going to cut you a break. If it’s you against them, that thin blue line is going to be all the more hard to cross.

        It’s paid off for me in the past. I walked away after crashing my car into another car without a citation. Had I refused to talk to the police officer, I’m sure the best case scenario was that I would walked away with a several hundred dollar fine or lawyer bill.

  • Lori

    You can’t unring a bell, and now the word is out, thanks to HSLDA that social workers don’t really have the power to investigate without probable cause. I think the law will have to adjust to this. There will have to be special warrants that social workers can obtain based on anonymous tips (otherwise they might as well drop the anonymous tip and mandated reporter rules). I think there will have to be a lot of children hurt who speak up when they grow up (or are found by other means) before this will be rectified. It really is evil.

    On the other hand, I wonder how social workers ever managed before. What made child abusers let social workers into their homes before? Maybe people who abused their children were in self-denial and just thought they didn’t have a choice? Maybe the abusers had groomed their children well enough (messed with their heads, I mean) that they were confident the social worker wouldn’t find anything.

    PS I’m repeatedly getting that “You’re posting comments too quickly. Slow down” message again.

    • minuteye

      Based on the mandatory reporter’s pamphlet (I think Libby-Anne linked to it in the previous post in this series) it sounds like there are a significant number of cases where parents are not aware that what they are doing is abuse, or know on some level but don’t know how to stop it. You might also have someone who is not abusing children let the social worker in, because they don’t know someone else in the house is, or because they do know and want that someone else to be caught.

    • Conuly

      What made child abusers let social workers into their homes before

      Ignorance. They didn’t know they had a choice, so they didn’t exercise it. You know how we got Miranda warnings? Some guy was convicted of rape using his confession, and he argued after the fact that he would never have confessed if he had known he didn’t have to. The Supreme Court agreed with his argument that it doesn’t do much good to have a right against self-incrimination if you don’t know about it, and now they have to read you your rights when arresting you. (There is a happy ending. He was retried and convicted on other evidence.)

      And many of them are probably equally ignorant of the fact that they really are abusing their kids and that there is a choice there as well. I don’t think many people set out to harm their kids for the lulz, I think most of them really don’t know any better way to parent, or have been wrongfully convinced that nothing else will do it. (Now, THAT is evil, but it also makes sense in a Stockholmy way. If your parents beat you, and you love them, then you have to believe they had no choice. Otherwise the only option is that they did something wrong.)

      • Rosa

        which is why the vast majority of social work interventions are offering classes, giving parents goals to meet to avoid future interventions (people I know have had to do things like fence off a swimming pool, clean house, or install fire detectors), and otherwise HELP people who would do better if they could, and can if they have resources.

      • Conuly

        Well, that and the fact that interventions have got to be cheaper than foster care, and current trends are to keep the family together as much as possible. This comes with its own risks, of course, of reuniting kids and parents who are not yet capable of taking care of them.

  • Lori

    Replying to my own message. Having mandated reporters still makes sense (but the anonymous tips aren’t useful with people who turn away social workers at the door).

  • Hilary

    They know what they are doing is illegal, and I”m calling class/race/religous privalege. Think about it, if a poor, single black mother was doing this she would loose custody of her children, and these people would probably crow that she should since she was being to lazy/sinful for using public welfare. (Yes, I know I’m playing fast and loose with stereotypes, not all poor young black women are like that and my best friend is on welfare and WIC with a 3 month old boy – and he’s one of the calmest well loved babies I”ve seen.)

    But still, they can get away with it – or think they should get away with it – because they are white and Christian, and the rules are comming from men. Also, think what would happen if one of their children were taken away to foster care for abuse – and saw secular foster care parents treat them with respect, never hit them, feed them properly, and take care of other children having a trauma induced melt down with empathy and non-violent intervention or consequences. There’s good foster care families out there not just bad, and if an abused CP kid saw firsthand the ‘evil secularists’ treating them with more love and compassion then their own parents . . . .

  • centauri

    Sometimes I think that what these people *really* want to do is get rid of the CPS, but they can’t/don’t dare to come right out and say it out loud. So they’re settling for the next best thing.
    Which is making the CPS’s work as impossibly hard as they can get it to be.

    • http://www.wideopenground.com Lana

      Yes, they do want to get rid of the CPS. Are you familiar with Nancy Schaeffer, the senator of Georgia, who worked hard to gather the evidence to shut down the CPS? Her claim was that the CPS/courts have an incentive to remove children from their parents in order to get more federal money into the state foster system. She believed the police were sufficient enough for physical abuse, forgetting that there are other forms of neglect, such as educational neglect. I believe I first heard about it through Parental rights, which is associated with both HSLDA and Focus On the Family. I think with some research, we would find this true. On of her videos is on this parental rights site. http://familyrights.us/UNCRC/

      • http://www.wideopenground.com Lana

        oh, and she always said other senators would join her in this cause, but they said they could not because they would not be reelected.

      • centauri

        Oh, man, I did not know about her, but what an asshat O_0
        (And also getting ‘slow down with posting’ message. Ack)

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

        “Her claim was that the CPS/courts have an incentive to remove children from their parents in order to get more federal money into the state foster system.”

        Technically, that is true. States get financial bonuses if children are adopted out of foster care. They get nothing if the child is reunited with the parent.

  • Rae

    I can understand some worries about social workers’ interviewing techniques given the whole “satanic panic” thing happening in the late 80′s and early 90′s, but if memory serves, the HSLDA and related entities seemed to always treat those as having been 100% accurate, so I doubt that’s the evidence they’re using for their objections…

    • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

      It was after those accusations and similar ones (such as the McMartin preschool case) had been shown to be unfounded that a new standard was created for questioning children. Whether this standard is adhered to or not is always up to the individual, but the sort of “leading questions” that HSLDA claim to be rampant in the child welfare system have been largely eliminated in favor of other interviewing techniques and greater scrutiny. Moreover, if your children, homeschooled or not, are happy, healthy, clean, well-fed and well-socialized, no one is likely to call CPS on you.

  • saraquill

    The more I read about this, the more I wonder why HSLDA hates children so much. For that matter, why do the parents who give them money not realize that they are feeding a group that wants children to suffer?

  • Brightie

    I’ve known a couple of HSLDA lawyers. They were decent men. They helped raise good families. I played with their kids, in their homes. They hosted church socials. One of their wives taught my sister and a bunch of other girls from church how to cook, and would make homemade baked goods for the birthday of literally every adult who was a regular in the church. I have trouble reconciling that with “wants to help shield child abusers, not on the parents-who-have-ever-spanked end of the ‘abuse’ spectrum, but on the ‘blatantly obvious this is wrong girl being denied food by her well-fed family until she is digging in garbage cans’ end.” Does not compute. Maybe some HSLDA lawyers are worried that the government might be turning into Big Brother, or somesuch, but they can’t en masse be looking to let parents do to their kids whatever the hell they want.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

      It’s not that HSLDA lawyers want children to be harmed. I don’t impute that to them. It’s that they cannot conceive that the policy positions they espouse will inevitably lead to more children getting harmed. They want lack of oversight on parents because “freedom”, which sounds great. Unfortunately the inevitable outcome of lack of oversight is some children get hurt and/or killed. That direct line of correlation just doesn’t click for them.

    • Nea

      They may not be looking for it, but that’s a direct result of their policies. It’s like Debi Pearl saying that wives shouldn’t be abused, then blaming them for everything wrong in a marriage and telling them to submit and be happy, no matter what. HSLDA expects the children to submit to their parent’s unfettered freedom… no matter what!

      No one has unfettered freedom to do what they please to another human being, period.

      • Gail

        Exactly. This reminds me of an episode of The West Wing where they’re helping a newly free country write their constitution and the representative from the country wants to give the current leader all kinds of unchecked power. One of the White House guys says that it is too dangerous, and the representative argues that their leader would never abuse his power. The White House guy responds by saying that he might not, but the next guy might, etc.

        It’s not that HSLDA is encouraging child abuse, it’s that the policies they support make it easier to hide child abuse. They’re basically saying, yeah, it might make child abuse easier to cover up, but none of the homeschoolers we know practice any kind of child abuse. But like the parliament writers, they’re making it easier for someone else to abuse someone.

        And I’m kind of curious what the percentage of non-fundamentalist members of HSLDA is. I know quite a few non-religious and non-fundamentalist people who homeschool (some unschooling, some with special needs kids, etc.) and I don’t think any of them are in HSLDA, and they haven’t ever had any legal troubles with homeschooling. I’d be interested in seeing a study on this, because I’m guessing that most non-fundamentalist homeschoolers don’t require the HSLDA, meaning that the HSLDA must have a primary goal beyond just protecting homeschoolers. It would suggest that there is something specific to fundamentalist homeschoolers that needs more protection than other homeschoolers. Not sure any of this last paragraph makes sense, but anyway…

  • K

    Thats terrible.

    You know your parenting methods are wrong when there are actually websites promoted that give advice on how to stop CPS taking away your children.

    I would say that hitting your 6 year old on their bare bottom with a paddle is a perfectly good reason for CPS to be involved. I dont think the social workers did anything wrong in the example given.

    Dont they realise that there are actually people who are seriously abusing their children, that there are children who died because of their parents. Do they want to show these parents how to continue torturing their children forever because children are only property to them.

    CPS doesnt want to take children away from their families, its not what they do, their job is to investigate child abuse and only take children away if there is legitimate evidence that there is abuse.

  • Emilia

    Let me chime in with an alternative perspective. I think with regard to the CPS’ involvement in family life, progressives might heed the phrase, ‘Be careful what you wish for, because you might get it’ (alternative version: Beware your dreams; they might come true’). Yes, there are times when it is necessary for the government to intervene in family matters, ex. daughter being sexually abused by mother’s boyfriend and mother does nothing; parents beating their daughter for dating a Black man (recent case in Britain). However, some leftists might be surprised to know that state interference in families hasn’t always been so progressive or benign. For instance, in Canada, Aboriginal children were removed en masse from their parents and put in residential schools and foster families in an effort to ‘civilize’ them. More recently in the United States, a woman was ordered to have a cesarean section she didn’t want by a ‘children’s defender.’ Even though the woman was a religious fundamentalist and probably didn’t see herself as a feminist, it was feminists who came to her defence.

    So I think before progressives praise the CPS and other child welfare agencies to the high heavens (OK, not a great word on an atheist site!), they might ask themselves to what extent these agencies should be allowed to step into family matters.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com M

      Oh, trust me, progressives are fully aware of the horrible history of governmental abuse of the “wrong” types of people. The US had Indian schools, which were designed to break native culture by removing children into boarding schools and socializing them as white. The schools were known hotbeds of physical and sexual abuse, but it was “only” Indians, so no one really cared enough to put a stop to it until decades had passed. The US also, unfortunately, succeeded in disrupting native cultures and families.

      The judge ordering the woman to have a caesarian was clearly in the wrong. Fetuses have no rights, or if they do the woman’s rights override them. It was a travesty. I have read this case, as well as several others in which mothers of stillborn infants were arrested and charged with child endangerment for having taken drugs while pregnant, even though the drugs are in no way correlated with stillbirth. Poverty, on the other hand, is, so they were basically being charged with being female while poor. This is a symptom of patriarchy (women mustn’t be allowed to make their own choices!), not progressivism.

      So yes, interference into the family clearly isn’t always beneficial or benign. We know that. We’re probably more aware of and appalled by governmental abuses of power than conservatives are, given the progressive focus on oppressed and subjugated people. But given that we know it can go horribly awry, we still support governmental interference in cases where it is necessary. In child abuse cases, no one else can do it. No one else can do educational oversight. CPS agencies have flaws, but the answer is to make them better, not to shield abusers.

      • Rosa

        it’s amazing how, when we have PUBLIC institutions that abuse power, institutions that the public has the ability to reform/influence – schools, child protection agencies, zoning boards – the answer is THEY ARE ALWAYS BAD LIMIT AND ABOLISH THEM. But when we have PRIVATE institutions – families, churches – that have histories of abuse, the answer is to value them and leave them alone and hope they get better.

      • Emilia

        I’m certainly not in favour of abolishing the CPS. I’ll give you an example: my sister fostered a little girl who had been molested by her mother’s boyfriend and the mother did nothing about it. This is a case where it is good the CPS intervened; unfortunately, many abused children are never detected by the CPS or other outside authorities. On the other hand, we should make sure the CPS and other child welfare entities have and respect certain boundaries.

    • Nea

      some leftists might be surprised to know that state interference in families hasn’t always been so progressive or benign

      We know. Of course we know. And we’re working to *fix it* because that’s what progressives do. If you want to know to what extent these agencies should be allowed to step into family matters” the answer is this – enough to protect the innocent from abuse, enough to show the earnest but inexperienced another, better way – but not enough to enforce the prejudices of the majority upon a dissenting family *simply because* the majority believes in something.

      Child sexually abused, underfed, uneducated – CPS steps in because that’s abuse. Child having the crap beaten out of them because parents believe in that – CPS steps in to show another way of disciplining and warns that the child has rights and defenders.

      CPS does NOT step in to take child away from gay, interracial, or non-Christian parents because the local community is gay, single-race, or overwhelmingly Christian.

      We’re verging on Libby Anne’s two boxes again. From the anti CPS point of view, Box 1 is “loving parents do whatever they want to their own kids… and if a bad apple ‘loves’ one to death, well, whoopsie” and Box 2 is “evil government steps in to impose fascistic anti-family rules.” From the progressive point of view, Box 1 is “whatever a child needs to thrive, which may include being removed from blood relatives” and Box 2 is “putting the ‘rights’ of kinship and social customs over the needs of the child.”

      The abuses you discuss are all examples of the Government not actually thinking about the needs of the child, but the power of the community being weilded to eradicate the “outsiders” among them. That’s the kind of thing that progressives fight.

    • gimpi

      Leftists? Anyone who disagrees with the HSLDA is a leftist? I think you might want to invest in a dictionary before you try to bring your viewpoint to the table. There’s nothing leftist, or even political about wanting to see that every child gets an actual education, that no child is abused or battered, and that all children have their basic rights respected. Or at least there shouldn’t be. Every CPS worker I have ever met has had those goals. Do they always achieve those goals? Of course not. No one could. But I know damn well they try. If those goals are too far left for you, you might want to question your placement on the political spectrum.

  • AnyBeth

    For a (long) moment, I’m going to be as cheritable as I can about what the people at HSLDA might think about this. I hope I can get through it without triggering myself because thinking about that kind of mindset is sometimes not good for me. (And there’s the warning for anyone else.)

    Libby Anne, you said:

    Once again, it’s like HSLDA is completely unaware that some homeschooling families might actually physically abuse their children, or that some homeschooled children might be in need of help.

    My guess is, for most of the organization, that’s absolutely true. It’s denial. It’s preservation of one’s sense of safety and fairness of the world and, indeed, sense of self (in that what one thinks of the company one keeps influences this). All this denial at the expense of the victims at what they choose to ignore. These ideas are very common, even outside such a vile organization.

    For HSLDA in particular, I’d say it goes like this:

    1. Members of HSLDA are Good Families. These are good by definition. If they could do any such wrong, they wouldn’t be Good Families, and so never would be members of HSLDA. (This is “We don’t associate with people like that!”)

    2. Furthermore, HSLDA members care about their children much more than other parents do. These protect their children against the evils of the world (or, anyway, public school). This shows they care and nothing bad could possibly come from that.

    3. Parents know what is best for their children (and always try their best to do it). If there is conflict between parent and child, the child is in the wrong and the parent will mete out appropriate correction. (Remember, the parents can do no wrong.)

    4. Any claimed abuse is either lies or a misunderstanding… because the parents are necessarily good.

    5. [*shudder*] A family’s business is its own and no one else’s. (Told to me as “What happens in the family, stays in the family.”) Interference by anyone (certainly including CPS,) at best, would only serve to undermine parental authority, incouraging child disobedience and threatening to break down the family.

    It’s true that HSLDA apparently accepts much, much more under the heading “appropriate correction” than most groups would, but most of those steps are terribly common. The idea that parents are necessarily good is practically ubiquitous. And who does think that groups they’re in are full of good people? And, um, that parents choices on how to raise their kids should be respected. If you take those three as givens, ignoring the possibility you might be wrong, that what you’d like to believe about the world may not be absolutely true… and it’s really easy to get to the conclusions HSLDA has.

    Oh, and there’s an alternate route that gets to the same position but with people who agree that there may be bad things going on. It presumes Christianity. It’s very simple:

    A. HSLDA members are good Christian families.
    B. Even good Christian parents can stumble occassionally. (What a euphamism there!)
    C. Good Christians repent after they err.
    D. God immediately forgives Christians upon confession or repentence.
    E. Christians should also immediately forgive each other or risk God’s judgment. (Matt 6:14-15; Luke 6:37)
    F. The repentence and God’s forgiveness is sufficient. Anyone who would seek more (read: any) consequences would be usurping God, saying their judgment is better than His. Such blasphemers can only do ill!

    See, simple. The reasoning is at least quasi-bibilical… and it’s very screwed up. (Also part of the reason that claimed prison converts tend to serve less time.) It doesn’t deny abuse (though it does deny patterns); it just says that all consequences should be left to God. You know, the omnipotent, omniscient being that allowed the abuse in the first place.

    Maybe I’m done being charitable. But there you go, two lines of thought HSLDA-people can have that lead to this result, one that denies abuse potential and another that recognizes it but sees forgiveness as paramount. I think both of them are vile and I’ve faced them in the wild all too often. While I understand the vast majority of such people aren’t trying to allow abuse or to hurt victims, they’ve just chosen to resolve their cognitive disonance through ignoring or minimizing the problem. I’m not sure how much lack of intent matters when they’ve been told so much. In any case, it makes me sick.

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  • Carolyn

    I suppose that you would WANT your home invaded, inaccurate
    assessments made within a 5 minute peruse through your home used against
    you in a court of law. Let me know how you like it when it happens.

    I work for the state CPS and I can tell you that we have quotas to meet every few months. Quotas which dictate that we MUST remove “X” number of children in order to keep our jobs. There doesn’t have to be a good reason, just a quota met. After the quota-push ends, then we can stop removing children. As easy as it is to remove your children, it’s a long, hard road to get them back.

    Better that people should know their constitutional rights and refuse us entry so that we move on and pass your kids by for that month.

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