My ten years of research have finally paid off. My article in the February 1991 Chronicles, “In Loco Parentis: The Brave New Family in Missouri,” has led to nationwide opposition to the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program that began here in Missouri. As a result of this article, I have been over whelmed with hundreds of letters, phone calls, and requests for radio and television interviews from citizens and state and national legislators who arc concerned about the prospects of a PAT program in their state.
For the uninitiated, the PAT program was begun in Missouri in 1981, ostensibly for the purpose of curbing the high dropout rate and winning back parental support for the public-school system. In 1985 the state legislature mandated that the PAT program be offered to all schools and children in Missouri, and since then the PAT program has been proposed in at least forty other states. Simply put, the program pivots on as signing to all parents and children a “certified parent educator.” This state employee evaluates the child (under the and initiates a computer file that the state will use to track the child for the rest of his or her life. All of the computer code designations label the child to some degree “at risk,” and there is no classification for “normal.” The state agent conducts periodic home and school visits to check on the child and the family, dispersing gratis such things as nutritional counseling, mental-health services, and even food. Schools under the PAT program provide free day-and overnight-care. The “certified parent” might forbid the biological parents to spank their child, and might prescribe, if the child is deemed “unhappy,” psycho logical counseling or a drug such as Ritalin. If the parents refuse the recommended services or drugs, the state may remove the child from the home, place him in a residential treatment center, and force the parents to enroll in family counseling for an indefinite period.
It should come as no surprise that the PAT program is also billed as a child abuse prevention program, and the “par ent educators” as child abuse investigators. A couple of years ago I visited 17 Department of Family Services offices around Missouri to find out what these investigators considered “abuse.” One man listed as a risk factor families who are part of a subculture, but he couldn’t define a subculture. Another said, “Any instrument other than the hand is a weapon and that is child abuse.” “Having a dirty house or diaper rash is neglect,” chimed another. And one investigator openly admitted, “We don’t have checklists [to determine risk or abuse] or anything like that.”
These statements should be clear indications of how frightening and threatening the state bureaucracy has become and how close parents are to losing to the state complete control over their children. Sample, for instance, many of the problems homeschoolers now face. Kathy, a home-educating mother, was having a birthday party for her oldest daughter, age 16, when a state agent knocked at her door. It was 8:30 at night. Kathy only opened the door part way to keep the dog inside, but that didn’t stop the state agent. The agent, whom Kathy calls “a big bruiser,” shoved her shoulder against the door, banging it against the wall, and barged in. The children were terrorized, interrogated, and threatened with removal from their home if they didn’t cooper ate. Two days later another agent, equally abusive and with all the same threats hut without a forced entry, did the same thing. The Missouri Department of Social Services (the SS) claims that the second visit was a mistake and that the forced entry didn’t happen. But the children and their mother, who have been home-educating for eight years, re main firm in their report of the facts, and elected officials are investigating. The case against this family was unsubstantiated.
Another mother of eight children, Corissa, refused to submit to a room by-room search of her home and an interrogation of her children. Corissa reasoned that since the anonymous hot-line allegation simply stated that Corissa “had two jobs and didn’t have enough time to educate her children at home,” the law was on her side. Corissa didn’t have any job outside her home except to aid a crippled neighbor with bathing and housekeeping. The children ac companied their mother most of the time. That didn’t stop the state agents. They got the police and a juvenile office to terrorize the whole family, and eventually Corissa and all of the children (even the ones who had a fever and an earache) were forced to go to the county welfare office for interrogation. The case against this family was unsubstantiated.
These intrusions don’t go unnoticed by homeschoolers in Missouri and else where. Nor do we ignore the bravery of the women who most often are the first line of protection for their families since the dads are usually at work. The Missouri Families for Home Education organization (FHE) at its June 1991 convention, attended by over six hundred home-educating parents, presented these women with a “Mother Bear Award” to salute their courage and hon or their bravery. The director of FHE asked those in the audience who had been “hot-lined” in the past to raise their hands. Over half the audience responded.
I recently discovered some interest ing details about the PAT program that have hitherto been unpublicized. Most enlightening was a May 11 meeting l had with three of the PAT program’s biggest supporters: U. S. Senator Christopher Bond, who was the governor of Missouri when the PAT program began; attorney Cary Cunningham, chairman of the board of directors for the PAT National Center and Missouri Governor John Ashcroft’s appointee to the Missouri State School Board, where he serves as president; and Mildred Winter, executive director of the PAT National Center. Those at the meeting from the private sector included Donna Hearne, radio talk-show host and for mer appointee of President Reagan to the National Institute on Education (NIE); Lois Linton, wife of Missouri State Representative Bill Linton; and myself.
The first question was directed to Senator Bond: “Why did Dr. Burton White [whose Harvard Preschool Project was the basis for PAT] resign from the Parents as Teachers program?” Senator Bond replied that Dr. White didn’t get the money he wanted. The reason for Dr. White’s resignation was not discussed again, even when Mildred Winter read specific quotes from Dr. White’s national newsletter. It became clear that when Dr. White says the pro gram, or any aspect of it, might be good, he will be quoted as an authority. But when Dr. White vehemently protests against the effectiveness of the program as now exported from Missouri, when he objects to the deception of the public as to the worth or validity of his re search, which he states cannot support PAT’s claim to help “high-risk families,” the PAT proponents insult him and charge that his motive for leaving the program is greed.
During an insipid discussion about whether properly administered spanking constituted child abuse, and all parties agreed that it did not, Senator Bond acknowledged that on an occasion or two he had spanked his only child, Sam. While pretending to write down Senator Bond’s harmless admission I said, “Now, just where is it that you live, Senator?” Senator Bond turned sharply to me and said that if I was planning to intimidate him with a charge of child abuse for his admission . . . I quickly interrupted him and tried to calm him. “Senator, I was joking. It’s all right. It was only a joke. I didn’t mean to frighten you.” I had made my point.
From this episode, which I had intended to be lighthearted, I concluded that Senator Bond was nervous. He later admitted that I and my article had aroused powerful opposition to his Sen ate bill to provide $100 million to fund the PAT program nationwide. He stated that his bill might be killed, and if that occurred, he suggested ominously, we might get something worse. It was also clear that Bond isn’t comfortable speaking for his PAT program without plenty of help. Even when he demanded equal time to rebut my comments on an earlier appearance on “Point of View,” a Christian radio talk show hosted by Marlin Maddoux in Dallas, he sought the help of Arthur Mallory, former Missouri Commissioner of Education, who appeared on the show with him.
Maddoux and I had agreed publicly on a previous radio program that the American public should know about the clangers of sending state agents of the PAT program into homes to tell parents how to rear their children in accordance with state policies, and that one of the dangers inherent in the PAT program is that if parents don’t comply with state policy and referrals, they may very well find themselves struggling to disentangle themselves from a false charge of child abuse or neglect. Senator Bond told me that he didn’t share these views, and that he didn’t like his own performance on the radio show, admitting that he had sought Mallory’s help. Bond went further and stated that he was using Arthur Mallory to try to recruit churches to sup port the PAT program, but that Mallory was having a hard time getting churches involved. No surprise there.
At one point Mildred Winter read from her notes a little vignette about a poor, illiterate woman with a large family and several blind children, who purportedly was helped by the PAT program. I responded by pointing out that there are already many social service agencies that address such cases and that my objection is that the PAT program links perfectly normal, healthy young parents to the state’s social services referral system, thereby developing a whole new welfare-dependent class. Winter went on to say that because there are so many “at risk” children, something must be done to get them to school, “ready to learn.” I said that I was very glad she brought that up, he cause I had heard that she had told people that the “Risk factor Definitions” that identify “at risk” children through PAT’s Planning and Implementation Guide (PIG) are no longer used. “Have you recalled the definitions?” I asked. She seemed confused. “Have you writ ten a letter to all of your ‘parent educators’ telling them to remove the ‘Risk Factor Definitions’ from the PIG?” “Mildred,” I said, “your answer is ‘no.”‘ I had been to the homes of many “parent educators” who not only still had the “Risk Factor Definitions” in their PIGs, but who were very familiar with them.
Mildred continued to refer to “at risk” families throughout the meeting, and so I finally asked her where I could find the definition of “at risk.” She said there wasn’t any definition but that it could be found “in the literature.” I repeated, “What do you call ‘at risk,’ Mildred?” She said a young mother who hadn’t finished high school, or who had had a baby before she was twenty, could be “at risk.” I thought about the fact that my first child was born when I was 19. Although I had finished high school, chose to begin my family rather than seek a career outside my home. I never realized that I or my baby had been potentially “at risk.”
During a lull in the meeting, I remembered how difficult it had been for me to find out who Mildred Winter worked for, and so I asked her. She stammered, said something about the Department of Education, and told me that the office for Parents as Teachers National Center is at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. She was struggling. As if to rescue her, Senator Bond’s administrative assistant, a Ms. Digmann, leaned across the table toward Winter and said, “Mildred, you work for the Danforth Foundation.” This was the only time Ms. Digmann spoke during the entire two-hour meeting. (When I returned home I checked the Official Missouri Manual. The 1991-1992 issue states that Mildred Winter works for the University of Missouri System for an annual salary of $44,040. If Ms. Digmann is correct, one must wonder how Winter divides her time and paycheck with the Danforth Foundation-and her loyalty.)
I then asked Mildred, “Is PAT providing $15.00 for each child in the program to he tested for vision and hearing?” She said she wasn’t sure, that the school districts provide for the screening, and . . . I interrupted, “Okay, then let’s just assume that the literature you produce is accurate when it says screening is $15.00 per head. My question then is, why are private groups screening children for only $1.80 per head for vision and hearing?” Mildred mumbled something about “credentials” and “treatment,” and I said that I was referring to the basic screening. To draw her into my sights I said, “The facts are that when a lot of children are screened, some of them will be identified with a problem.” We all agreed.
Then I made my point. I explained that I have a taped interview with a man who formerly screened children for the PAT program and Head Start, and who now has his own business doing private vision and hearing screening using the same equipment and tests that are used for both programs. He left the PAT programs because he was told that he must produce a 20 percent failure rate, and this he couldn’t do in good conscience. He explained to me that the failure rate for vision can run about 4 to 6 percent he cause some kids want glasses and fake their screenings. He re-screens at no extra charge to weed out the mistakes. The hearing screenings are more accurate, about a 2 to 4 percent failure rate, because kids don’t fake their hearing tests. However, sometimes a bad cold will distort hearing for a few weeks and retesting often exposes a false failure, preventing parents from taking their children for expensive and unnecessary medical evaluations. He told me a lot more about the fraud in the system that I didn’t impart to my uninterested audience. Nor did I tell them about the not-so-subtle offer to supply him with brand-new testing equipment, stored in St. Louis, at a price far below market value, if he would simply comply with the state’s wish for a 20 percent failure rate. I asked him why there was so much excess equipment available. He said that when school budgets have money leftover, they buy testing equipment they don’t need simply to use up the budgeted money, explaining that it’s easy to make excessive purchases of testing equipment because nobody questions a purchase of equipment that is supposed to screen little kids for “developmental delays.” I asked this man, on tape, why he didn’t buy the equipment at a low price and just walk away happy. “Ma’am,” he said, “my mamma taught me that if [a deal] doesn’t feel right, I’d better not do it.” Bond had left the meeting and wasn’t party to the information about the testing scam, hut I reported the above information to one of his staffers in Washington a couple of months ago. His staffer didn’t react at all until I challenged him for not being concerned. The staffer said that if I sent him some documentation, he might look into it. To date, no response.
At one point in the meeting Lois Linton showed us an article from the Schlafly Education Reporter about the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The article reported explicit examples showing the organization’s bias against Christians and in favor of a lesbian/homosexual world view. Linton stated that she was concerned with the NAEYC’s involvement with writing a national curriculum for PAT or any other early childhood program. Bond denied any connection with the NAF.YC and its influence on early childhood education, a national curriculum, or PAT. I then reminded them of their cozy relationship with the NAEYC. “Don’t you remember,” I asked Mildred, “when I was at the board meeting with you and the NAEYC? You were acting as a liaison for the governor’s office.” Mildred claimed she didn’t remember. Funny, her memory came back to her when I reminded the group that I was at the meeting with a tape recorder, and that I’d be happy to play the tape for them. At one point in the meeting attorney Cary Cunningham said that the PAT program has 501 (c)(3) status, meaning a tax-exempt, not-for-profit corporation. When I got home my husband remind ed me that a 501 (c)(3) must have a registered agent in the state and, since it is a Missouri corporation, we could find the name of the registered agent through a phone call to the Secretary of State’s office. And here we hit pay dirt. The registered agent for Parents as Teachers National Center is Robert Bart man, Missouri’s commissioner of education, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Looking back in to my files I found a news release from the Missouri Eagle Forum calling for Bartman’s resignation. It read, “Alluding to the overwhelming defeat of Proposition 13, the $385 million tax in crease for education, Bartman told a Missouri joint legislative committee that in order to deal with the situation, legislators should raise taxes by ‘using their authority within a state constitutional cap that doesn’t require a vote of the people.'” (Italics added.) The “PAT-on-the-back club” had definitely found a way to function without a vote of the people.
For further information about the PAT National Center I called Kerry Messer, a lobbyist in the Missouri capitol for the Missouri Family Network, and asked if he would get me a copy of PAT’s not for-profit papers, and added, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if Senator Bond is one of the officers?” The next day I learned that the directors of the private, not-for profit corporation-the Parents as Teachers National Center-include 22 influential people, not the least of whom arc: John Ashcroft, governor of Missouri (R); Christopher Bond, U.S. senator from Missouri (R); Richard Gephart, U.S. congressman from Missouri, House Majority Leader (D); and Ed Ziegler, Yale University early childhood education specialist and social planner whose “75 to 100 billion dollar” total child-care plan is aimed for “hill service schools” that would transform schools into the central delivery point for the cradle-to grave socialism that is failing around the world.
I then looked at the copyrights on the two copies of my Parents as Teachers, Planning and Implementation Guides. One stated, “I 989 copyright, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education”; the second, “1990 copyright, Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Parents as Teachers National Center.” Senator Bond and his private “PAT-on the-back club” now jointly own the copyright on the Parents as Teachers Planning and Implementation Guide.
What is going on? Why does a tax exempt state department need a tax-ex empt, not-for-profit private corporation? How can we have taxpayer-controlled public schools if they are run by a private corporation whose directors the taxpayers cannot vote out of office? What did the child psychiatrist who spoke at the NAEYC convention in 1982 mean when he said, “This (the PAT program] has never been tried in a free country be fore and nobody knows how it’s going to tum out”? On page four of the PAT National Center’s incorporation papers are these ludicrous words: “No substantial part of the activities of the [PAT] Corporation shall be the carrying on of propaganda, or otherwise attempting to influence legislation . . . ” Ashcroft, Bond, and Gephart don’t and won’t influence legislation?
I then called Glenn Modracek in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Glenn is on the Republican Central Committee in his county and a member of the Grace Commission Government Waste Watch. He heard me on the Jan Michaelson radio talk show there, and we’ve kept in touch ever since. I asked him whether it was ethical or legal for a U.S. senator and a U.S. congressman to introduce legislation asking for $100 million to fund a private corporation of which they are the directors. (Both Senator Bernd and Congressman Gephart have proposed in their respective houses $100 million for PAT programs nation wide.) He is as perplexed and rankled about this whole thing as I am, and he has taken this information to the Re publican Central Committee and distributed it among his friends. In fact, after reading proposed legislation from Iowa designed to implement the PAT program, Glenn is more than concerned: he’s angry.
A letter and accompanying documents faxed to me in May from Pamela Wolfe in Las Cruces, New Mexico, served to fan the flames of Glenn’s dis content. The documents concerned the parents’ handbook from Primero Los Ninos, a local daycare center that operates under the PAT program. I scanned the pages quickly for the documentation I most feared. Parents who participate in this PAT-run daycare are required to sign a “custody form” stating, “Legal custody refers to the right and responsibility of an individual or agency to make decisions on behalf of a child in matters such as education, medical treatment and place of residence.” “Physical custody refers to the right and responsibility of a person or agency to provide immediate care for their child.” Since these all-encompassing “custody” requirements are imposed on many parents who desperately need daycare, and because they go dangerously beyond the normal limits of a simple medical release form, Wolfe asked a former attorney general from New Mexico, Hal Stratton, for his opinion. Mr. Stratton, writes Wolfe, believes neither “the handbook, nor its assigned ‘custody form’ could likely be the sole source for custody change for a child, as a judge’s order is required by law. He did indicate concern over the wording, feeling that the center might be able to use the signature as concurrence of the parent for a custody change in the application for change with the courts.”
My thoughts go back to the first Governor’s Conference on Children and Youth, where my journey into the inner sanctum of early childhood education and its professionals began. I wrote my first report about this in 1981. The professionals in this field said then that they wanted the professional management of all children with parents to act only as caretakers. A keynote speaker told the conferees how wonderful things were in China, where children go to school all week long and only go home on week ends. And I learned from these professionals that the way unwilling parents could be forced to participate in the state’s child/family management system was through the referral of a profession al or a charge of child abuse or neglect.
One of the “services” provided by the Las Cruces center’s early childhood education program is a “continuous review of health records,” and we now know that if parents don’t comply with state recommended “services” for physical and mental socialization, they can be forced to comply by a simple call to any state child abuse or neglect hot-line. The charge? Medical neglect or emotional abuse, which may suggest a need for a change in a child’s place of residence.
Proposed legislation in Iowa for the implementation of the state’s version of the PAT program provides for the constant surveillance of parents by a state agent, a parent educator called a “re source mother,” who will police every aspect of an “at risk” parent’s involvement with his or her own child. Some people might think that “at risk” par ents arc those who take drugs, produce defective cocaine-addicted babies, beat their children, or do some other vile act. This is only partially true. Those kids certainly are “at risk,” but so are millions of children and young parents who are being recruited into this outrageous and dangerous program.
The state’s desire to track our children and control our families was recently confirmed by pediatrician and PAT-supporter Dr. C. Arden Miller. As he explained at the PAT-sponsored conference on “Ready or Not: Ensuring Good Beginnings for Children” held in St. Louis last June, because “all families need help [and some] families need more help than others,” the PAT program has set three national priorities: one, to expand the participation of children in state-run preschool programs like Head Start; two, as reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, to “create a system to follow infants from birth through childhood to ensure that they get necessary immunizations and preventative health care”; and three, to “make sure every child born is wanted,” by which he meant the need for more federal family-planning clinics and a reduction of the restrictions on legal abortions. The PAT conference was supposedly organized to advance President Bush’s Education 2000 plan, but how are we to reconcile the President’s anti-abortion position with the PAT program’s call for more legal abortions?
Mildred Winter continues to claim that the PAT program is “voluntary.” Don’t believe it. It isn’t voluntary to you, the taxpayer who funds the pro gram, and to the many young and inexperienced parents who are unaware that they are being drawn into the black hole of national socialism. But, of course, it couldn’t happen here . . .