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I am a long time lurker, and in desperate need of advice & hugs.  Sorry this is long.

We were reported to CPS.  I am unclear on the details of the allegations.  The lady showed up at our house last Thursday morning.  She said they received a report that our children were home in the daytime.  She seemed to think it was a administrative error (like a name misspelled in the state homeschoolers data base or something).  She was professional, kind, and didn't seem concerned at all.  I quickly told her that we are legal homeschoolers.  I offered to print off my "affirmation  letter" that I receive from the State.  She asked me to email it to her.  "She asked to "set eyes" on each of the children (including my 3 year old).

She talked briefly to my 9 year old.  She asked him about what rules we have.  He didn't answer, so I helped by saying "what are some things you are not allowed to do?"   He then said, "Mom wants me to moderate my electronics use.  I play video games all day."  (This is because I got upset with him last night about how I always have to kick him off electronics.  I wish he wish he would moderate himself.  He of course doesn't play video games all day, because I do kick him off). 

She asked him what other rules we have and he didn't have an answer.  She asked him what happens when he breaks a rule, and he said time out.  She asked him what his favorite subject was in school, and he didn't have an answer, but they did get around to the fact that he likes to read. 

I had to wake my 6 year old, and he was grumpy & complaining about how it was cold.  So she didn't talk to him, and he went right back inside.  She saw the three year old, and he was cute and quickly went back inside.  

She then asked me if my 9yo was in pull ups.  I said no, all my children (including recently the 3yo) are potty trained.  But I knew what she was referring to.  A few weeks ago 9yo was sick and didn't want to poop his pants.  He chose to wear a pull up for about two days, because he didn't want to poop his pants.  But How would anyone know that!?  And why does that even matter?  It isn't illegal/abusive for a 9yo to wear a pull up.

She said she needed make an appointment to talk to my husband & left.  She didn't ask to see the house, although she did probably see the reasonably clean (but still a bit untidy) living & dinning room as I was going in and out with the various children.

I quickly emailed her the affirmation letter regarding my 9 year old, and explained the situation regarding my 6 year old.  That for kindergarten you send a letter to the local school board saying that you intend to homeschool your child for first grade.  I did send this letter, but I have no proof because I messed up on getting a return receipt from the post office.  I also included a link to the state department of ed's FAQ regarding homeschooling to answer any questions she might have about the law.

My husband called her that evening to set up a time to talk to her.  She wasn't available until Tuesday (tomorrow).  She told him that she had received my email and still seemed to think it was an administrative error.  

My husband noticed that her office was next door to his, and offered to meet her there (by email).  She sent the following reply: 

"Part of my job is to meet with the family in a normal and comfortable setting in the home. Seeing the interactions and where the children live really helps us to get to know the family. I would prefer to meet with both you and your wife at your home. Let me know if that still works for Tuesday!"
 

He replied that the original plan of our house was fine.

We have deep cleaned the house and everything.  We are freaking out.

I don't know what to do. 

Part of me thinks we should just meet with her tomorrow in our home.  She will be a reasonable person, see things as they are and close the case.  Then we can put this behind us.  The other part of me keeps flashing back to every cps horror story I have ever heard.

We are not members of HSLDA, should I peruse legal council.  If so how/who?  Or wait to see how tomorrow pans out?

Concerns:

1.  We keep a non-traditional schedule.  The children go to bed late & wake up late.  They get adequate sleep.  When she showed up at 10:00 I was in my pajamas with an old braid and my 9yo's hair was unbrushed.  I had to wake my 6 yo.  Usually the children go to bed around 11:00, and get up 9:00.  I go to bed about 2:00 and wake up when my 3 yo does.

2.  I have tons of books & am a homeschool curriculum junkie.  But I don't keep records and don't have a lot to prove our work.  We do a lot orally, and a lot on white boards.  I don't keeps much around.  Math Mammoth worksheets immediately become scratch paper, then trash.

3.  I share a queen sized bed with my 9 yo, and my 6 yo sleeps in a loft bed in the same room.  I have asked the regularly if they would like their own room.  They prefer this situation, and I was okay with it. My 3 yo sleeps in the closet of my husband's room.  The 3 yo controls the bifold door.  It is always open unless he chooses to close it.  It is easy to just push it open.  He has a toddler bed, board books, stuffed toys & a light.

4.  Our house is older with a lot of minor damage.  Nothing dangerous or serious, but cracks & small holes in the wall plaster (could easily be patched), cabinet doors that don't close properly.  The bathroom while perfectly serviceable does need to be redone.  (all fixtures work appropriately).  We also have drawing on the walls.

5.  We have fruit flies.  We set traps and the situation is now minor, but I do notice the occasional fly.

6.  I am concerned that we may say or especially the children may say something that is taken out of context and blown out of proportion. 

7.  We don't know the exact allegations.  She seems focused on the legal homeschool paperwork.  But is vague when we ask if that is all there is.  Our paperwork is in order, surely she has figured that out by now.  Why does she want to meet us in our home etc.  if that is all there is?

Please help

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Oh, I thought of another thing.   My 3 yo still breastfeeds.  2x/day first thing in the morning & after nap.  I am in the process of weaning him.

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Well the only things I know are that you don't have to let them in your house without a court order, and you can video tape or record the interview. 

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I am not a fan of HSLDA so I don't want to sound like a groupie who thinks all hs'ers need them, but in your case, I definitely would call them - only because you didn't get confirmation of your school notification for your 6yo. I've heard of aggressive school systems (although I think you would have heard about it, if your local school or area had this problem). 

Concerning lifestyle differences and condition of the house - first of all, you don't have to tell them everything. No need to volunteer irrelevant info. If your children are clean, fed, have somewhere to sleep, and are being educated, there are plenty of CPS workers who don't go after families for poverty or cultural differences. But we've all heard the horror stories, so of course, you were right to clean the house. Don't stress over things you can't change. It's OK that the cupboards are wonky and the bathroom is outdated with temperamental fixtures or whatever.

Do you have people who would vouch for you, like a family doctor, for example?

 

Edited by Lang Syne Boardie
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I’ve worked for CPS, both as a case manager and as a supervisor.

First off, you don’t have to let them in or talk to them unless they have a warrant. That decision is entirely up to you.

You would not believe how filthy a house has to be to actually substantiate neglect based on home conditions. Really. We’ve seen some *really* bad houses. We don’t care even the tiniest bit about your clutter, or whether you did the dishes that morning, or if you have a entire month of laundry piled up. We care if there is animal poop being ignored all over the floor in a house that has crawling babies. We care about kitchens so dirty they present actual health hazards. We care if there is so much clutter that there is no way to safely exit the house in case of fire. We don’t care about fruit flies as they present no health hazard.

We don’t care how you’re dressed. Really, we’re just happy you don’t answer the door naked. We don’t care if a 9yo is wearing a pull-up, except to check and see if there may be a medical condition that the family isn’t addressing properly. We certainly don’t care how long you breastfeed.

Please email/call the worker and ask her to bring a copy of the allegation for you to see when she talks to your husband.

Standard procedure in all investigations is to speak to every family member who lives in the home, to see the home, and to ask questions of the children regarding the content of the allegations. You can choose how much of that to participate in. If you do not participate willingly, they will continue to show up at your door and/or call until the investigation time period closes, because it’s their job to make all reasonable efforts to complete their investigation requirements.

Unless there is something really surprising in this allegation that you haven’t figured out yet, this is likely going to be a perfunctory investigation in order to make sure you filed your paperwork, and maybe that your 9yo doesn’t have any neglected medical needs.

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18 minutes ago, Lang Syne Boardie said:

I am not a fan of HSLDA so I don't want to sound like a groupie who thinks all hs'ers need them, but in your case, I definitely would call them - only because you didn't get confirmation of your school notification for your 6yo. I've heard of aggressive school systems (although I think you would have heard about it, if your local school or area had this problem). 

Concerning lifestyle differences and condition of the house - first of all, you don't have to tell them everything. No need to volunteer irrelevant info. If your children are clean, fed, have somewhere to sleep, and are being educated, there are plenty of CPS workers who don't go after families for poverty or cultural differences. But we've all heard the horror stories, so of course, you were right to clean the house. Don't stress over things you can't change. It's OK that the cupboards are wonky and the bathroom is outdated with temperamental fixtures or whatever.

Do you have people who would vouch for you, like a family doctor, for example?

 

People who could vouch for us:

1.  We do have a family doctor.  My children are vaccinated and have attended well baby/child visits.  They are due for another visit, but just by a few months.  We have a family dentist and the 9 & 6 yo have visited recently.  My 9yo had an optometrist visit in the last year.  No medical concerns with any of my children.

2. We have attended homeschool co-op for the last year & a half.

3.  My older two children attended preschool and my 3yo is registered for next year.  We have an excellent relationship with the preschool.

4.  We have been involved with the same music school since my oldest was a toddler.

5.  For the last year we have attended homeschool gym class at the YMCA.

6.  We have extended family.  My mother is coming to provide support.

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Hi, I’m sorry this is happening...  I have never dealt with CPS, but something similar to this happened to one of my neighbors (we’re in TX). Our public school is very antagonistic about homeschooling. My neighbor pulled her dd from school, because she couldn’t read and wasn’t making any progress. The elementary school called CPS on them.  

My neighbor was SO distressed. I mean, freaking out. The dad is from another country and he was so scared that he wanted to move. In the end, CPS actually told the school to cut it out. For the investigation, she said CPS came in and took pictures of where the kids slept and what food they had in the fridge. They talked to both kids and both parents. I can’t remember any other details, but my neighbor said CPS was much more reasonable and supportive than the school was.  Like I said, they told the school to stop.  

Hope that helps a little. 

If this were happening to me, honestly, I would make sure the house is really clean when they come, talk to the kids about questions they might ask and I would print out our homeschool records. I know you said you guys don’t really keep records. Maybe an impromptu “transcript” or something showing what they’ve studied this year. Just in case. 

Crossing my fingers you guys have a successful visit. 

Edited by Evanthe
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2 hours ago, Ananda said:

We are not members of HSLDA, should I peruse legal council.  If so how/who?  Or wait to see how tomorrow pans out?

Call HSLDA anyhow.

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6 minutes ago, Ellie said:

Call HSLDA anyhow.

I did, they are closed.  I will call again tomorrow.  I would like to have the name of a lawyer who could help me if I am wrong and this turns ugly.  Although the more I think about it, the more I don't necessarily trust HSLDA's advice.  I am skeptical that going in lawyers blazing is always the best course of action.  I did have good reason not to join in the first place.  I am just scared and wish I had a clear path forward.

 

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While I obviously can't foretell the future, I would not worry too much about this.  You are legal.  Your kids are well taken care of.  They have seen doctors and others who can attest to it if need be.  I would just meet with them on Tuesday.  My non-prophetic feeling is that that will be the end of it. 

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I would look for your state equivalent of HSLDA and call them ASAP. I would postpone any meeting with CPS until talking to them if at all possible. In Texas, that organization would be THSC. It seems like most states have something similar. If not then I would be calling HSLDA and not scheduling anything until speaking with them. I would want everything in writing from this woman and her organization. Not email. Not text. Certified letter. 

The advice I've gotten from both homeschool groups AND a friend who worked for CPS in Texas is to not let them in the house EVER without a warrant. I just wouldn't do it.  I don't care how nice and non-threatening she is. 

Personally I would be lawyering up and not inviting anyone in until speaking to a knowledgable attorney- I wouldn't have any further contact without going through my attorney. The way I look at it is there is nothing to be gained from letting them in, except things that can possibly be twisted or used against you. It is to her benefit to come in your house, for whatever reason she has to investigate you- not your benefit. You have nothing to gain there as her word is going to carry more weight than yours will after the fact. I have nothing to hide from the police either, but I'm not going to invite them in my house if they just knock at my door and ask to look around because of an administrative error. You don't know who filed the complaint. You don't know the story behind it.

I would also want a copy of the woman's ID and anything else proving she is who she says she is. 

Call me paranoid, but most state officials are low paid and overworked and if it goes wrong it seems like it goes really, really wrong and takes forever to correct. Once you get in that system you are at their mercy and the courts work SLOWLY. I would not be bending over to help them do their job. Not one bit. 

So I'll be the pessimistic voice here and say do not make their job easier. You look out for you and your kids. Let her worry about her. It won't hurt to get some professional advice here in the form of a lawyer, HSLDA, or your State Homeschool Advocate. What can hurt is if she writes you up, takes something out of context, or your kids say something that can be taken wrong. A lot can go wrong. 

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The two threads are giving opposite advice, and I am waffling.  I will consult with an attorney.  I understand that they could twist things and that scares me.  But refusing them access while within my rights, is risky, because it makes me look guilty.  That matters in CPS cases.  

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5 minutes ago, Ananda said:

The two threads are giving opposite advice, and I am waffling.  I will consult with an attorney.  I understand that they could twist things and that scares me.  But refusing them access while within my rights, is risky, because it makes me look guilty.  That matters in CPS cases.  

It doesn't make you look guilty. It makes you look educated as to your rights. There's a difference. An assertive attorney advocating on your behalf is going to be able to make that fact clear.

There is a reason that rich people deal with CPS a lot less often than less affluent people-- it's not that they're necessarily better parents than poor people are by default- it's that people with money practice self advocacy and being able to afford someone to assist in that. They typically don't take crap from public servants who show up at their door unsolicited, so adopt that mindset if you can.

The organization you are dealing with is probably very well aware that most people will not have representation partially because they fear looking guilty- that's something cops depend on too. 

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You should consult an attorney.  CPS is not your friend, and the stakes are far too high to take a chance that this worker is "nice."

I say this as a former prosecutor who saw first hand the abuses of CPS.

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I will consult an HSLDA & an attorney.  I agree that it isn't worth the risk.  I can take the financial hit.  (Probably, I actually don't know how much an attorney costs.)  But wow . . . a neighbor tattles on us for legally homeschooling and I have to pay a but ton of money to defend myself. 

We have decided to go through with tomorrow's visit.  My mother is here for support, 3rd set of ears, and child control (so that we can focus on the workers).  We will answer the specific allegations, but be circumspect about anything else.

We are insisting on receiving the specific allegations in writing before the visit. If they are more serious then we have been led to believe, we will cancel the visit.  We won't allow her to talk to the children without us present.  We will record the interview.

We weighed the pros and cons of each option and believe limited cooperation is best.  We have made this decision with careful consideration.  I don't believe any option is without risk.  I think I should limit myself to one thread so I will continue updating on the chat board and allow this thread to die.

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from my experience- they will not let you record the interview. though my experience is from a different angle. not about homeschooling but about fostering 

 

 

HUGE HUGS FOR TOMORROW

Edited by Melissa in Australia

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You can quickly google whether you can record the conversation in your state. But I've lived in several US states and you're allowed in all of them...you just have to be on tape saying "i'm here with whoever on the date and we're recording our conversation" so that it's crystal clear you aren't recording surreptitiously.  I mean it's in your home, in a meeting you're voluntarily having.

Hug to you OP, and to your kids! 

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In your own home, especially if it is a one party consent state, you can record anything you want. I am fully on the side of telling CPS to come back when they have a warrant. A judge is not going to issue a warrant for CPS to investigate an "administrative error". The second you let them in your house or let them talk to your children, you are giving them the chance to gather more evidence, even if that evidence is irrelevant to the original allegations, circumstantial or taken out of context.

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Years ago, when I called the police and the officer needed to talk to my teenage daughter (she had been the victim of a hit and run), he refused to enter the house: "Just ask her to come out here on the porch." That's made me wonder ever since about the motivation of any official who requests, however nicely, to come into my house.

Listen to Aethelthryth.

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I would not trust HSLDA. I would contact your independent statewide group if there is one and get the number of a lawyer and any legal advice they have, but I wouldn’t call. I’d just want to have it just in case. I would record the conversation just in case. Doesn’t hurt. I think you’ll be fine. Just be honest and calm. They’re not looking for you. They’re just doing their job. Help them do it so they can move on. If it starts to go wrong, you recorded and have a lawyer’s name and are teady. But it probably won’t and it doesn’t help to borrow trouble.

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