Last fall Helene Richards, a home-schooling mother of four children, was the subject of an anonymous tip on a child abuse hotline. As reported in an earlier edition of the Court Report, charges against this Dothan, Alabama, mother resulted in a trial court ruling that social services workers could inspect the Richards’ home and have the children evaluated by both doctors and psychologists.
This extensive intrusive action was based solely on an anonymous rumor breathed into a telephone. HSLDA appealed the trial court’s ruling to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. At the same time HSLDA asked for a stay to halt the child neglect investigation which the court immediately granted.
On August 28, 1992, in the first case of its kind in the nation, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals ruled that our arguments were correct and held that an invasion of the parent’s home was a violation of the family’s legal right to privacy.
The Court of Civil Appeals ruled that Alabama law was written to protect the constitutional rights of families to privacy. The court further stated that unless the child abuse workers had evidence sufficient to obtain a search warrant under the normal rules of law, they could not barge into a family’s home against their will.
This means that social workers will be required to follow the same rules of law that the police have always used; they must have to have reliable evidence before they can enter people’s homes.
There are over 1.4 million false child abuse allegations filed against families each year. Children are taken from homes or frightened and intimidated for no good reason. This decision by the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals will begin to ensure that children are protected from an unnecessary invasion of their privacy and a disruption of their lives.
Real abuse supported by reliable evidence can still be investigated. Phony abuse charges unsupported by any evidence will have to cease.
We rejoice with Helene Richards over the favorable outcome of her case and we praise God for this landmark victory for parent’s rights!
Please pray. Social services can still appeal this decision to the Alabama Supreme Court.