January 28, 2004

HSLDA Senior Counsel Testifies Before Congress

For 20 years, HSLDA has been on the front lines to protect innocent homeschoolers from being traumatized at the hands of social workers pursuing anonymous tips.

On January 28, Chris Klicka, Senior Counsel of HSLDA had the chance to inform Congress of this ongoing problem. He testified before the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means. The chairman, Representative Wally Herger, verbally indicated his interest in the issue at the hearing.

The Committee was considering ways to reform the child welfare system in light of recent publicized social worker failures involving abused children. Most of the panel of experts at the hearing explained that the way to reform the child welfare system was to spend more money.

Klicka offered Congress a unique way they can save money and enable the child welfare workers to lighten their overwhelming case load.

Klicka proposed that Congress, through its child welfare program funds, require states to eliminate the investigation of anonymous tips (tipsters would have to identify themselves) and penalize intentionally false tipsters.

Klicka summarized the proposals this way in his testimony:

"1) Require all tipsters to reveal their identity and address to the social worker. The social worker will keep this information confidential but warn them of consequences of giving intentionally false information. This will prevent the majority of anonymous tipsters who use the system to hurt people via bogus allegations.

2) Require all states to have a statutory mechanism for victims of intentionally false allegations to pursue the tipsters with criminal charges."

He pointed out that with these requirements, social workers will have far less cases to investigate and the referrals they receive from tipsters will be far more accurate. It will give them the necessary time and attention to investigate real child abuse cases instead of being spread so thin pursuing anonymous tips that usually turn out to be unfounded. Eliminating investigation of anonymous tips will largely stop tipsters from using the system to harass people they do not like or are prejudiced against.

Klicka's testimony was filled with true stories of innocent families being traumatized by anonymous tipsters. For example, in Wisconsin, a homeschool family was reported by an anonymous tipster. Klicka secured a copy of the report by the social worker which said:

The caller was concerned because the children were all thin and thought that removal of food was possibly a form of discipline. The caller thought this discipline may have been a practice of the parents religion which was thought to have been born again. The caller thought that these parents give a lot of money to the church and spend little money on groceries. The callers last, somewhat passing concern, was that [the mother] homeschools her children.

As usual, the anonymous tip was bogus. It is apparent from the report that the caller was biased against both the fact that the family was homeschooling and that they were born again Christians. Yet the social worker insisted pursuing this anonymous tip and demanding entry into the home and interrogate the children.

Outside in the hall, the committee staff told Klicka they were interested in this possiblity and have asked for more data on anonymous tips. Please continue to pray that God will bring to pass some changes in this area.

Links to the Committee website: