Social Services recommends stricter monitoring of homeschools

The North Carolina Department of Social Services released its report on four year old Sean Paddock’s death last week. (If you are unfamiliar with the case, I’ve included a summary at the end.) Most of the report makes recommendations for needed reforms considering the failures of the Department of Social Services in this case, however, some reforms of homeschooling are also sought.

From the report (link will start a download):

Findings #5:

  • According to the Department of Non-Public Instruction’s web site, Lynn Paddock had a registered home school, Benjamin Street School.
  • The Department of Non-Public Instruction is unable to make site visits to monitor and support home schools’ compliance with state policy due to limited funding and oversight resources.
  • Home schooling may contribute to social isolation if children are not involved in outside activities and adoptive parents are not utilizing post adoptive services.
  • The Division of Social Services began to gather statistics related to specific school situations in child protective services in May 2006.

Recommendations #5:

  • The Department of Non-Public Instruction should conduct a study regarding a Needs Assessment and pursue funding to support increased monitoring and oversight to home schools.
  • The State Fatality Review Team supports the continued efforts of the Division of Social Services in regard to the gathering of statistics related to specific school situations in child protective services.
  • The State Fatality Review Team recommends that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner begin to track school status at the time of death and make available this information on a yearly basis to the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force and the state-level North Carolina Child Fatality Prevention Team.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the child who died in this case was not of compulsory attendance age, however he did have two older siblings who were being similarly abused. Hopefully, the abuse would have been spotted had the children been attending school. Perhaps not a given when Social Services itself seemed to have difficulty recognizing a potentially abusive situation when it was brought to their attention prior to the children’s placement with the family.

In January 2005, Sean returned from his first visit with the Paddocks with bruises on his backside. Social workers determined that the child must have fallen off a bunk bed, just as Paddock said.

Sean and his older siblings told social workers that Paddock had whipped Sean for playing with the family dog, according to a report released after his death by Wake County Child Protective Services.

“It’s like they were just rushing to get them off the books,” said Ford, who took in Sean and his older brother and sister after they were taken from their parents.” News Observer (article deleted)

I am also curious how the Department of Non-Public Instruction is supposed to “monitor and support home schools’ compliance with state policy.” I am not familiar with North Carolina homeschool law, but it seems that all that is involved with monitoring compliance is filing paperwork. The only inspection I see in the law is the occasional checking of standardized test scores. Even if the Department effectively monitored every homeschool, I fail to see how this would stop any abuse cases.

The bit about social isolation seems out of place in the findings, but I guess so long as we are bringing homeschooling into the child death case, we may as well bring up socialization as well. Then comes The Study. Nebraska has such a study as well, but ours isn’t packages so neatly as a “Needs Assessment.” “Needs Assessment” sounds like there is a chance for the researching body to come to the conclusion that additional oversight is not actually needed. Unlike here in Nebraska, where the sole purpose is to figure out how to increase oversight. Somehow, I doubt the end result will be much different if it proceeds, however.

And I don’t really mind “school situation” being noted in child death cases. It could yield some interesting information for the public discussion. But whoever is compiling the statistics needs to be perfectly honest about who is schooled, pushed out, truant and homeschooled.

Some case history:

Sean Paddock’s story is sad, as all child abuse cases are, and has resulted in quite a stir among homeschooling blogs. In fact, this is the case which spawned the boycott against Homeschoolblogger. He died at the hands of his adoptive mother who had tied him to the bed with several thick blankets. Sean suffocated and died in Febr He also had new and old bruises covering his back from being “disciplined” with a “small, flexible pipe.” His older brother and sister also suffered these whippings. Lynn Paddock, it seems, had gone searching for help with Christian discipline, stumbled upon the materials by Michael and Debi Pearl, and used (or misused) them to abuse the children. But then, if her testimony is accurate, she did not need to look far to find this sort of parenting philosophy. She appeared to have been raised at the other end of a PVC pipe herself. Bruising all and murdering one.

Also important to note is that Social Services had received other reports on this family which were perhaps made more complicated by coming from different counties, but the reports started even before the official placement as young Sean came back to the foster home with bruises and (along with his siblings) reported that the Paddock’s had spanked him for trying to play with the dog.  Corporal punishment is generally illegal for all foster situations, and leaving bruises is whether or not you are fostering.

The prosecution sought first degree murder charges, but not the death penalty. She was convicted.

And last week, another homeschooled boy died at the hands of his parents. Tied to a tree overnight. It is a sick world we live in.

Hat Tip: the blog formerly known as HE&OS


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30 Comments on "Social Services recommends stricter monitoring of homeschools"

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Mrs. C
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You mentioned he was adopted. I don’t wonder that he might have had “special needs” that manifested themselves as discipline issues. I can tell you from personal experience that if you have children with special needs, you can expect zero support from the schools, and in fact schools WERE the abusers of my Elf. The thought that some snippy little Miss of a social worker would be able to visit my HOME, and then mandate that my children go to SCHOOL where they will be abused, is more than astounding to me.

Beth
Guest

All abuse cases are sad and tragic, and people naturally wonder if “someone” could have done “something” to intervene, and as in these two cases, prevent the death of a child. But I am getting tired of the kneejerk “we must monitor these homeschoolers!” reaction. In the vast majority of cases such as this which, DSS has been involved with the family at some point, and signs of possible trouble have been ignored or overlooked.

Christy
Guest
Abuse is not a home school issue, it is a “parenting” issue. (Hate to even use the word parent in the sentence.) If they are going to designate the child’s school situation, then they do need to list all school situations. Track those statistics. Many of these tragic cases happen to children that are not even school age, though. Are people who would be abusive, attracted to home schooling so they can “hide”? Maybe, I don’t know. But I do think it may be part of a sub-culture that misinterprets the Bible. Do I think that means home schooling should… Read more »
Dana
Guest
It is surprising how many of these cases end up having prior reports which weren’t taken seriously. Which also brings up calls of reform to CPS…that they need to investigate every allegation, which takes away their ability to screen out the less concerning reports, chase down everything, and in turn perhaps allow yet more abusive situations continue. And so long as they are monitoring “school situation” maybe they can publish the percentage of these children were either in the system or placed in their home by the system. And when these studies confirm what we already know, ie., that most… Read more »
Life On The Planet
Guest

If the relevant adults didn’t believe the children when they said the abuse occurred, how on earth is monitoring supposed to help?

Sounds like a case of C.Y.Rear-end to me.

Barbara Frank
Guest

I think commenter Christy is on to something. Those who have something to hide might decide that claiming to be homeschoolers is a good way to escape prying eyes. That’s sad and scary, but in no way reflects on true homeschooling parents who want the best for their children.

As for Mrs. Paddock being raised at the end of a PVC pipe, that’s no excuse. Someone has to break that chain of abuse. It can be done with God’s help.

JJ Ross
Guest

I was just remembering how [nhen (dot) org/LegInfo/default.asp?id=420] NHEN was successful with stopping this in North Carolina last time around.

Dana
Guest
Barbara, I agree that her abusive upbringing is no excuse. That isn’t why I mentioned it. Quite a big deal was made of the Pearls but I have a feeling they served as more of a justification for what she was doing. And I shudder to think that there would be very many people who actively choose homeschooling in order to hide abuse. As homeschooling becomes more well-known, it may actually happen more. In most of the cases I have read about thus far, the parents were not actually homeschooling according to the law. In both the Jacks’ and Ramirez’… Read more »
Dana
Guest
Incidentally, anytime someone pulls a child from school during or following a CPS investigation, I do think the state may have probable cause to continue monitoring the situation. I don’t know how you can give them that authority seeing as the cases are usually marked “unfounded.” Maybe it is too rare of an occurrence to be of concern. But then, if we knew that kind of information, it might direct policy that would actually be helpful without interfering with the vast majority of parents who do not abuse their children. I’m curious about the percentage of parents who actively plan… Read more »
Sunniemom
Guest
People like the Paddocks are why there are warning labels on things like bouncy seats that say “Do not use as flotation device”. Hello? Stupid much? Next thing you know there will be warning labels etched in silverware that say “Do not use to remove contacts from eye”. I think we need to remember that alot of brutal abuse occurs before a child reaches school age. This very clearly makes the issue of abuse about the criminal behavior of parents, not the method of education. If there are going to be policies in place to require homeschoolers to be monitored,… Read more »
MichielleRose
Guest

I wonder just how invasive our society will become? In order to ‘protect’ children. Social workers often make visits, suspect that children are being abused and leave them there. My ex husband was suspected of abusing our children but nothing was done, not by Social Services, or Domestic Court. I’m sorry but I doubt that increasing the power that the state holds is a good thing. Too many innocent families will be hurt and some will still slip through the net and be abused or die from abusive parents.

Dana
Guest
Sunniemom, I have little doubt that is coming. But maybe I have a pessimistic streak. And MichielleRose, I think far too much is done “for the children.” It is so easy to sweep all reason aside because it is such an emotional topic. In 39% of cases where parents kill their own children, CPS had previous involvement. They are trained to notice abuse, not just required to report it. And looking back on the cases, it is sometimes hard to see why they could have overlooked it. Most of that is hopefully just because it is easier to see the… Read more »
Sunniemom
Guest

I think that complaints should not be investigated unless they are specific and the person reporting abuse or neglect leaves their name and contact info.

That’d cut down on frivolous manipulation of the system and tips like “Them thar kids is too skinny”.

Life On The Planet
Guest

Because I am a smart aleck…

[lifeontheplanet.typepad (dot) com/my_weblog/2008/06/homeschooler-recommends-stricter-monitoring-of-social-services.html]

JJ Ross
Guest

I enjoyed that LOTP, although unfortunately in my state (Florida) that’s no joke. Abuse down here extends to and from the system to kids in or out of school, adoptive parents, women in comas, little boys escaping Cuba )I heard today that Elian has just joined the Young Communists btw, great call Reno) and even voting machines.

Life On The Planet
Guest

My father-in-law is a retired C.P.S. supervisor. I know the kind of nonsense they have to deal with. I also know that the low pay doesn’t always attract the best and brightest. The heavy case loads lead to early burnout. I sympathize with those who are sincerely doing their best to protect children.

But really, enough is enough.

Thanks, JJ. I heard about poor Elian, too. 🙁 I cringe when I think about his poor mother losing her life to get him here, and now this? It makes me ill.

Jody
Guest
Unfortunately even if the child would have went to school it doesn’t mean anyone would have caught the abuse or done anything about it. My husband and his siblings were abused as was their mother by their father. They all went to public school and no one ever did anything about it. Thankfully though my hubby and his siblings turned out well and aren’t abuser’s themselves. Abuse no matter where it’s done it wrong. It’s not a homeschool issues just a bad parenting (if you can call it that) issue. Just sad and sick :(.
Nance Confer
Guest
She appeared to have been raised at the other end of a PVC pipe herself. ******* Somehow I had never caught this bit of info about the Mother before. Maybe because I have a hard time reading these stories without squinting my eyes half shut. It does explain something — something about how people learn and what gets planted in their brains no matter what they say. . . what a sad, sordid little cycle. SunnieMom, the reporters have to have anonymity or many would not report when they should. My Mom has been through this with a neighbor and… Read more »
Dana
Guest
Nance, I agree that this sort of statistic could be helpful. It isn’t something I’m particularly worried about and if it were to indeed reveal that a great many homeschoolers were “hiding” that is probably something that as a community we need to figure out how to deal with so that everyone’s rights are protected. The only thing I am really worried about in this is that people like Banita Jacks were deemed “homeschoolers,” but didn’t even do the most minimal things required by the state. To me, the kids were truant. Not homeschooled. So long as not everyone who… Read more »
JJ Ross
Guest
I called the CPS hotline once, on my cell phone. I was in the van taking Katrina hurricane relief to a shelter (we’re in the Florida panhandle and lots of families came here, with nothing for their kids to do; some local hsers were taking coloring books and crayons, puzzles and books) — anyway, it was still raining and I had the kids with me. We were stopped second in line at a red light, in a left turn lane. The kids were with me, and suddenlt Favorite Daughter and I gasp as we see the man (father?) in front… Read more »