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Child Welfare Law Harasses Homeschoolers
Delaware’s child welfare law, known as The Delaware Child Care Act, is being used by state officials to unreasonably burden some homeschooling families with government oversight. As amended in 2001, the law defines “child care” to include, in part, any person, association, agency, or organization which (1) has in custody or control one child or more under the age of 18 years, unattended by a parent or guardian, for the purpose of providing such child or children with care, education, protection, supervision or guidance, (2) is compensated for the services provided, and (3) advertises or holds himself, herself, or itself out as conducting such child care. Families conducting a “multi-family homeschool” as defined in Delaware law find themselves squarely within the purview of this child welfare law if a parent is teaching children of others in the home and is being compensated for the instruction being provided. Single-family homeschools do not appear to be affected by the child welfare law, since these parents are teaching their own children and not being compensated for their services.
The Office of Child Care Licensing within the Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families is responsible for administering the law. This office has specifically targeted homeschools which fall within the definition of “child care.” No person is permitted to conduct child care without having first obtained a license from the Office of Child Care Licensing. In order for any person to be issued a license, the state must conduct a thorough investigation of the person and determine that the applicant has good character, that the home meets the physical, social, moral, mental, and educational needs of the average child, and that the required criminal background check has been completed and approved. Additionally, there are over 160 pages of administrative rules issued by the Office of Child Care Licensing that are applicable to one extent or another, depending on the number of children being educated in the home.
As is obvious, this magnitude of state regulation of multi-family homeschools conducting child care effectively prohibits their operation. Accordingly, Home School Legal Defense Association is working with state homeschool leaders in an effort to amend existing law to provide an exemption for all homeschools. No other state in the nation has such a far-reaching, prohibitive child welfare law affecting home educators.