CPS says we can't homeschool. FINAL UPDATE (for real) POST #189 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 04:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I am a longtime senior member here at MDC but have chosen to post about our situation under another name because it is so intensely personal and difficult that I don’t choose to have it linked with my regular user name and I don’t wish, if at all possible, to have it be used in the investigation against us. What I would really appreciate is some advice. We have several good friends who are supporting us and giving us wisdom but the community here is so broad that I am hopeful of getting some new thoughts and insights. I’ll try to keep this short.

I am a homeschooling mom of two young girls. One of them has significant health problems. I have an anxiety disorder that is controlled well right now (for the last nine months or so) with therapy, medication, and exercise.

Three months ago we were contacted by CPS under suspicions of Munchausens-by-proxy. I was no longer allowed to be alone with my DD who has health issues. It was very painful. We endured ugly accusations, home visits, a 12 hour psychological evaluation for me, and the inconvenience of the restrictions on our lives. We began to keep detailed records of DD’s health symptoms, unsure how anyone could think we were fabricating or exaggerating them. We got DD’s medical records ourselves so we could show the clinical proof of her illness (for the record, no one thought I was causing her illness only “exaggerating or fabricating”), but we continued to hear that she was not really sick. We couldn’t figure out how anyone could say that given the proof in the records.

We finally had the meeting at the end of the investigation period two days ago - present were DH and I, my therapist, a forensic pediatrician from the hospital, and our CPS worker. They said that I had been absolutely cleared of all Munchausens charges BUT there was grave concern about my ability to parent DD with her health issues with my anxiety disorder. I admit that some of their concerns were valid about a year ago. I am certain that DD ended up at the hospital sometimes when she didn’t need to be there because of my fears after seeing her so very sick in the hospital at other times. I was hyper sensitive and hyper scared. It’s one of the reasons that I went into therapy and things are very different now. At their worst, however, she was subjected to some unnecessary ER visits that led to admissions for observation. Now however, I think these things have been resolved.

But despite all that they are going to take us to court so that we can be supervised. They want to make sure I am continuing therapy and meds and they want DH to be more involved in DD’s health care (which we had already moved to also). They admitted that it was obvious that DD did have real issues (and basically said that repeating to us that she didn’t was a tactic of sorts) although I felt they were minimized just a bit. All of this, being taken to court, being supervised because I am not felt to be a competent parent, my dirty laundry strewn about for general viewing, as well as my mental health up for discussion was demeaning and degrading but the stipulations were liveable and things we were doing anyway.

But they told us that we couldn’t homeschool anymore. That both DDs needed to be enrolled in public school by the end of the month because of reasons that my therapist as well as DH and I find totally bogus. They want people to be able to keep an eye on the girls, they want adults who can model healthy behaviors around them, and they are worried that I might not be separating from them as well as I should. Now, no one has ever talked to either of my girls - they are bright, social, well adjusted, and independent. Evidently that doesn’t matter. DH and I objected and after it became clear that our idea of homeschooling is not sitting at a table for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week with me standing over them and that we are not in fact hermits and the girls have other adults and kids in their lives, they said that they will soften that before they take it to court. Maybe making it so I’m not the primary homeschooler or who knows what? I don’t know what exactly they mean by that and I’m not sure I all together trust them. They also told us that we had to vaccinate but that’s another story and another forum.

What would you do? On top of DD’s health issues which are present but better, this has been nearly unbearable. We cannot afford a lawyer. We can get a court appointed lawyer but do we trust that? We’ve talked about contacting HSLDA but should we? I mean, they have said that they are going to “soften” that. I don’t want to stir up trouble that we don’t need to when these people hold the power to take our children. But homeschooling is non-negotiable for us and I want to be prepared. Our court day is probably two months away still, and I am allowed now to be alone with DD but only in small amounts of time (which has also not been spelled out).

This has been incredibly painful and feels humiliating. If you are still reading then kudos to you. If you have advice I would be so grateful, anything would be welcome. I’m happy to answer questions. We are just so unsure where to go from here. Thanks.


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#2 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 04:27 PM
 
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oh mama. No advice, my heart breaks for you. I'm so sorry for all that your family is going through.

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#3 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 04:37 PM
 
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(((hug)))

Oh man, mama. I'm so sorry. I can't offer any advice, but I couldn't read and not reply. Good luck with everything.

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#4 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 04:47 PM
 
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Tough situation. I'm sorry you're having to fight for your rights.

Try calling your state bar to see if there's any kind of pro bono help available for low income families?

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#5 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 04:55 PM
 
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I have no advice either, just lots of hugs. I can't believe they would treat you like that when there are much bigger battles CPS should be fighting. You sound like a wonderful mama & I truly hope this turns out for the best. I'd be so scared, I don't blame you for hesitating to stir up trouble etc. I don't know a whole lot about CPS but I do think you might want to look into getting your own lawyer, maybe there are free or low-cost lawyers?? (I have no idea but I would think if there's ever a time to spend money you don't have, this might be it!)

ETA: The fact that they are trying to tell you to vaccinate as well makes me think they are just really close-minded about alternative/crunchy lifestyles... Just because they are ignorant doesn't mean they should win IMO!

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#6 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 04:56 PM
 
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I hate to say this because I hate HSLDA, but if you don't have the money to hire a private attorney AND you don't know of a local attorney this is really good--you may need to contact HSLDA. They really are pit bulls. As an organization, they often endanger our homeschooling freedoms. But on an individual case like this, they may actually be the way to go.

I would CALL HSLDA first and ask them if they will even take the case. They DO do pro bono work if you can't even afford their membership fees.

Having been involved in a court case where I got a referral for a "great CPS attorney" that wasted $2500 and the time that would've made a difference in the case before getting an actual good attorney, I wouldn't toy with it. If someone refers you to an attorney, ask specifically what cases they were involved in and whether they won and how/why they got through the case. And make sure that case wasn't the exception. This is way too big to screw with. And if I were in your shoes, I probably would call HSLDA.

And please (under your new ID of course) please let us know how this turns out. This is the kind of thing many of us have nightmares about.

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#7 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 04:58 PM
 
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((Hugs))
If I were you, I would contact both my state homeschool organization and an organization concerned with the rights of the mentally ill to see what help they can offer. Hopefully one or both of these organizations could offer free legal advice, and perhaps refer you to someone who would help you either for very low cost or for free.
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#8 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 05:24 PM
 
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It sounds like you have done an amazing job of standing up for yourself and you dds.

When are they supposed to get back to you with their "softer" offer before court?
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#9 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 05:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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As far as I understand we were not supposed to hear it til we were in court. We asked if the CPS worker could read us what they are proposing before they file but who knows if she really will?

My worry about contacting HSLDA is that they will bulldog this and I am not convinced that would be most helpful. At this point, the softer proposal could be liveable for us. I just don't know.

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#10 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 05:32 PM
 
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If a court-appointed attorney is available to you, you should take advantage of that. Attorneys are frequently appointed for parents in these type of proceedings. Court-appointed does not mean less qualified. In fact, in some areas, the court appointed attorneys will have more experience and a better knowledge of the CPS system than private attorneys.
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#11 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 05:43 PM
 
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I would at least call HSLDA if I were in your place to see if they would take you on and see if they're approach would be agreeable to you. CPS runs rough shod over many families and unfortunately has no checks or balances. Oftentimes HSLDA is able to mediate and CPS drops the charges. It's worth a shot in my opinion.
I'm not a member of HSLDA, but I've always had respect for the work they do. I understand some people don't agree with their Christian stance, but I have never heard of anyone saying that they endanger HSing. Just another viewpoint...
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#12 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 06:26 PM
 
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If your doctors and therapists are all saying that homeschooling isn't a risk, I would get that in writing for court.

Calling HSLDA couldn't hurt either. You don't have to use them if you don't like their take.

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#13 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 06:34 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dannic View Post
I would at least call HSLDA if I were in your place to see if they would take you on and see if they're approach would be agreeable to you. CPS runs rough shod over many families and unfortunately has no checks or balances. Oftentimes HSLDA is able to mediate and CPS drops the charges. It's worth a shot in my opinion.
I'm not a member of HSLDA, but I've always had respect for the work they do. I understand some people don't agree with their Christian stance, but I have never heard of anyone saying that they endanger HSing. Just another viewpoint...
GL!
I don't know that I would approach HSLDA. I have heard stories of them making it more difficult and they have pushed for more regulation of homeschooling as part of their lobbying efforts.

I think I would start with a non-religious/inclusive state or provincial organization to see if they have recommendations for lawyers . I would also go through this page to see if you can find some resources there.

I'm so sorry you are struggling with this!
You'll be in my thoughts
Karen

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Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. ~ Buddha

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#14 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 06:41 PM
 
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What I would do ASAP. Get a letter from every single person you know, have them give their opinons on your parenting ability, like references if you will. This includes all doctors that you see, most definitily your counselor. Contact NAMI!! I'm not sure what that stands for exactly, but they are advocates for people with mental illness'. There are stereotypes, and I feel you are being very stereotyped I am sick to my stomach from reading this, I can't believe CPS is trying to ruin your life. They need to go chase child molestors, and leave good mothers the hell alone!!!

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#15 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 06:45 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GuestMama42 View Post
As far as I understand we were not supposed to hear it til we were in court. We asked if the CPS worker could read us what they are proposing before they file but who knows if she really will?

My worry about contacting HSLDA is that they will bulldog this and I am not convinced that would be most helpful. At this point, the softer proposal could be liveable for us. I just don't know.
I don't disagree with you about HSLDA, but 1) you could call them first and talk to them to see how they'd address it (if at all); and 2) you have no idea what they will present in court--and then you're pretty well screwed. 3) a bulldog may actually be what you need right now.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LastBestPlace View Post
If a court-appointed attorney is available to you, you should take advantage of that. Attorneys are frequently appointed for parents in these type of proceedings. Court-appointed does not mean less qualified. In fact, in some areas, the court appointed attorneys will have more experience and a better knowledge of the CPS system than private attorneys.
TOTALLY AGREE WITH THIS. In fact, I found my current attorney sitting in the courtroom and watching him as a public defender on other cases (this is in a state and county where the hearings are open... to all )


Quote:
Originally Posted by dannic View Post
I'm not a member of HSLDA, but I've always had respect for the work they do. I understand some people don't agree with their Christian stance, but I have never heard of anyone saying that they endanger HSing. Just another viewpoint...
GL!
Without hijacking this thread, I would suggest you do a search. There are plenty of people in this forum who have posted about the negative effects of their lobbying efforts. And it has nothing to do with religion.

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#16 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 07:15 PM
 
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I am so sorry you are going through this. What a terrible situation.

I would definitely call HSLDA. Even if you don't end up having them represent you, you could at least find out more about your options.

I know you probably couldn't do this until after this is settled, but maybe you should consider moving to a more hs-friendly area? I know bad attitudes toward hsing/crunchy lifestyles exist everywhere, but this really seems over the top - what on earth does vaccinating have to do with any of this?
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#17 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 07:35 PM
 
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I'm a cps worker of sorts... I'm under CPS but I am a prevention worker (which basically has the job description of keeping any further involvement by cps and subsequently working to keep the children in the home). Well...in my state, dss can't make you vax, and honestly I dont ever (in my 6 years) think I've heard the issue of homeschooling come up. if you want to pm me your state I can try to look up policy so you can know your rights. do the girls have a therapist? sorry- i'm pumping at computer, i cant write as much as I would like.

Blessed with two BEAUTIFUL little girls: Kylie (09/06) and Maggie (4/09) :
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#18 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 07:36 PM
 
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I don't have any advice, just support.

I'm sure this is not realistic for you, but DH and I would move to Canada if we had this kind of harassment. Especially when you add the vaccination issue - and even more so with a child whose health is compromised. But that's not my official advice or anything; you really should have the right to raise your family without uprooting it like that.

Homeschooling mama to 6 year old DD.

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#19 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 07:43 PM
 
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I'm a cps worker of sorts... I'm under CPS but I am a prevention worker (which basically has the job description of keeping any further involvement by cps and subsequently working to keep the children in the home). Well...in my state, dss can't make you vax, and honestly I dont ever (in my 6 years) think I've heard the issue of homeschooling come up. if you want to pm me your state I can try to look up policy so you can know your rights. do the girls have a therapist? sorry- i'm pumping at computer, i cant write as much as I would like.
Good for you for helping this mama! Sorry to interrupt this conversation, but I just had to say that this is one of the reasons I just love MDC
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#20 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 07:53 PM
 
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...or if you can't pm, or don't feel comfortable I know there are several social work mama's on here that you can try. It just sucks because one agency varies so much from the next. I'm in VA, and have worked at 2 different agencies. Currently I work at a big agency in a big area... and I think that a CPS supervisor would laugh if someone called to report a vax or homeschooling issue, because out of the housing projects and rough areas in our city, those issues wouldn't even fly on the radar. Now at my old agency- I can totally see them deamonizing someone for those things, mostly because it was a small agency and they nit picked.

It is difficult once someone is under the "radar" because issues that no one would have ever questioned, become "issues". At my agency, if a professional like a doctor, a dev. pedi, or a therapist makes a request or a formal recommendation about a child... we follow it. Social Workers are not the expert- We may think we know what's best but it shouldn't always be the "end all be all" opinion. If your girls have a professional like above have them make the recommendation for HS, and it should be followed.

I would make a routine that you follow for HSing during the day to present that and offer your children to take any test that can show that they are not being educationally neglected- this could help at court....

As for a court appointed lawyer, I would say 97% of the time you can trust them, at least in my experience. All of the one's I deal with truly fight for their client's rights.

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#21 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 07:57 PM
 
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Awww, mama.

I don't have any advice, but I couldn't read your post and not reply.

More

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#22 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 08:17 PM
 
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I don't have any advice either but also wanted to give you a
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#23 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 08:38 PM
 
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Does your therapist have any resources to offer you? The mental health organization we work with has "Case Managers" you can work with you who will patients find the resources they need, advocate for them when dealing with the Office of Public Assistance, Food Stamps, etc., and I would imagine CPS as well. Surely there must be some kind of group in your area that helps advocate for people with mental issues, and keep govornment agencies from trampling their rights like this. Definately use every resource you have access to. I would at least talk with the court appointed attourneys, since they should at least be able to give you a more realistic idea of what you rights really are, and let you know when the other side is threatening you needlessly.

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#24 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 08:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks so much all.

Jeliphish, I appreciate your advice. I am in rural KY. And I don't know if writing up something about how they are not educationally neglected since, as I understand it, CPS's concern is that I am not fostering a healthy separation with them because of my anxiety. Which is the one of the biggest parts of the psych evaluation that my therapist and I disagree with. Most of it is right on, but they missed the mark there.

It's so hard too because I can see these people are trying their best and I am sure they help people but this is not a case and they are not taking into account anything about my parenting or even how my girls are doing since no one has even talked to them.

It's just all frustrating and bewildering. DH and I are still on the fence about whether to call HSLDA or not. We are going to try and get a court appointed attorney before our court date and a copy of what CPS is recommending re:homeschooling before they file it.

I don't know. I'm tired and angry and wounded. I will ask my therapist about mental health service type thing. I've never thought of myself as defined by my anxiety disorder, even when it's flared up, even when I've been focusing on treating it. Now to suddenly have it be so pivotal to everything is hard. Anyway. I welcome more advice and wisdom.

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#25 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 08:55 PM
 
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"What would you do?"

Long-term, I'd comply with whatever plan they lay out, wait until they are no longer officially supervising you in any way, and then move to another state, where I'd make a habit of never, EVER disclosing my mental health history to ANYBODY. EVER. EVER.

Short-term - I'd talk to a Legal Aid lawyer, and ask them to represent me in court if they seemed to be decent. You might just get lucky - these people tend to all be networked with each other, so it may be just that the Legal Aid lawyer says to the CPS lawyer "seriously, Janet, these parents are no kind of risk. One of your people got a bug up their butt on this one. Let's take care of it, we both have to heavy a caseload to waste time on this."

If the Legal Aid lawyer assigned to you is clearly a loser, then yes, I'd call HSLDA.

I'm so sorry for your trouble.
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#26 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 09:59 PM
 
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Wow I find that whole situation infuriating. The reason I believe that they want your girls in school really has little if anything to do with your mental condition (or lack thereof) but because when children are in school it's MUCH easier to keep an eye on the family. Once the children are enrolled they can request their records, see how many days they were out sick, talk to the principal and teachers to see how YOU seem to be doing, etc. Heaven help you if you're under the weather and have a rough morning and that's the day they drop in to chat with the teachers. Not good. However, they can't legally come right out and say this, because once the case is closed, you should be free of suspicion. Therefore finding a trumped up reason to make you put the kids in school works well. Mind you I don't know that this is the case, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Disclaimer, I have no direct experience with CPS, this is just my gut feeling.
I would see if you could get a court appointed attorney. I don't know that I would mess with the HSLDA just yet as it sounds like you have a little time to examine options. I would get statements from your therapist confirming your ability to homeschool without damaging the children. If they are in any activities where you do not participate (lessons where you are in the next room, etc), get statements from the instructors there as well testifying that you are able to separate easily from them and vice versa. Same goes for any homeschooling activities and people who may have witnessed separations. I would even go so far as to get the children evaluated by a professional proving that despite your condition a full year ago, there are no issues with separation. I would also make sure that I have a statement from my therapist documenting that I have been following a program willingly and without issue or complaint for a full year - that you *want* to be healthy (often the courts see people who go on and off meds, won't be consistent with treatment to better themselves, etc. and you basically want to show via history that this is not you). If possible I would also find a way to document that the children are up to speed in their education. While the separation is the issue at hand, you want to be prepared on all fronts I'd think, just in case. Have with you a copy of the states immunization exemption laws as well, just in case it's needed so you can show that you are following the states laws on that.

I would do my best to get this over with without lingering restrictions. Then I would move as quickly as I was financially able to, at least to another state, and not leave a forwarding address.

Good luck and lot's of hugs!
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#27 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 10:06 PM
 
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I'd consider a community legal aid lawyer as well, IF your court appointed lawyer doesn't click w/you.

Also could you make a case against public school for you kids by going to visit the classrooms that they'd be in, if they were to attend...? Maybe large classes, other children w/behavior issues, lots of colds/flu that your dd shouldn't be exposed to, not enough books/supplies for each child, maybe the teacher only calls on 1 kid all the time, whatever you can come up with...

Also, as much as I didn't like it when it happened to me as a kid... I'd ask for your kiddos to have psych evals by a child psychologist to have them write up a report on how great, well-rounded, *independent/autonomous* the kids are, that HS'ing WITH YOU is beneficial, not detrimental to them, etc.

Good luck

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#28 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 10:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by GuestMama42 View Post

But they told us that we couldn’t homeschool anymore. That both DDs needed to be enrolled in public school by the end of the month because of reasons that my therapist as well as DH and I find totally bogus. They want people to be able to keep an eye on the girls, they want adults who can model healthy behaviors around them, and they are worried that I might not be separating from them as well as I should. Now, no one has ever talked to either of my girls - they are bright, social, well adjusted, and independent. Evidently that doesn’t matter.
So they actually said "public school"? And they never even interviewed your kids?

A few thoughts:

First, you cannot be required by law to enroll your kids in public school - you as the parent can choose the accredited private school of your choice.

Second, has CPS proven educational neglect on your part? If not, I'd call HSLDA immediately. It's free to call and describe your situation. HSLDA will then tell you whether they can help, and you can open a membership and pay the fee (a little over $100 as I recall).

They will defend your right to homeschool in the face of CPS/school district attempts to force you to enroll. It sounds like you're being railroaded by subjective ideas about homeschooling (assuming there isn't more to your situation than you've described) and you should get a lawyer ASAP to at LEAST talk to and make sure you know your rights, and at worst to defend you.
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#29 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 10:24 PM
 
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Oh, and I had personal experience with HSLDA and we're not Christian. The lawyer they sent was wonderful. He wasn't overly aggressive but was VERY assertive about getting the school district to define, specifically, how we were in violation of the law. Once they couldn't/wouldn't, he laid out our case in great detail, told them HSLDA was prepared to take the case as high as was needed, and the district backed off.

One of the most infuriating aspects of homeschooling/CPS is that social workers and school administrators often DO NOT KNOW THE LAW. Even our school district's LAWYER didn't know the law.

HSLDA lawyers know the law inside and out, and may have worked on cases similar to yours.

Whatever you decide, good luck.
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#30 of 202 Old 02-04-2010, 11:57 PM
 
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I am so sorry that this is happening to you!

I have no personal experience with these kinds of issues, but I think if I found myself in your shoes, I would probably contact HSLDA and would certainly at least speak to the court appointed attorney. If you are not satisfied with how your conversations with them proceed, you don't have to use them, but I think the stakes here are high enough that you shouldn't go forward on your own.

As others have suggested, there are advocacy groups that assist those with mental illness - it is probably worth pursuing that avenue as well.

Also, to piggyback on the advice others have given, I would- if at all possible - have your children privately evaluated to address the psychological allegations CPS is making. I know that the burden of proof is supposed to be on them, but again, the stakes here are very high. Similarly, I'd have the education assessment done, just to have all your bases covered. (I'm not sure about this, but I believe that if you have any concerns with the assessment once it's done, you don't have to bring it to the court's attention - but I'm not an attorney, so if you're at all worried about it, check it out with a lawyer before the eval)

Good luck to you!!

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