There is a knock at the door. The homeschool mom answers and to her horror, a social worker is there!
He simply informs the innocent mother that she has been accused of "child abuse." He will not tell her any more unless she immediately lets him in her house and interrogate the children alone.
Thoughts race through the protective homeschool mom's head as she wonders what she can do. She does not want the children to say something wrong and have them taken away. She does not even know what she is being accused of! There has got to be a way out.
Social Workers Out Of Control
We have a complex constitutional jurisprudence that guides judges, checks police and prosecutors, and protects privacy. While the system undoubtedly has its problems, Americans are justifiably proud of our system of criminal justice. Unlike many other areas of the world, the citizen remains innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
Our child protective services system, on the other hand, has turned this precious jurisprudence on its head. Scenarios like the one above have become all too commonplace.
Innocent families are routinely traumatized by child welfare agencies simply because an anonymous tipster calls the local child abuse hotline and fabricates a story or relays a suspicion. Parents who are subject to these "investigations" are told they must allow the social worker entry into their home and allow each of their children to be interrogated separately - before they will be informed of the allegations. In fact, most states in their child welfare code impose a statutory duty on social workers to enter homes and interrogate children separately from their parents. Unfortunately, since these state statutes often do not expressly delineate the constitutional limitations established by the Fourth Amendment, social workers "get away" with intimidating families into allowing them entry into their homes and interrogating their children.
As one social worker from Illinois who had been working almost 30 years told me: "When I started working, we tried to prove a family was innocent. Now we assume they are guilty until they prove they are not."
The agent will frequently try intimidation to obtain entry. For example, the agent will say: "I have received allegations of child abuse and educational neglect. I need to come into your house right away and talk to your children. I am sure we can clear this all up today."
In our experience, a social worker will never read the parents their rights. They also will usually not even inform the parents of the specific allegations.
If the parent refuses entry, the agent will often threaten to obtain a court order.
In one week alone, I had five innocent families in various states harassed by social workers:
- A homeschool family was turned in for homeopathy, home births, and homeschooling.
- Another family was turned in for homeschooling, swimming in a feeding trough (they live in the city and don't have a feeding trough), and bug bites.
- Another family was accused of having a messy yard.
- Another family was turned in by a doctor because the family switched doctors.
- Yet another a family was turned in for the grievous offense of... homeschooling in the summertime!
The situation looks bleak.
Congress Enacts Child Welfare Reform
But there is a way out. Child welfare reforms are being implemented now because of the efforts of homeschoolers!
In October 2001, I had the privilege of testifying before the congressional Subcommittee on Select Education of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. I exposed the abuse of innocent families by an unrestrained child welfare system. As a result, two of my suggested amendments were adopted by Congress.
Then finally on June 25, 2003, President George W. Bush signed these important amendments into law in the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 (S.342).
My two provisions for protecting families during the child investigative process that were enacted are very important because these amendments help protect thousands of innocent families (hundreds of whom are homeschool families) against harassing social worker investigations.
First, these amendments force all social workers to be trained in their duty to protect the "constitutional and statutory rights" of the family. This includes the Fourth Amendment. Social workers currently do not have this training - and it shows!
Secondly, these amendments force all social workers to tell the family the allegations "at the initial time of contact." Presently, many social workers won't tell the family the allegations until they get in and interview the parents and children first.
Homeschoolers Are Enacting These Reforms into State Law
These reforms are now federal law. So legally, if federal funding for a state is to continue, the state must implement these two reforms. However, the federal government does not check up on them!
Although these two reforms are federal law, the social workers are not applying them correctly. And the feds are not checking up but simply taking their word.
For example, in Maryland's new social worker policy, they claim they are in compliance with new federal law but they only require the social workers to tell the "nature" (not specific) allegations "during the interview" (not at the initial time of contact). This implementation of the law is completely worthless!
In Colorado, the social worker bureaucracy informed the legislature they just did not want to obey the federal law! The Senate chairman of the Colorado Welfare committee was so mad that he reported his own state to the federal HHS to try to cut off their funding!
In Florida, a sheriff told one of our Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) attorneys, who was keeping him out of a homeschoolers' house, that he did not have to follow federal law. He said, "I am a Florida guy - we don't have to tell the family the allegations!"
Our friends at the federal Health and Human Services Department told me the best way to make sure these child welfare reform amendments are properly and effectively implemented is by adding them to state code.
Therefore, we at HSLDA have been working overtime to enact these amendments into state law these last two years. We have worked closely with the state homeschool organizations and have passed them quietly and unanimously - without e-lerts and calls - in 16 states now. Those states are California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.
And praise God, they are working. We have written up a social worker manual and are giving it to the state legislators to make certain the social worker agencies are training their workers right.
I recently used the amendment to make a social worker tell me the allegations in Texas regarding an investigation of an innocent homeschool family. I used the state amendments in Michigan and convinced another social worker to respect a family's Fourth Amendment rights.
All our HSLDA attorneys have used the state amendments to protect many homeschool families.
These two amendments involve the protection of certain fundamental constitutional rights to which all citizens are entitled. They simply require individuals subject to child abuse investigations to be treated with the same constitutional protections as every other citizen in the U.S.
These amendments will ensure those being investigated have their constitutional rights respected: Fourth Amendment privacy rights and sanctity of their home from unreasonable searches and seizures, parental rights, and due process rights such as knowing what you are being accused of.
In the past, families who were subject to social worker investigations often had these basic rights neglected and many innocent families were unnecessary traumatized.
The Constitution applies to social workers too. Every other law enforcement agency is trained in and follows these constitutional mandates.
Please watch HSLDA's web page and e-lerts to find out when these social worker reform amendments are introduced in your state too - if they are not already in place. Keep praying and thank God for this needed relief.