July 9, 2007

Ill Child’s Medical Privacy Protected by Timely Legal Advice

Although Mary Stein (name changed to protect family’s privacy) was faithfully taking her son to doctors and following medical advice, a caller accused her of neglecting his health. Social workers came to her home unannounced to investigate. She called Home School Legal Defense Association for help.

The social workers asked permission to come into Mary's home. Even families with ill children are entitled to privacy and security in their home, however, so based on an HSLDA attorney’s advice, Mary refused the social workers admittance.

The social workers then wanted a detailed history of her son’s condition. They asked her to sign a medical release that would give them full access to all her son’s medical records. Even ill children are entitled to privacy, however. When medical neglect is charged, the only germane issues are whether medical help is being sought and medical advice is being followed. The details are personal. On the advice of the HSLDA attorney, Mary refused to sign the authorization, but offered to send a letter from her son’s doctor.

The social worker left unsatisfied, but agreed to wait for the letter.

The doctor treating Mary’s son promptly sent a letter explaining that he was caring for the boy, and that the family was following medical advice.

HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff followed up with a letter explaining that all issues had been resolved and the case should be closed. He also pointed out that prolonging the investigation would increase stress levels in the home and adversely affect the boy’s health. Woodruff’s letter referred to a documented case in Washington state where an inappropriate social services investigation resulted in harm to a child’s health. HSLDA subsequently prepared litigation against the social worker in that case.

With no evidence that the mother was falling short in any way as she cared for her son’s health issues, the social worker sent a letter to the family closing the file.

HSLDA Social Services Contact Policy

We desire to advise our members in every contact with a social worker and/or police officer in investigations resulting from allegations of abuse or neglect. If homeschooling is an issue, we will represent our member families until the issue is resolved. On Fourth Amendment unreasonable search and seizure issues, HSLDA will advise our members whenever the privacy of their home is violated by forced or coerced entry for the purpose of an unsubstantiated investigation. HSLDA membership benefits do not extend to court actions resulting from non-homeschooling matters. However, in circumstances where there is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment, HSLDA may, as we have done in the past, choose to take the case in an effort to establish legal precedent.