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November 18, 2008

Judge Returns Custody of Children, But Orders Them into Public School

Despite protests from the Youth Welfare Authority (the “Jugendamt”), a Germany Family Court judge on November 12 verbally restored to Johannes and Cornelia Gorber full custody of their children, who had been removed from the family home in January.

The Gorbers homeschooled all of their children over the past 15 years. But now, according to the judge’s order, the older children must be enrolled in school and the 3-year-old in a playgroup. Homeschooling parents in Germany face these types of repercussions on a regular basis.

When the Jugendamt asked the judge to order ongoing jurisdiction so their caseworkers could “stay involved to check up on the family,” Mrs. Gorber had this to say to the judge:

“Look at the children. If the so-called isolation and relationships ‘only in the family’ is so bad, can you please explain to me, how, after 10 years of homeschooling, they have turned out so well? They are academically on par at their [new] schools. Their teachers are all satisfied with them, and some are even pleased with their work, wishing they had more students like them. Our children have no problems with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or other addictions which we see with so many children these days. So what do you want to control our kids for?”

After listening to testimony, the judge expressed his own surprise that the children were doing far better academically and socially than he expected. The judge then ruled that continued involvement by the Jugendamt would be of no benefit. However, the judge did order that, in addition to keeping the children enrolled in the public school, the 3-year-old son would have to be enrolled in a playgroup for “socialization outside the family.”

The family was relieved at the judge’s decision, which effectively ended a 10-month-long nightmare that began in January when youth welfare officers showed up in cars and vans to take all the minor children without any notice or hearing. The children were traumatized by the raid and were put in orphanages where they remained until August. Then a family court ordered them home for the holidays and never ordered them back to the children’s homes.

Although the family, including the children, would prefer to continue homeschooling, the parents are relieved to have their children back without any further state involvement. The family is thankful for all the prayers and support they received from homeschoolers all over the world.

Peter Briody, an advocate for the Gorbers as well as a national advocate for reform of the Youth Welfare apparatus in Germany, said that the family’s morale was significantly boosted by the international support. “Letters came in from all over the world, which was a tremendous morale booster for the family. This gradually alleviated the family’s feeling of isolation and suffering and helped to change the climate of the case, putting the Jugendamt on the defensive.”

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