Why We Fear the Child Snatchers: An Anonymous Story
HA note: The author of this piece has asked to go nameless to ensure anonymity.
I decided to write this post anonymously, to respect my family’s privacy regarding the subject I will be addressing.
I wrote a post for Homeschoolers Anonymous. My parents know. They are supportive. They understand, after years of homeschooling, that there are some crazy people who believe some really crazy things in homeschooling.
I love that they not only understand that, but readily acknowledge it. My parents, like many other homeschooling parents, got sucked into the system. But they broke free, as I did as well.
We’ve been talking a lot lately about HA, in fact. It’s been good. Healing, really. It’s one thing to get affirmation from your peers that you’re not crazy (a watershed moment). But getting affirmation from your parents?
Anyways. So word got around that I contributed to HA. I was never secretive about it. But some people assumed that, since I contributed to HA, I was accusing my parents of child abuse.
Which is weird, because I never said that. I would never say that.
Sure, my parents got sucked into an abusive culture. But I would never say they abused me.
But some people started talking. And that talk got around to my mom. Someone approached her and asked her if she was doing ok.
“What do you mean?”
“You know, with your kid accusing you of child abuse.”
My mom freaked out. She immediately came to me and told me about this.
“I support what you’re doing, but I am terrified!”
“Terrified of what?”
She told me about the previous conversation.
I said, “I never accused you of abuse.”
She said, “I know. But they could take away your brother!”
I have a younger brother, still a minor, thought almost legally an adult.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Who would take him away?”
“The CPS! Someone who doesn’t like us could read what you wrote and the CPS could take him away!”
I was confused.
“But I don’t understand. I only wrote one thing for HA, and I said you were good parents. I said I found the culture abusive, not you.”
“But they could misinterpret that and use it against us! I support HA, but I need to protect your brother, too!”
“Who is they this time? I don’t understand.”
“But… All us kids love you. I would defend you in court. Why would it even go to court? You have one kid at home who isn’t even being homeschooled anymore. And he hasn’t been spanked in probably half a decade. And he’s the most socially adjusted kid in the family. Seriously, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“You don’t know the CPS like we do.”
At this point I was no longer confused. I was simply not following. My family has never interacted with the CPS during my homeschooling experience.
“What do you mean, know the CPS?”
“You might not be aware of this, but the CPS hates homeschoolers. They take kids away.”
Well, I was aware of that line of thinking. But in my entire life of being homeschooled from K-12, we never knew a family that got threatened by the CPS on the grounds of homeschooling. All we knew about such situations was from HSLDA’s e-lerts and Court Reports. In my adult years, I know CPS employees. I even know former homeschoolers that work for the CPS.
But my mom was nonetheless terrified. Despite all her kids but one being graduated with undergraduate (and even graduate) degrees, and the last kid not even being homeschooled, despite the fact that none of us were abused, despite the fact that the CPS wouldn’t even bother with an allegation based on an anonymous tip based on a misinterpretation of a blog post based on general issues not specific to my family, my mom was terrified.
My mom was not terrified because she is gullible. My mom is very thoughtful and perceptive. In all honesty, I understand her fear. See, we were daily bombarded by HSLDA e-lerts telling people the CPS had it out for homeschoolers. CPS workers were the minions of Satan — even worse, they were the minions of secularism. We were trained by my parents how to answer “worried” (read: secular, Satanic busybodies) individuals — neighbors, distant relatives, the grocery store clerk who saw us with our mom during “school hours.” Everyone I knew, universally, feared the CPS. If homeschoolers actually had campfires and told ghost stories in the dark of night, they would tell stories of the CPS — those diabolical child snatchers who rose from the pits of Hell to eat the souls of Christian youth.
This isn’t by any means an experience unique to me. Consider this post from The Eighth and Final Square, entitled, “we were taught to fear the people who could help”:
When we were kids, we heard the horror stories…the kids who were taken away from their parents because they were spanked; the kids who were taken away from their parents because they were playing outside during school hours; the kids who were taken away from their parents because they were Christians; the kids who were taken away from their parents just because they homeschooled. Even Frank Peretti wrote a book about a single dad whose children were taken away because he was a Christian and the demon possessed people thought he molested them.
From a very young age (actually, probably when I started school), we were instilled with a fear of CPS. We were told we had to make our beds or CPS would take us away because we had no sheets. We were told we had to keep our rooms clean because CPS would take us away if our rooms were messy. When those threats didn’t work, my dad took further measures.
This blogger’s dad even preyed upon that fear as a manipulation tactic:
He was trying to get us to do something better or more than we were doing already. We were in the living room. I’m sure he had lectured us, and I don’t even remember what led up to it, but he said something like “because you didn’t do ‘x’ I’m going to call CPS on you and they’re going to take you away.” We were immediately terrified, but I thought he was making a sick joke. Then he went into the other room, to get the phone off mom’s desk. By then, Ben, Joe, and I were completely freaking out and sobbing. One of the boys, I think it was Ben, hid behind the couch. I don’t remember what mom was doing, and my memory of looking at dad is a little fuzzy because of my terror and the tears, but I think I remember him laughing, or at least smiling.
It’s hard to shake this sort of fear when it is daily reinforced from all the people you look up to in life. Years later, it still leaves residue on your brain:
At the end of August (I escaped July 4/5th), an anonymous tipster called CPS on my parents and when I heard about it the terror came rushing over me again. Even though I had just escaped from all sorts of abuse and toxicity, I was terrified my younger siblings would be taken away from my parents and would be separated. Of course my parents followed standard HSLDA procedure (don’t let them in, call HSLDA right away, don’t let them talk to the kids individually alone), and nothing came of it. I wonder what would have happened if HSLDA wasn’t around, and the kids had been allowed to talk to CPS workers alone. Probably still nothing, because even if they hate it, they are still brainwashed to defend my parents. I was.
This fear that so many of us share is not based on reality.
This is based on HSLDA consistently and vehemently telling us to fear the CPS.
Feel free to call the CPS extremists and vigilantes. But the CPS is extreme and vigilant about one thing: protecting kids. And we do them no good by vilifying them. The business of protecting kids is one of the most complicated, intense, and bureaucratic jobs out there. From my experience, the CPS is more in danger of being inadequate than it is of being overreaching. Even HSLDA attests to this, painting (accurately or not) the more publicized “homeschool abuse” stories as CPS failures rather than homeschooling failures.
And for the record, HSLDA has done good stuff, too. So don’t worry about telling me they’ve done good stuff. I know. I’ve read just about every HSLDA e-lert and Court Reports that exists. HSLDA does good stuff, too. There. I said it.
But this is one of the not-so-good legacies HSLDA is leaving — convincing innocent families that the CPS is a bunch of marauding child snatchers. Convincing kids that their potential lifelines are the stuff from which nightmares are made.
So thank you, Michael Farris, for inadvertently convincing my parents that me speaking out about my homeschooling struggles could get my brother taken away.