Jewish World Review Jan. 14, 2004 / 20 Teves, 5764
Homeschoolers vs. Big Brother
New Jersey's child welfare system, like most state child welfare systems, is a corrupt and deadly mess. Children are lost in the shuffle, shipped
to abusive foster homes, returned to rapists and child molesters, and left to die in closets while paperwork piles up. So who does the
government decide to punish for the bureaucracy's abysmal failure to protect these innocents?
And what does the government think will solve its ills?
More power and paperwork.
Last week, a Democratic assemblywoman introduced a bill that would impose annual academic testing and annual medical exams on
home-schooled students in the Garden State. Never mind a federal law that prohibits states from requiring that homeschoolers take the state
assessment designed for public school students. And never mind the fact that no public or private school students are subject to such health
regulations. The State Board of Education would be given unprecedented regulatory authority over homeschoolers.
The sponsor of this Anti-Homeschooling Act is Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg. She said one impetus for the legislation was the infamous
case in Collingswood, N.J., in which four adopted boys abandoned by the state Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) were found
starving last fall. The boys' parents, Raymond and Vanessa Jackson, allegedly home-schooled the children when they weren't rigging up
security alarms to keep their famished kids out of the kitchen.
The Weinberg proposal is a shameless smokescreen for government social workers who botched the Jackson case. Child welfare officials
claimed they visited the boys' home 38 times in the past four years. Apparently the sight of a 19-year-old teenager who weighed less than a
few bowling balls fazed no one. Department of Human Services Commissioner Gwendowlyn Harris admitted that she had employed staff who
were "either incompetent, uncaring or who had falsified records."
While New Jersey politicians attempts to punish law-abiding homeschoolers for the sins of DYFS and the Jacksons, one of every 14 children in
foster care in the state is placed in a home operated by someone with a criminal conviction or documented as having mistreated a child.
Moreover, according to a study released last summer by the School of Social Work at the University of Pennsylvania, one in 10 were abused or
neglected by the agency caregiver and one in five didn't receive needed medical care. "The DYFS picture is not just bleak; it is one of chaos
and tragedy," the report concluded. "From the reading of the disorganized and incomplete case files, to the statistical analysis of the status of
children in the 'care' of DYFS, institutional abuse, neglect and ineptitude are the dominant themes."
Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee and Co-Chairman of the Congressional Missing and
Exploited Children's Caucus, noted at a hearing last year that: "Most people treat their pets better than the state of New Jersey has treated its
children." The problem is systemic and nationwide. In Foley's state, 7-year-old Rilya Wilson is just one of 500 missing children in the child
welfare system who have vanished. In California, Independent Institute research fellow Wendy McElroy reports, children are rushed into
dangerous foster care homes thanks to a toxic combination of perverse financial incentives and lack of accountability for social workers' gross
misconduct and neglect.
At bottom, Weinberg's bill is a cynical power grab something homeschoolers across the country have been fending off as the movement's
success has skyrocketed. "This is about legislators interfering with parental rights," Tricia McQuarrie, a South Jersey homeschooling mother
of five, told me. "It's Big Brother." Indeed, legislators and the liberal media (witness CBS News' anti-homeschooling hit piece last October) are
pushing for increased regulation of home-schooling parents, including criminal background checks, because the grass-roots movement gravely
threatens their socialist agenda of promoting dependency. God forbid children be taught by their own parents without oversight from the
all-knowing, all-caring, infallible wizards of the child welfare-public school monopoly!
A crackdown on innocent homeschooling families to cure the incompetence of government child welfare agencies is like a smoker lopping off
his ear to treat metastatic lung cancer. It's a bloody wrong cure conceived by a fool who caused his own disease.
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