What CAPTA Has to Do with You
Understandably, many homeschooling parents worry about an anonymous child abuse allegation ... a “knock on the door” ... and a visit by a social worker—because it is far too easy for someone who simply doesn’t like their educational choice to misuse the child protective services system. When my parents began homeschooling my siblings and me, many of our neighbors and even some friends from church strongly opposed homeschooling. Fearing an anonymous report of our family to social services, my parents made sure all of us kids knew to tell a social worker that we were members of HSLDA and that we wouldn’t talk until the social worker called our lawyer!
CHILD ABUSE AND
NEGLECT IS AN AREA
INTENDED TO BE LEFT
TO STATE AND LOCAL
HSLDA is committed to advising and defending our member families who become involved in child abuse or neglect investigations related to homeschooling. While some social workers do support homeschooling and recognize the rights of parents, many do not recognize homeschool freedom under the United States Constitution and feel that they know how to raise children better than parents.
Because of this, HSLDA’s federal relations department has long focused on ways to strengthen protections for families involved in child abuse or neglect investigations. One avenue is the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), a federal bill that provides funding to the states to support state and local child protective services.
HSLDA is strongly opposed to federal involvement in child abuse or neglect investigations. Similar to our position on the federal government’s involvement in education, we believe that investigating child abuse and neglect is an area our Founders intended to be left solely to state and
local governments. Nothing in the
Constitution gives the federal government the power to fund and regulate these investigations. However, since Congress insists on passing such legislation, HSLDA has been able to work with Congress to include protections for innocent families in the CAPTA bill.
In the 2003 reauthorization of CAPTA, former HSLDA Senior Counsel Christopher Klicka spearheaded an initiative to convince Congress to require states, as a condition of receiving funding, to adopt two key requirements regarding abuse and neglect issues. First, upon initial contact, social workers are required to inform parents of the nature of the allegations against them. Second, states are required to train social workers in the constitutional rights of parents during abuse and neglect investigations. Getting these requirements adopted was a huge victory for homeschoolers and for all innocent parents who face a child abuse or neglect investigation.
Last year, as Congress began work to reauthorize CAPTA again, HSLDA’s federal relations department met with members of Congress to protect this important language from 2003. HSLDA also lobbied for additional protections for families: eliminating anonymous reports of abuse or neglect, and requiring states to provide stronger safeguards ensuring that innocent parents are not listed in state child abuse and neglect databases.
Unfortunately, the congressional majority refused these commonsense protections. Many members of the last Congress were unsympathetic to the plight of innocent parents and families, and refused to accept any legislation that could weaken the power of overbearing social workers. As a result, HSLDA was unable to get our new language included in CAPTA when the reauthorization was passed during Congress's lame duck session.
However, last year’s reauthorization did retain HSLDA’s 2003 language, and the accompanying report for the bill (which stated Congress’s intent in passing the legislation) reiterated the importance of that language. Additionally, for the first time ever, Congress included a paragraph in the bill recognizing that families and children are harmed by needless social worker investigations, and requiring the states to conduct investigations “in a manner that limits additional trauma to the child and the child’s family.”
HSLDA’s federal relations department will continue to work with Congress to provide greater protections for innocent parents and children who undergo the heart-wrenching agony of an unnecessary child abuse or neglect investigation. And HSLDA will always remain firmly dedicated to helping our member families who face these investigations. We thank you for contributing to these efforts through your membership with us!