This story describes efforts by Children's Aid to prevent a Port Colborne couple from homeschooling their children. The entire story beyond this paragraph is by the mother, who is competent to tell it in her own words.

CAS tries to end homeschooling

My nightmare began on May 2, 2000. Two social workers showed up on our doorstep to investigate an "anonymous complaint", which they wouldn't reveal to me on the porch, until I let them in the door (I later found out that this was a violation of my legal rights). I let them in thinking I had nothing to hide, that the issue would be quickly dealt with and done. WRONG!!!!! Before they were even in the door, one of the workers said "We also understand you homeschool." I confirmed that we do.

Once in the door, the worker said that the initial complaint was about a messy house (it was cluttered, but not any worse than any home with 4 kids), which they spent about 10 minutes talking about. They spent about 2 sentences talking about what I later found out was the real original complaint -- my MIL's mistaken impression that I had left the kids alone one morning because I slept in. Then they spent 90 MINUTES talking about the homeschooling! Just before they left, one of them asked to look around the house. Barry, my husband, was now on the defensive because of all of the homeschooling questions, and said no. She repeated the request 5 or 6 times, with the answer always being "no". Finally she got up and began looking around without permission. But she only looked at the living room, dining room, and kitchen. The workers told us we had 3 days to clean up and they'd be back to check it. If it still wasn't clean, they'd take the kids.

"Fine and dandy," I thought, "It will only take a little while to get the place cleaned up anyway. They could come back in 2 hours and the place will be spotless!", so I agreed to that and they left.

Ten minutes later they were back to take the kids, on the grounds of safety issues because we didn't have those little plastic outlet covers that stop kids from sticking things into them! They said they'd come back in the 3 days to check the place and if it met standards, the kids would be back. They asked about a doctor who could give the kids a routine check that day. We called our family doctor and were told that she was working Emergency that evening and to take them there then.

The kids were taken to Emergency, and Barry and I went along. They were stripped, one by one, in front of the doctor, the social worker, and me, and examined from head to toe for signs of abuse or neglect, while being asked questions to see if I really was teaching them. One question my then 11 yo was asked was "What is Osmosis?" -- something that even the social worker didn't know, and my then 5 yo son was asked several questions about dinosaurs, which is a subject that he never did care about. But because he didn't know enough about that one and only subject, he was considered not being educated. He wasn't even asked about any other subject. It didn't matter that at 5 he could add and subtract double digit numbers and multiply a few single digits! Or that his English language skills were advanced! He didn't know about dinosaurs, so I MUST be ignoring his education!

The baby, Becky, was weighed, and Barry is certain that the scale said "11 lbs. 8 oz.", but the social worker put 7 lbs. something in the report (she wasn't even that small at birth!).

The kids were placed in my in-laws' home, and we had several meetings with FACS workers, during which the homeschooling was discussed endlessly. The day before we expected the kids home, we got a call from the worker stating that there were "new concerns" and the kids wouldn't be coming home after all. A meeting was arranged instead.

The focus of the meeting was the homeschooling. One issue that did come up that was not homeschool related was the weight of the 2 youngest. My soon to be 5 yo, who was 3 at the time, was only in the 5th percentile weight wise but in the 73rd percentile in height -- true to her genes that she got from me. But we told the workers that she WAS under the care of a pediatiatrician in case it was a health issue. They asked for the name and said they'd contact her for a report. They also claimed my 3 month old Becky was underweight and sent her to a doctor of their choosing. She weighed much below what was expected for her age, and I was told to stop breast feeding. However, I did get permission to continue breast feeding but supplement with formula. We also contacted a pediatrician of our own to have her weighed and examined there (recommended by the doctor who did the second weigh in). This doctor weighed her at a normal weight, which meant that if the doctor FACS sent her to had told the truth about what she weighed that day, then the baby would have to have gained 4 1/2 lbs in 2 days! I DON'T THINK SO!

A week after the kids were gone, we asked the worker about them coming home and she said that she still didn't have the report from Sarah's pediatrician, and they couldn't come home until she got it. We waited another week, all the while being pressured daily to stop homeschooling. FACS also referred us to so many outside organizations that benefit kids that we were being visited daily, and sometimes more than one organization would come in a day. Sometimes they would even ride together. At the end of the second week, we asked again about the report on Sarah, and were told that it still hadn't come, despite the worker calling the doctor and reminding her. And so we waited the third week.

After the third week, I asked again and was told that the report still hadn't been received, despite 2 reminders. We were just told "Sometimes doctors take their time with these things". So I thought that maybe if I called the office and explained the urgency of the situation, they would rush it. But when I called, the secretary had no idea what I was talking about! So she put me through to the doctor in case the worker had spoken directly to her. The doctor also didn't know what I was talking about! No report had ever been requested! Barry was irate and called the worker. She said that we were mistaken -- she requested the report from the family doctor, not the pediatrician!

The next day, Becky had an appointment for her 4 month needle, so we asked the doctor about the report. She said that they had NOT requested a report from her, and that if they had, it would not have been legal for her to send it anyway. She also stated that the FACS worker had contacted her asking for a report that the kids needed to be kept out of the home for medical reasons (preferrably signs of abuse or neglect). When she said that there was no such justification, they tried to pressure her into giving it.

The worker had reported that she felt that our kids were "developmentally delayed", and that my MIL had told her that I was, too, to the point that I would be incapable of teaching the kids but my MIL had said the exact opposite -- she was impressed with my intelligence. So the kids were scheduled for testing. We agreed to this because we wanted to co-operate so the kids could come home. At the testing, which consisted of the kids colouring a picture and each being asked 3 or 4 questions, they came to the conclusion that all 4 kids had serious delays and desperately needed intervention. And homeschooling was out of the question. Wanting the kids home, Barry and I finally agreed to put Christine in public school and to think about it for Joshua.

Miraculously, all of the "new concerns" stopped (they had "new, serious concerns" about the welfare of our kids almost daily, and we spent alot of energy shooting down one false accusation after another, and showing that my IQ is 130, so I definitely wasn't "too developmentally delayed to teach the children"), and the kids were suddenly well enough to come home the day after we agreed to the public school!

A few days later, Barry came to me and asked if I would have agreed to public school if we hadn't been pressured into it, and I said no. He said that he wouldn't have either, and he is upset that we were bullied into it. So we agreed to fight for our rights after all.

The worker was furious about this. She also said that she felt that Sarah's speech was delayed and should be tested. She felt that Sarah should be in daycare to help her speech along. We did think long and hard about that, but our lawyer felt that this, too, was connected with the homeschooling -- get all of the kids into the system as early as possible. So we said no to the daycare but yes to the testing.

Although we co-operated in everything except the homeschooling, even to the point that we felt our lives being violated by the amount of outside intervention, the worker said we were being unco-operative and took us to court. The lies in the court documents were astounding!!!!! They said that our toilet was so filthy at the initial visit that you couldn't tell it was white. But the worker hadn't even seen our bathroom! We could prove that she hadn't seen it though, because our toilet was green! The other details, all lies, were gross! Fortunately, we had a witness who had seen the home that day, and our MIL -- the woman who filed the initial report -- came forward to expose the lies.

While waiting to go to court, we had our oldest 2 kids tested independently. The report did not go in FACS' favour! It said that our son, Joshua, was advanced in all but 1 subject, and his Math was at the "gifted" (aka genious) level. Christine does have a learning disability, but homeschooling was recommended for her (the tester's husband is a public school principle, and she is a former teacher, so I know this was an honest opinion!), because even special ed classes couldn't give her the one-on-one time she needs.

FACS was not happy about this, and challenged her credentials. They lied to us about calling her and finding out that she did not specialize in children, but specialized in adults. So I asked why, if that was the case, did she say children in her pamphlets. They lied again and said that she specialized in FAMILIES, not in children individually. But her pamphlet said nothing about adults, and I pointed this out again. The credentials stood up in court.

The day before court, FACS agreed to drop the homeschooling issue if we agreed to co-operate on everything else, including daycare for Sarah. We agreed, but stipulated that we could pull Sarah from daycare if it didn't work out. They agreed to that, but the judge added that the trial had to be at least a year.

The day after court, Sarah's speech was tested, and was perfectly normal for her age. A couple of days later, Becky's development testing was done by one of the agencies FACS had referred us to. She, too, tested normal and the agency dropped us as clients. FACS was ticked and accused us of not co-operating. Barry told the worker that it was Infant Education that terminated the case, not us. She accused us of lying and said she'd call them to check. Then Infant Education called us to say that FACS had told them that we requested to continue, but they didn't see any need. We told them the truth. A few days later the FACS worker was back and conceded that it really was Infant Education who closed the case.

The homeschooling issue was dropped from the visits for about a month, then started up again because of "new reports" that the kids were not being taught. A boldfaced lie. I got mad and showed them the workbooks. But the pressure to stop homeschooling continued. And FACS poo pooed our complaints about all of the lies.

Then we got a break. We got a new worker (our 3rd), who was a born again Christian and who refused to lie. The case turned around in our favour. He still didn't like the homeschooling, but didn't lie or pressure us. He also left us alone for weeks at a time, and I got the feeling that he only stayed involved because the court said we had to be involved for a year.

But then he had to quit because of a family emergency. The new worker didn't lie, either, but she only lasted for 2 visits. Then we got a new worker again. She also didn't lie, but did put the pressure on again about the homeschooling.

When the year was almost up, the worker began making noise about getting the kids retested, and when we said we didn't have the money (this time the tester wanted $300 up front), she said she'd see if FACS would pay for it, then kept stalling about checking (our lawyer feels she was going to use it as an excuse to get another year on the supervision order).

But I had checked around to look for a lawyer who would take a case on contingency (the lawyer gets no money up front, but gets a percent of any awards he gets for the client), to sue FACS and the original worker who lied and had the kids taken. Unfortunately, it is not legal for a lawyer to take such a case in Canada (one lawyer told me this).

One day the FACS worker and I were talking about lawyers, and I mentioned this. Suddenly, the next day, we were told that FACS would be dropping our case in court.

When we were in court for the review, the lawyers got in dig after dig after dig about the homeschooling, but did drop the case. Their lawyer apologized to the judge for the short notice on the change of petition, but explained that they were originally going to seek an extension because they were concerned about homeschooling issues, but changed their minds because "homeschooling is not our jurisdiction". Funny that they just happened to draw that conclusion the day after I mentioned trying to hire a lawyer to sue!

Darlene Wigston

Here is a Canada Court Watch version of the story (pdf).