Why did you start the Homeschooling’s Invisible Children Database?
Heather Doney and Rachel Coleman, both former homeschool students who have spent time studying homeschooling at a graduate level, became interested in the ways homeschooling can be used to conceal child maltreatment and allow it to continue unimpeded. They began collecting cases of severe abuse and neglect in homeschool settings and soon felt the need for a way to organize and present these cases. They were inspired to found Homeschooling’s Invisible Children by Pound Pup Legacy, an organization that works to raise awareness of problems in the adoption and foster care systems.
Aren’t you worried about making homeschooling look bad?
Acknowledging that homeschooling can conceal or intensify abuse or neglect does not imply that all homeschool parents are abusive or neglectful or that homeschooling is in and of itself a bad educational method. It is our hope that raising awareness of this issue will lead to greater protections for homeschooled children at risk of abuse or neglect. We assert that it is denying the problem rather than addressing it that has the potential to make homeschooling look bad.
What is your criteria for including a child in the HIC database?
We include all school aged children (ages 5 to 17) who were the victims of severe or fatal abuse or neglect who were legally homeschooled or whose parents, guardians, or captors claimed to be homeschooling them at the time an incident occurred.
Why do you include cases where the parents were not actually educating their children?
In states that do not have any oversight or requirements for homeschooling, claiming to homeschool makes one a homeschooler in the eyes of the law whether or not education is taking place. We agree that parents who do not educate their children should not be permitted to homeschool, but in the current deregulated legal climate this is not the case.
Why do you include cases where the parents were not following their state’s homeschool laws?
When we first created our database, we made a conscious decision to include families that claimed to be homeschooling but were not following their state’s homeschool requirements. One reason for this decision is that in many states lack of enforcement allows parents to homeschool “under the radar,” and that lack of enforcement is a problem that needs addressing. We hope to shed light on that problem. A second reason is that homeschooling still serves to shield abuse and neglect in these families because friends and neighbors who might otherwise have called the family in for truancy will be less likely to do so if the family claims to be homeschooling.
Why do you include murdered children whose deaths don’t look like they have anything to do with homeschooling, such as the Moore children or the Yates children?
We include every child abuse or neglect death of a homeschooled child regardless of how this death took place. Our hope is to create a comprehensive database of homeschooling fatalities in an effort to locate themes and work toward solutions. In order to effectively analyze the data, we must include all the cases.
Why do you include abducted children whose captors falsely claimed to be homeschooling them?
Homeschooling has on numerous occasions been used by kidnappers to help hide their abductions. By claiming to homeschool, abductors do not have to face the choice between enrolling a kidnapped child in school and worrying that someone will notice a child not in school and report them as truant.
Wouldn’t these children have been abused, neglected, or murdered even if they had been attending public school?
Homeschooling does not make parents abusive. However, homeschooling allows abusive parents to isolate their children and remove them from contact with mandatory reporters. In other words, homeschooling can serve as a powerful tool in the hand of an abusive parent. Numerous young adults who were homeschooled for part of their upbringing and attended public school for part of their upbringing have reported that their parents’ abuse was worse when they were homeschooled, as there was nothing to act as a check on their parents’ abuse. While children who were abused in homeschool settings would have had abusive parents even if they had attended public school, homeschooling frequently serves to intensify a parent’s abuse and removes safeguards that might otherwise have served to protect the child.
Many public school children are abused and neglected too. What makes homeschooled children different?
We understand that abuse and neglect can happen in any educational context, and we support efforts to detect and prevent child abuse in every educational setting. The system currently in place for protecting children from abuse and neglect assumes that they will attend school and be seen by mandatory reporters, who may notice signs of abuse or neglect and to whom children may go for help. While these measures do not protect every child from abuse or neglect, they do offer help to many children. Homeschooled children are opted out of much of the child abuse and neglect detection system currently in place for school aged children.
Children under five don’t generally have regular contact with mandatory reporters either, so what’s the difference?
While we support efforts to detect and prevent child abuse among children of every age, our focus is on children who are homeschooled. Homeschooled children are removed from much of the system in place to protect school-aged children from abuse and neglect. This makes their situation different from that of children under age five. Abusive parents sometimes use homeschooling as a tool to isolate their children and conceal their abuse, and abusive parents who homeschool are able to intensify their abuse without as much concern about detection.
Why do you include homeschoolers who themselves commit murder or other violent acts?
It may seem odd to include homeschoolers who perpetrate violence in a database originally designed for homeschoolers who were victims of violence, but in many cases these individuals, too, are victims. Some suffered the repercussions of abusive or isolated childhoods; others were denied access to mental health care or had mental health problems that went unrecognized because of a lack of access to professionals. Some had parents who meant well but were unprepared to handle their child’s additional needs or violent tendencies on their own. We include these cases to encourage reflection on how to prevent such cases from occurring in the future. We keep these cases separate under their own category, and they therefore are not listed in our main database.
What is the relationship between Homeschooling’s Invisible Children (HIC) and the Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE)?
HIC is a distinct organization, but operates under the oversight of CRHE. HIC focuses on collecting data and raising awareness.