Lynn Paddock

Social Services recommends stricter monitoring of homeschools

The North Carolina Department of Social Services released its report on four year old Sean Paddock’s death last week. (If you are unfamiliar with the case, I’ve included a summary at the end.) Most of the report makes recommendations for needed reforms considering the failures of the Department of Social Services in this case, however, some reforms of homeschooling are also sought.

From the report (link will start a download):

Findings #5:

  • According to the Department of Non-Public Instruction’s web site, Lynn Paddock had a registered home school, Benjamin Street School.
  • The Department of Non-Public Instruction is unable to make site visits to monitor and support home schools’ compliance with state policy due to limited funding and oversight resources.
  • Home schooling may contribute to social isolation if children are not involved in outside activities and adoptive parents are not utilizing post adoptive services.
  • The Division of Social Services began to gather statistics related to specific school situations in child protective services in May 2006.

Recommendations #5:

  • The Department of Non-Public Instruction should conduct a study regarding a Needs Assessment and pursue funding to support increased monitoring and oversight to home schools.
  • The State Fatality Review Team supports the continued efforts of the Division of Social Services in regard to the gathering of statistics related to specific school situations in child protective services.
  • The State Fatality Review Team recommends that the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner begin to track school status at the time of death and make available this information on a yearly basis to the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force and the state-level North Carolina Child Fatality Prevention Team.

It is perhaps interesting to note that the child who died in this case was not of compulsory attendance age, however he did have two older siblings who were being similarly abused. Hopefully, the abuse would have been spotted had the children been attending school. Perhaps not a given when Social Services itself seemed to have difficulty recognizing a potentially abusive situation when it was brought to their attention prior to the children’s placement with the family.

In January 2005, Sean returned from his first visit with the Paddocks with bruises on his backside. Social workers determined that the child must have fallen off a bunk bed, just as Paddock said.

Sean and his older siblings told social workers that Paddock had whipped Sean for playing with the family dog, according to a report released after his death by Wake County Child Protective Services.

“It’s like they were just rushing to get them off the books,” said Ford, who took in Sean and his older brother and sister after they were taken from their parents.” News Observer (article deleted)

I am also curious how the Department of Non-Public Instruction is supposed to “monitor and support home schools’ compliance with state policy.” I am not familiar with North Carolina homeschool law, but it seems that all that is involved with monitoring compliance is filing paperwork. The only inspection I see in the law is the occasional checking of standardized test scores. Even if the Department effectively monitored every homeschool, I fail to see how this would stop any abuse cases.

The bit about social isolation seems out of place in the findings, but I guess so long as we are bringing homeschooling into the child death case, we may as well bring up socialization as well. Then comes The Study. Nebraska has such a study as well, but ours isn’t packages so neatly as a “Needs Assessment.” “Needs Assessment” sounds like there is a chance for the researching body to come to the conclusion that additional oversight is not actually needed. Unlike here in Nebraska, where the sole purpose is to figure out how to increase oversight. Somehow, I doubt the end result will be much different if it proceeds, however.

And I don’t really mind “school situation” being noted in child death cases. It could yield some interesting information for the public discussion. But whoever is compiling the statistics needs to be perfectly honest about who is schooled, pushed out, truant and homeschooled.

Some case history:

Sean Paddock’s story is sad, as all child abuse cases are, and has resulted in quite a stir among homeschooling blogs. In fact, this is the case which spawned the boycott against Homeschoolblogger. He died at the hands of his adoptive mother who had tied him to the bed with several thick blankets. Sean suffocated and died in Febr He also had new and old bruises covering his back from being “disciplined” with a “small, flexible pipe.” His older brother and sister also suffered these whippings. Lynn Paddock, it seems, had gone searching for help with Christian discipline, stumbled upon the materials by Michael and Debi Pearl, and used (or misused) them to abuse the children. But then, if her testimony is accurate, she did not need to look far to find this sort of parenting philosophy. She appeared to have been raised at the other end of a PVC pipe herself. Bruising all and murdering one.

Also important to note is that Social Services had received other reports on this family which were perhaps made more complicated by coming from different counties, but the reports started even before the official placement as young Sean came back to the foster home with bruises and (along with his siblings) reported that the Paddock’s had spanked him for trying to play with the dog.  Corporal punishment is generally illegal for all foster situations, and leaving bruises is whether or not you are fostering.

The prosecution sought first degree murder charges, but not the death penalty. She was convicted.

And last week, another homeschooled boy died at the hands of his parents. Tied to a tree overnight. It is a sick world we live in.

Hat Tip: the blog formerly known as HE&OS