The Homeschooling’s Invisible Children (HIC) database project aims to catalog all known cases of crimes against children that have occurred in a homeschool context. HIC serves an important role in furthering CRHE’s mission and vision. The project has several major goals, including the following:
1. Document the types of maltreatment that occur in homeschool settings and their prevalence, identifying common themes and features distinguishing homeschool abuse from the abuse of children who attend school
Each year, researchers and public agencies collect and study information on child maltreatment in all contexts in order to better understand risk and protective factors, causes and effects. The first step to preventing violence is understanding the circumstances under which it occurs. Yet, because the child protection system is designed to rely on children’s school attendance, most researchers have missed the connection between homeschooling and child maltreatment. As an exploratory and descriptive research project on a largely unstudied topic, HIC aims to generate research questions about homeschool abuse and describe its defining characteristics as a first step towards prevention.
2. Draw attention to the continuing need for basic, common-sense reforms to homeschooling policy in order to prevent the maltreatment of homeschooled children and safeguard their rights
The reform of homeschooling laws is sorely needed to protect the rights of homeschooled children. However, in order to inspire these reforms, CRHE must first raise public awareness of the problem. Due to a coordinated effort by parental rights extremists to prevent the collection of data on homeschooling, most people are not aware of the potential for abuse offered by lax homeschool laws. Furthermore, cases of extreme homeschool abuse are often investigated by local officials and reported on by local journalists who have little experience with similar cases and may see these events as a freak occurrence. HIC aims to connect the dots between apparently isolated cases of child maltreatment and point to a larger pattern.
3. Supply evidence for the development of policies and supports that are targeted to maximally benefit homeschooled children and alumni
While homeschooling can be a positive, empowering experience for children whose caregivers have their best interests at heart, it can have disastrous or even fatal outcomes for children when their caregivers use it as a tool to conceal and escalate maltreatment. CRHE aims to reform homeschooling by promoting basic safeguards that prevent abuses like those documented in HIC without hindering the work of responsible home educators. In order to identify these targeted reforms, we need to study how abusive caregivers are currently exploiting the system in order to determine which checks and balances would be most effective at curbing their behavior. CRHE uses the stories in HIC to develop its evidence-based policy recommendations.
4. Contextualize the stories of homeschooled abuse victims, survivors, and their loved ones, assuring them that they are not alone in their experiences
Many homeschool alumni have come forward to bear witness to the extreme abuse they experienced while being homeschooled. Yet despite the stories they have shared on r/HomeschoolRecovery, on the now-archived Homeschoolers Anonymous, and through other venues, homeschool alumni have often been met with dismissal and derision by the homeschooling community. On top of that, most mainstream service organizations and professionals who assist abuse survivors lack an understanding of the depth of the maltreatment experienced by homeschooled children and alumni. HIC provides documentary evidence in support of the stories of homeschool abuse survivors, as well as giving a voice to the homeschooled children who did NOT survive their abuse and will never have the chance to grow up and speak out about it. As homeschooled teen Leelah Alcorn said before her suicide, “My death needs to mean something.”
5. Counter misinformation about child maltreatment in homeschool settings
There are many common misconceptions about the relationship between homeschooling and child maltreatment. For example, you may falsely believe that homeschooling parents would never abuse their children; that abuse could never happen in a particular homeschooling community; that active community participants and those in leadership positions would never abuse their children; that homeschooling is a surefire way to protect your child from violence; that the only perpetrators of child abuse are strangers; that institutions such as churches, schools, and social services are the only problem when it comes to child abuse. HIC provides counterexamples to all of these misconceptions, demonstrating that homeschooled children are no safer in their homes than other children and that abuse occurs in all communities. CRHE supports efforts to prevent child maltreatment wherever it occurs, but as an organization founded and run by homeschool alumni, our focus is on protecting homeschooled children.