I have really mixed feelings when I read stuff from places such as Homeschoolers Anonymous or Coalition for Responsible Home Education. Both of those are projects by former homeschoolers, and I absolutely think it's important to talk about the far right religious homeschooling, homeschooling that's often very abusive, patriarchal, and just does severe damage to those who grow up in such an environment. I think anyone who's been involved in the broader home education community knows some families who you at the very least suspected hit their children, severely limited access to information and people who shared any different views from their parents, and just in no way seemed to be doing a good job of home education. That's a great wrong, and children in those types of situations deserve so much better. Conversations about this should definitely be happening.
But... Where I start agreeing less is the assumption, sometimes straight out stated and sometimes just implied, that the government, and child protection services, has the best interests of children at heart, and does a good job of protecting children. Whereas my experience as a teenager, knowing multiple schooled families where I knew abuse was happening (in my teens I wasn't involved in the homeschooling community anymore), was that in some cases those who tried to seek help didn't get it. One kid I knew with a physically and emotionally abusive father actually called themselves to report that abuse, and weren't believed because they'd been diagnosed with a mental illness, and were thus deemed to be "crazy" and lying. And the stories of trauma in foster placements abounded. Teens who were removed from their homes seemed, to me, like they ended up in situations as bad as or worse than the family situation they started with. There were multiple difficult situations as a teen where I had to make the call on whether to talk to my parents, or make a report to the police/Quebec's version of CPS about abuses I knew were happening. There ended up being a couple of times difficult calls were made: about suspected hard drug abuse in one case, and my sister once had to make a late night 911 call that may well have saved someones life.
But when it came to abuse? No such calls were ever made. Because to me it felt like I'd be taking the huge risk of putting a friend in worse danger, and a worse situation than the one they were in. I decided then that the only time I'd report abuse to the authorities was if the person being abused wanted me to, or if I believed they were in grave danger.
I can't say I think my teenage self was wrong. The foster system in both Canada and the US is horrible: it's racist (children are removed at much higher rates for various marginalized racial communities, as compared to how often children are removed from white parents for similar abuse), often treats children with disabilities, or who are neuro-atypical, have mental illness, or are queer or trans, especially terribly, and children so often end up being abused in foster homes instead.
Knowing that, how can we say that children suffering in abusive religious homeschooling situations will automatically be better off if the authorities get involved?
I desperately want children to live in safety, to have opportunities to learn and explore, to feel able to express themselves honestly and grow in healthy environments.
The problem then becomes how can we, as individuals, best help those children and teens around us to gain the safety they deserve?
I don't know the answer at all. I just know that I don't trust the system in place that supposedly acts for the good of children anymore than I trust abusive families. That's a hard thing, and I strongly believe that all of us just have to make the best calls we can, using the information we have, in each individual situation we bear witness to (within legal parameters: if you're in a job or position that requires mandatory reporting, to a large extent the decision is taken out of your hands).
I just need to see those websites (whom I honestly believe are doing their best to advocate for children) recognize that reporting won't automatically lead to better safety for kids, before I can truly agree with them.