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Social Worker: “What are You Trying to Hide?’

When a Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) social worker visited Mr. and Mrs. Romo in February 2006, the couple were following all the requirements of Illinois law as they homeschooled their seven children in their Aurora home.* Acting on an anonymous tip, the DCFS representative accused Mr. Romo of abusing his children. The Romos, members of Home School Legal Defense Association, immediately contacted our office for help, and HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka talked with the social worker. The worker finally left, but promised she would be back.

Klicka wrote a letter to DCFS asserting that the family was innocent and that the anonymous allegations were bogus. Nonetheless, DCFS continued to contact the family, insisting on interviewing all the children separately. A local attorney, who has dealt frequently with DCFS for the last 10 years, advised the Romos that if they let their children be interviewed, “this will all go away.” When Klicka asked the attorney why she was giving this advice, she explained, “You don't want to have this father taken away from his children and the children removed, so you'd better cooperate.” She said that she only advises families not to cooperate “if they are guilty.”

Klicka then discussed the situation with the Romos. He told the family that since they were innocent, DCFS could not force its way into their house and interview their children unless there was probable cause. Knowing of no probable cause, the Romos decided to refuse the social worker’s demand.

When Klicka informed DCFS of the Romos' decision, the social worker lapsed into procedural pressure to compel the family’s cooperation, asking, “Why won't they cooperate with us? What are they trying to hide?” Affirming the family’s innocence once again, Klicka replied that DCFS’s continual probing was traumatizing the Romo children.

Although they were not legally required to do so, the Romos provided DCFS with statements from families in their church who vouched for their good parenting, and with a report from their pastor, who had interviewed the children and found no indications of abuse. In March 2006, the Romos received a letter from DCFS stating that the case was unsubstantiated and was being closed. By standing on their 4th Amendment rights, this family convinced DCFS to abide by the law. We praise God for this outcome!

— by Christopher J. Klicka

* See "HSLDA social services contact policy" on page 24.