First, let me confess that I haven't always seen eye to eye with this association. I was on their e-mail list for awhile when I started homeschooling, but felt they were using scare tactics to entice potential new members to join. Rather than use current legal claims and battles to scare the crud out of members and potential members, how about giving pointers that could HELP us toe the line?
Flash forward a few years and, voila, there I was sharing a room with Mr. Jones who provided just that - great information, even-handed treatment from a variety of perspectives - thereby raising my opinion of the organization as a whole.
So what was it he had to say? My favorite discussion of his was focused on his experience dealing with social services inquiries into homeschooling families. He offered the following.
Top 10 Reasons Social Service Investigations Are Conducted (and how to avoid them)
1. Parents aren't teaching the kids. (We call this home education for a reason.)
2. Parents aren't complying with the homeschooling laws in their states.
3. Spanking in public. (While corporal punishment is legal, social workers generally frown on it, and performing said punishment in public tends to raise concerns.)
4. Children playing outside during school hours. (Be discreet. Supervise the children. Everyone needs outdoor time.)
5. Younger children outside unsupervised.
6. Leaving children under age 12 alone in a vehicle. (Do you REALLY have to take them into the post office with you to check the box that's 10 feet from the car door through clear glass windows. It's your call, but, technically, yes, he said.)
7. Failing to keep children well fed, well clothed and clean.
8. Failing to keep your house and yard maintained, clean and uncluttered.
9. Allegations of sexual abuse. (Even if unfounded, the allegations can be devastating, and while the alleged offender may be found innocent, their reputation is forever tarnished.)
10. Parents failing to follow recommended medical care for children. (There are waivers for many treatments and services, but care should be taken on this issue.)
So what do you do if a social worker knocks on your door? Jones says the 4th Amendment banning unreasonable search and seizure applies to social workers, and the 5th Amendment allows any accused to remain silent. Further, social workers may not investigate educational neglect. Unless the worker has a search warrant, there's nothing you have to say to them or show them.
But Jones suggests using some common sense and exercising polite responses. Often, just letting the workers set eyes on your children waylays any suspicion they may have. If a neighbor claims they're never dressed, never fed and locked in the closet, letting the worker see your well-dressed, happy, well-adjusted children may be enough to call them off.
What to Do With That Knock at the Door
1. Get a business card from the worker. It should include his or her name and contact information.
2. Find out the specific allegations. Federal law requires them to provide this at first contact. Ask which children are involved, what specific abuse has been reported. (Don't bother to ask who reported you. They are not required to provide that information.)
3. Do not allow them into your home without a court order.
4. Don't lose your temper. (Doing so would give the worker reason to believe there's an issue.)
5. Don't resist police officers. Ever. You may, however, ask the officers if they have a search warrant or an emergency situation - their two "keys" to accessing your property. Further, Jones advised being respectful and polite while asserting your Constitutional rights.
6. If possible, make audio or video tapes of the interaction at the front door.
7. Don't allow workers to talk to children alone without a court order or a third party present. You have more interest in protecting your children than anyone else. Don't let it go.
8. Let the social worker or police officer see the kids (as noted above).
9. If the allegation is truancy, show your home school affidavit - the paperwork you've completed with the state, school district or other agency overseeing homeschooling in your area.
Share this post with: