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August 26, 2005

Spurious Abuse Claim Refuted

Coming home at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday this summer, the Wall family were puzzled to see a sheriff's car and another car parked in their driveway. As they exited their car, a social worker asked, "Are you James Wall?" After the father acknowledged he was, the social worker said, "We have received a call about possible child abuse in your family."

The shocked parents gathered their family together immediately and prayed. Afterwards, they had their 15 year-old son take their 5 year-old daughter into their home.

The parents asked the social worker about the allegations. She refused to reveal them. The parents decided it was time to call HSLDA.

The family called our after hours phone number, and moments later HSLDA attorney Scott Woodruff was on the phone. Though she had refused to tell the family the allegations, she told Woodruff that the hotline said the son had bruises on his neck and arms and was being locked in his room.

Woodruff then spoke privately to the family and found there was absolutely no truth to the allegations. He advised the family to not permit the social worker to come into their home and not permit her to question their daughter. Instead, the family should allow the social worker to see their daughter and to ask the parents questions, and the son questions, in their presence, but only questions relating to the two allegations.

The family accepted this advice, and the social worker was soon convinced the allegations were groundless. Woodruff stayed on the phone until the social worker and sheriff had left the premises.

The heavy toll on families from investigations of spurious complaints has never been adequately studied. The next day, the 5 year-old was found walking around the house covering one hand with the other. Upon being questioned about this odd behavior, she told her mom she was trying to hide a little cut she had received from a pencil sharpener. She said she was afraid someone would see it and think her mommy had abused her.

A day or two later, the social worker told the family the hotline report also said the family were vegetarians, had a privacy fence and were homeschooling. It is a small consolation that the social worker had the good judgment to realize none of these are evidence of abuse or neglect.