The following article appears in chapter 13 of The Right Choice:
Home Schooling? by Christopher J. Klicka, Esq.
More and more frequently, home schoolers are turned in on child abuse
hotlines to social service agencies. Families who do not like home schoolers
can make an anonymous phone call to the child abuse hotline and fabricate
abuse stories about home schoolers. The social worker then has an obligation
to investigate. Each state has a different policy for social workers, but
generally they want to come into the family's home and speak with the children
separately. To allow either of these to occur involves great risk to the
The home-school parent, however, should be very cautious when an individual
identifies himself as a social worker. In fact, there are several tips
that a family should follow:
- Always get the business card of the social worker. This way, when you
call the Home School Legal Defense Association, the HSLDA attorney will
be able to contact the social worker on your behalf. If the situation is
hostile, immediately call HSLDA and hand the phone out the door so a HSLDA
lawyer can talk to the social worker. We have a 24-hour emergency number.
- Find out the allegations. Do not fall for the frequently used tactic
of the social worker who would tell the unsuspecting victim that they
can only give you the allegations after they have come into your home and
spoken to your child separately. You generally have the right to know the
allegations without allowing them in your home.
- Never let the social worker in your house without a warrant or court
order. All the cases that 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. This is guaranteed
under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the
However, in some instances. social workers or police threaten to use
force to come into a home. If you encounter a situation which escalates
to this level, record the conversation if at all possible, but be sure
to inform the police officer or social worker that you are doing this.
If entry is going to be made under duress you should say and do the following:
"I am closing my front door, but it is unlocked. I will not physically
prevent you from entering, and I will not physically resist you in any
way. But you do not have my permission to enter. If you open my door and
enter. you do so without my consent and I will seek legal action for an
- Never let the social worker talk to your children alone without a court
order. On nearly every other incident, HSLDA has been able to keep the
social worker away from the children. On a few occasions, social workers
have been allowed to talk with children., particularly where severe allegations
are involved. In these instances, an attorney, chosen by the parent, has
been present. At other times, HSLDA had children stand by the door and
greet the social worker, but not be subject to any questioning.
- Tell the official that you will call back after you speak with your
attorney. Call your attorney or HSLDA, if you are a member. In nearly 30
percent of the cases, the problem is solved immediately that day by HSLDA
lawyers. Approximately 65 percent of the situations are resolved within
the next two weeks. Of the remaining 5 percent, 1 (one) percent goes to court
and is handled by HSLDA. The 4 percent that cannot be resolved do not involve
home schooling and are referred to other attorneys since they are not covered
- Ignore intimidations. Normally, social workers are trained to bluff.
They will routinely threaten to acquire a court order, knowing full well
that there is no evidence on which to secure an order. In 99 percent of
the contacts that HSLDA handles. the threats turn out to be bluffs. However.
it is always important to secure an attorney or HSLDA in these matters,
since there are occasions where social workers are able to obtain a court
order with flimsy evidence.
- Offer to give the officials the following supporting evidence:
- a statement from your doctor, after he has examined your children.
if the allegations involve some type of physical abuse;
- references from individuals who can vouch for your being good parents;
- evidence of the legality of your home school program. If your home
school is an issue, HSLDA attorneys routinely convince social workers of
this aspect of an investigation.
- Bring a tape recorder and/or witnesses to any subsequent meeting.
Often times HSLDA will arrange a meeting between the social worker and
the parents after preparing the parents on what to discuss and what not
to discuss. The discussion at the meeting should be limited to the specific
allegations and you should avoid telling them about past events beyond
what they know. Usually, anonymous tips are all they have to go on, which
is not sufficient to take someone to court. What you give them, can and,
will be used against you.
- Inform your church, and put the investigation on your prayer chain.
Over and over again, HSLDA has seen God deliver home schoolers from this
- Avoid potential situations which could lead to a child welfare investigation.
- Conduct public relations with your immediate neighbors and acquaintances
regarding the legality and success of home schooling.
- Do not spank children in public.
- Do not spank someone else's child unless they are close Christian friends.
- Avoid leaving young children at home alone.
- Do not leave young children in the car alone. *
In order for a social worker to get a warrant to come and enter a home
and interview children separately, he is normally required, by both statute
and the U.S. Constitution, to prove that there is some "cause".
This is a term that is synonymous with the term "probable cause".
"Probable cause" or cause shown is reliable evidence which must
be corroborated by other evidence if the tip is anonymous. In other words,
an anonymous tip alone and mere suspicion is not enough for a social worker
to obtain a warrant.
There have been some home-schooled families who have been faced with
a warrant even though there was not probable cause. HSLDA has been able
to overturn these in court so that the order to enter the home was never
carried out. Home School Legal Defense Association is committed to guarantee
legal defense for every home schooler who is being investigated by social
workers, provided the allegations involve home schooling. In instances
when the allegations have nothing to do with home schooling, HSLDA will
routinely counsel most families on how to meet with the social worker and
will talk to the social worker to try to resolve the situation. If it cannot
be resolved, which it normally can be in most instances by HSLDA's involvement,
the family is responsible for hiring their own attorney.
HSLDA is beginning to work with states to reform the child welfare laws
to guarantee more freedom for parents and better protection for their parental
rights. HSLDA will be sending out Alerts to its members in various states
where such legislation is drafted and submitted as a bill.
For further information on how to deal with social workers, HSLDA recommends
The Right Choice: Home Schooling, which was written with the intention
of informing home-school parents of their rights in order to prevent them
from becoming a statistic. Federal statistics have shown that up to 60
percent of children removed from homes, upon later review, should never
have been removed. The child welfare system is out of control and we need
to be prepared. To obtain The Right Choice or join the
Home School Legal
Defense Association, call 540-338-5600 or write HSLDA, P.O. Box 3000, Purcellville,
*This was a suggested addition by. David Gordon, Esq., Litigation counsel
for HSLDA during their Support Group Seminar in Columbus Ohio, February
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