I have long been of the opinion that many of the ‘support groups’ for home educators found on the internet, such as the various lists and facebook groups, are more trouble than they are worth for parents; offering advice which ranges from the singularly unhelpful to the positively mischievous. A perfect example of this cropped up recently on the Education Otherwise list. It concerns a mother whose child has received an injury at a time that the family were already the object of interest for social workers.
I mentioned a few days ago about the time that my own daughter received an injury about which I was asked. When these things happen, there are usually two possible courses one may take. The first is to allay fears and let the thing fizzle out. The second is to escalate matters until your family is the focus of enormous interest by the local social services department. I chose the easier of these two options; many home educators seem to prefer the second choice; that of turning the case into a full-blown crisis.
Briefly, the mother of a home educated child asked for help. A social worker had contacted her and visited her home. This woman wanted permission to speak to the child’s GP and the mother granted this. At once, we wonder what prompted such a request, but at any rate, something about the child’s medical history was obviously troubling somebody at social services. Subsequently, the child banged his head. The mother thought no more of this until they were passing the hospital and the child said that he would like to go to A & E because, ‘ he would like to go to A&E to see the doctors and nurses there because they were so nice.’ This is very odd. The mother agreed and after a short visit, they left.
Forty eight hours later, the child claimed to have a pain in his stomach and then passed out for ten minutes. An ambulance was called and the boy was taken to the same A & E department. I am not a doctor or social worker, but already, alarm bells are ringing in my head! If a child becomes unconscious for ten minutes, either there is something seriously wrong or the child or mother is faking it. At one point the kid says that his brain hurts and the next it is stomach. He is keen to talk to doctors and nurses. It will surprise nobody to learn that the social worker who had already visited, asking about the medical records, now got in touch and wished to speak to the family again as a matter or urgency.
Speaking for myself, my main concern at this point would be that either (a.) my child was seriously ill with some neurological disorder or brain damage, or that (b.) he was so desperately anxious to talk to professionals that he was feigning illness. This mother’s chief worry is about the legal rights of social workers to speak to her child or enter her home. Her anxiety is not for her son’s medical condition or anxiety but instead about things such as, ‘What exactly right do the social workers have upon situations as such?’, ‘What legal right do I have in dealing with their inquiry?’, ‘
Do I have a right to ask the social worker to give me at least the option of putting everything in writing via email or letter?’, ‘ How come they could have the right to come without giving me their full name or show me any official written information for the exact allegation?’
What advice has been offered by other members of the list? Here is a sample:
Do not allow any sw to see your child alone.
Never give them consent to have access to any records.
so be firm and refuse any further visits if you do not want them
I can imagine nothing more likely to turn this all into a serious investigation than to adopt a policy of not cooperating now with social workers. There were already concerns about the child’s medical condition and then within forty eight hours, there were two visits to A & E.
What is it with some home educating parents that causes them to offer such mad advice and to do their best to exacerbate any situation like this of which they hear? The welfare of the child is barely mentioned in any of this. All anybody is concerned about is keeping social workers at bay.