Ostensibly, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) works to keep homeschooling legal. In practice, the organization does much, much more than that. Over a year ago, I wrote a a series on HSLDA and Child Abuse, but HSLDA does more than oppose mandatory reporting laws. The organization also opposes the UN disabilities treaty and Common Core. HSLDA claims to involve itself in these issues out of concern that they could be used to restrict homeschooling. But while HSLDA’s opposition to the UN disabilities treaty and the Common Core is well known, its opposition to other measures and programs is less well known.
Today I am beginning a new series: Things HSLDA Opposes. I will go through HSLDA’s positions on state legislation over the course of 2013 to examine the breadth of programs and measures HSLDA opposes. This series will have relevance far beyond homeschooling, because HSLDA is intertwined with conservative politics and is part of a conservative mentality that is less about protecting parental rights than it is about imposing a laundry list conservative ideals on families whether parents like it or not.
In 2013, Arkansas legislators introduced a proposal to create voluntary home visitation programs, which would allow parents to request home visits from nurses, social workers, and other professionals to promote child health, effective parenting, and school readiness. Here are some relevant excerpts from the bill:
(2) “Home visitation” means voluntary family-focused services that promote appropriate prenatal care to assure healthy births, primarily in the home, to an expectant parent ora parent with an infant, toddler, or child up to kindergarten entry that address:
(A) Child development;
(B) Literacy and school readiness;
(C) Maternal and child health;
(D) Positive parenting practices;
(E) Resource and referral access; and
(F) Safe home environments;
20-78-902. Home visitation programs — Oversight
(a) A home visitation program under this subchapter shall provide face-to-face home visits by nurses, social workers, and other early childhood and health professionals or trained and supervised workers too:
(1) Build healthy parent and child relationships;
(2) Empower families to be self-sufficient;
(3) Enhance social and emotional development;
(4) Improve maternal, infant, or child health outcomes, including reducing preterm births;
(5) Improve the health of the family;
(6) Increase school readiness;
(7) Promote positive parenting practices;
(8) Support cognitive development of children; or
(9) Reduce incidence of child maltreatment and injury.
The bill was so well liked in Arkansas that it passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously. And it’s easy to see why. Studies have found that home visits from a nurse reduce the number of emergency care episodes in infants by 50%.
This bill would create a voluntary home visitation program that provides face-to-face home visits by nurses, social workers, and other early childhood and health professionals to teach parents how to be effective according to state standards. While this would begin as a voluntary program, it is very intrusive and comprehensive and could become a mandatory program for all families in the future.
This is a theme we’re going to see in this series: HSLDA claims to protect and promote parental rights, but in fact works to impose its ideas on parents. Note that HSLDA opposes the voluntary home visitation programs because they are “very intrusive and comprehensive” (isn’t this for the parents themselves to decide) and because it “could become a mandatory program.” But by opposing a voluntary program because they don’t like it and because it could in the future be made mandatory, HSLDA is in practice working to deprive parents of access to a program they might want to access.
In other words, HSLDA is advocating not for widening parents’ range of choices and options but rather for restricting them.
It’s worth noting that I can’t think of any reason to oppose making programs like this mandatory. Parenting young children is a lot of work, and having access to support is important. When I take my children in for checkups, their doctor asks questions about their development and my parenting and answers any questions I might have. Provided a program like this had accountability and proper funding and supervision, it would provide similar support. But HSLDA sees programs like this as such a threat to parents that explaining why they’re a problem is completely unnecessary.
HSLDA appears to have a very individualistic approach to families. In HSLDA’s view, it seems that families should go it alone, or find support in family, church, and community. Finding support in government programs is an automatic problem, a view likely grounded in HSLDA’s extreme small government conservatism.