German Court Keeps Five Kids Because Parents are Homeschoolers
A homeschooling family in Southern Germany spent six hours in a grueling German Family Court session this week with the hopes of regaining custody of their six homeschooled children, who have been held in state custody since January. After the long and confusing session, the Gorbers regained custody of their 3-year-old son. The judge, meanwhile, retained custody of five other Gorber children now being kept in foster care and youth homes pending a court-ordered psychological evaluation of the parents. The court did allow increased visitation for some of the children up from one hour every two weeks that had been permitted since the children were seized in a surprise raid by the youth welfare office (“Jugendamt”) and police.
In January of 2008, Jugendamt and police officials surrounded the German home of the family while Mr. Gorber visited his wife at a local hospital where she had been admitted due to complications from her pregnancy with her ninth child. The oldest son, age 21, and a daughter, age 20, were not taken by the authorities, but all the other children were removed despite their repeated protests.
The siblings reported that the 7-year-old was gripped around the waist by a youth home music teacher, dragged kicking and screaming across the courtyard and thrown into a van. The terrified 3-year-old clung to his 20-year-old sister so tightly that even the police and Jugendamt could not separate them. Both had to be taken to the youth home, where at last the little fellow’s strength gave out and he could be taken into custody.
The children then received psychological exams which all reported that they were normal and well-functioning. Although these evaluations attested to appropriate parenting, the judge indicated that he was unwilling to allow the other children, all of school age, to return home because he did not believe the father’s assurances that he would enroll the children in school.
Someone who attended the six-hour hearing described the scene as “bedlam in the courtroom, without any attempt by the judge to impose discipline. The parties kept interrupting each other and everyone spoke at once.” Some of the children have reported that their court-appointed attorneys said they will fight to keep them in foster care despite the children’s firmly stated desire to return home to their parents.
Many in Europe are critical of Germany’s Jugendamt. Germany has Europe’s highest incidence of removing children from their homes. A recent article in Germany's Zeitung newspaper showed figures indicating that the removal of children from their homes was up 12.5% this year in Germany while the number of abused children remained the same.
Opponents have accused the child welfare system in Germany of corruption driven by exorbitant payments by the government to children’s homes and foster care providers. This “youth welfare industry” is financed by a 21 billion euro budget. The local operating youth welfare committees include privately owned and for-profit children’s care institutions who participate with legal sanction on the committees with two-fifths of the total vote. No other child welfare system in the world is known to allow this type of intermingling between government and commercial enterprises. Such an intermingling would appear to create a serious conflict of interest.
This is of particular concern to homeschooling families in Germany in light of court decisions and a recent change to the federal youth welfare law that was signed by German President Roland Koch on July 5 of this year. The law, BGB 1666, establishes the standard by which family courts are to determine whether custody of parents can be taken away. The law was changed to make it easier for children to be removed by the Jugendamt when the children are “endangered.” But endangerment is not defined in the law. The highest German courts have ruled that homeschooling is not tolerated because it creates “parallel societies” and is an abuse of parent’s rights. Administrative agencies and courts have stated that the failure to send children to school is by definition “endangerment.”
Until last year, homeschooling families had mostly been harassed with exorbitant fines. This year however, Rosemarie and Juergen Dudek of Archfeldt, Germany were sentenced to three months each in prison for homeschooling. In a previous family court case involving the Dudeks, the judge declined to take away the parental rights of the parents. It was thought that the Dudeks cared for and educated their children too well to justify penal removal of the children under the legal clause “misuse of parental authority.” During the Dudek’s criminal trial the judge ordered a 900 euro fine against the family for not sending their children to school. Not satisfied with this “lenient” sentence, local State Prosecutor Herwig Mueller told Mr. Dudek “you won’t have to worry about paying the fine, because I’m going to send you to jail.” His appeal of the fine resulted in the latest prison sentence for Mr. And Mrs. Dudek.
More homeschooling families have fled Germany as a result of this persecution, as it now appears that family court judges and the Jugendamt are ready and willing to take children away from their parents simply because they are being homeschooled. Nevertheless, “We are greatly encouraged by the thoughts and prayers of American homeschoolers,” said Mr. Dudek in a recent phone conversation with HSLDA Staff Attorney Michael Donnelly. “It gives us hope to know that there are people who have the freedom to educate their own children at home. We so appreciate the letters and notes of encouragement. These letters help us maintain our focus and in seeking God’s will for our family.”
These cases are drawing attention within Germany and across Europe.
Kathy Sinnott, a European parliament member from Ireland, criticized Germany’s treatment of homeschooling and the way the Jugendamt treat non-German families residing in Germany. In a recent press release, Sinnot said “…Germany’s approach to home schooling compromises this [European law on mobility] and forces families to choose between a job and the best interests of the children. The need for family-friendly employment policies must be recognized throughout the EU. We need to have flexibility in the education of children temporarily resident because of work. There is also an issue around the attitude to non-German families in the German children’s courts. I hope the dialogue between the Commission and the German State will resolve this discriminatory situation.”
A member of the SPD party in Bavaria, Germany also stated in a recent radio interview that that “Imprisonment or fines in this matter are absolutely excessive in my opinion, because homeschooling can provide very high-quality outcomes. This topic is definitely one which we must work through politically. There can be no black-white declarations, but we must discuss this without ideological blinders on.” Although encouraging, it will take more than one or two members of state legislatures to effect the needed change.
Donnelly, during a recent trip to Germany to encourage homeschoolers and to work for change, met with the Gorber family as well as with policy and lawmakers at the European Union and in the German State of Baden Wurttemberg.
“This poor, simple family is being crushed by unbearable pressure from the German state’s police power, primarily because they are homeschoolers,” Donnelly said. “This father of nine, a woodworker, told me how difficult this is and the incredible strain it’s placing on his children, his wife and himself. As longtime homeschoolers, they have irritated the local youth authorities who needed only the pretext of the hospitalization of the mother and other exaggerated claims to seize the children.” Donnelly noted that “while there are some policy makers in some of the states who are willing to take on this important issue of human rights, most couldn’t be bothered. It is going to take increased public awareness and international pressure to confront German Society with this outrageous behavior. Unfortunately it looks like more parents will have to go to jail and more children taken into state custody before German public policy makers wake up and do something. It’s very disturbing that Germany can get away with this kind of behavior with such little public comment by other Western governments.”
HSLDA is committed to working with national and international ministries and associations to support German homeschoolers in their fight to be free from persecution. The right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children is a fundamental human right, and HSLDA is grateful for the support of its members to defend this freedom here in the United States and abroad.
If you would like to send a note of encouragement to the Gorber Family write to them at:
I could go on and on about this. It is infuriating, sickening, and disgusting to think that Germany clings to a law that was passed under Hitler 70 years ago, making homeschooling illegal in order to be able to indoctrinate the masses. Below is an article to bring you up to speed on the history (click here for the German version):
In Freedom Learning Is Better
70 Years of compulsory school attendance are enough - this relic has outlived its usefulness
When the national socialistic leadership under Adolf Hitler and Reichsminister Dr. Rust signed the Reichsschulgesetz (Reich/Imperial School Legislation) in Berchtesgaden on July 6, 1938, they could not have imagined that the essential components of this law would remain in force even 70 years later. With the downfall of the so-called 'Thousand Year Reich' most of the laws and ordinances from that timeframe disappeared. But the unique German compulsory school attendance law in effect across all Europe which empowered the state to lead children to school with the help of the police and even by force if necessary; that law remained unchanged. The school policymakers of most of the German federal states incorporated this paragraph almost word-for-word into their legislation.
The 6th of July 1938 represents an historic break, up to that day non-school and alternative educational methods were possible and were practiced, even if to modest levels. Although compulsory school attendance was introduced in Prussia in 1717, one could still find the words in the Reichsverfassung, the Imperial Constitution, of March 28, 1849 that: "schooling in the home is not subject to any constraints." The existing compulsory education had always been interpreted up to 1938 in the sense of an 'obligation for instruction' and allowed for exceptions. The majority of democratically constituted states in the world therefore do not require any compulsory school attendance, but practice an 'obligation for instruction' leaving room for a multitude of alternatives as to how children learn today,
The inherently violent Compulsory School Attendance laws have lead to such incomprehensible outgrowths that in 2007 the 15 year old daughter of an exemplary family from the city of Erlangen was forcibly compelled to enter a psychiatric clinic under a very large police presence and Youth Services action. Her crime: she was receiving individual instruction and nurturing in the home, instead of continuing to visit the public school, where the learning environment provided increasing difficulties.
The Dudek family, an academic family from Archfeld in Hesse, will soon have to pay for their preference for a free educational form by serving terms of imprisonment. Their eldest son learned so well at home that he was able to pass his Realschulabschluss (secondary school final examinations) at the top of the class with a grade of 1.1, but the spirit of the Reichsschulpflichtgesetzes (Reich/Imperial School Legislation) demands its tribute in the form of a prison sentence of 3 months each for the father and the mother.
Other free-learning families are emigrating from Germany and leaving their familiar environments, but are looking forward to their newly-won freedom in our neighboring European states.
The fact that an atmosphere of compulsion and pressure cannot provide a lasting, successful learning experience is not under dispute by subject matter experts in the field. The fact that German educational politicians insist on physical presence in a school building under all circumstances, although learning in other locations and under other circumstances is frequently at least equally as good, if not more successful, is neither comprehensible nor up-to-date.
It is time to implement the unambiguous declarations of UN-Special Commissioner Vernor Munoz de Villalobos who stated during his visit to Germany that "education cannot be reduced to simple attendance at a school . . . Alternatives such as distance learning and "homeschooling" are possible options which may come into consideration under certain circumstances . . ."
After these 70 years the Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit (Network on Educational Freedom) calls for the complete elimination of Germany Compulsory School Attendance, and calls for establishment of a legislative basis to make possible diverse school-based and non-school educational paths, which may compete with one another and thereby enrich both sides. We view freedom and diversity instead of state monopolies as the best way out of the German educational malaise. Chancellor Merkel's motto "Dare to be more Free" should finally also apply to the area of education.
The "Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit" (Network on Educational Freedom) is an affiliation of organizations, parent initiatives, and individuals across Germany who are concerned about the right of free access to education, for a free choice and free structuring of the individual personal educational path, with the assistance of public as well as private initiative resources.
Responsible: Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit e.V. Nürnberg – Board of Trustees and Management
My thoughts on all this:
(1) Praise God we live in America, where we are still free to raise our own children!
(2) How depraved are these government workers to wait until the mom was at the hospital from pregnancy-related complications to sneak up on this family and snatch their children away? Imagine the inhumanity and cruel calculation. Having grown up in Germany myself, I know that the child welfare agency must just HATE the fact that this family has 9 children. We got dirty looks everywhere we went and we only have 4 children. I am certain that this played a role in the family being persecuted.
(3) Instead of calling the new law BGB 1666, they may as well have been honest and called it BGB 666 instead, since it is straight out of the pit of hell.
(4) Not that homeschooling creates "parallel societies", but even if it did - what in the world would be wrong with that?!? It certainly flies in the face of every one marching in line to the tune of the Fuhrer, but I thought Germany was trying to get past that image anyway. Sadly, things have not changed since Hitler and World War II, and I can honestly say that because of having lived there most of my life. People are suspicious of anyone that does not follow the masses, and work hard at eliminating these "radicals". More than 2 kids? Not Catholic or Lutheran? Stay-at-home mom? Homeschooling? Bible believing? You must be sick and perverted, and a danger to your children. This is "evidenced" by the fact that these homeschooled kids love their parents and adopt their views of life without being rebellious, disrespectful, and defiant - all of which in Germany are considered an essential part of growing up healthy and well-rounded.
(5) My own experiences with child welfare workers are limited, but from what I have seen I can confirm that the statements in the above articles are true and correct. If anything, the situation is much worse. My mother herself works for a children's home, and I wouldn't even trust my dog into her care. This is just a fact based on the things that she knowingly allowed to happen to myself and my brothers growing up, and she has only become worse over time. She now runs the life of a family who have 5 children. The parents are married and the man was working a job. They did not abuse their kids in any way at all. Both parents were simply not very bright, though definitely not mentally handicapped. They were totally capable of caring for their children, but it was decided they were unfit because both parents went to special ed schools and no normal people in their right mind would have 5 kids. Based on the testimony of my mother and a couple of other Nazis, all five children were removed from the home and placed in a children's home, which is worse than I can even communicate. Children in these homes are abused by the workers more often than not, and at best make it through 9 years of school (the minimum required to graduate in Germany from the lowest school form). Most drop out before that and enter the welfare system for life. The children become sexually active at the latest by age 14, which is not only allowed but in fact encouraged. In the town where I grew up, these kids were always hanging out in the public bathrooms, where they would fornicate and prostitute their bodies. So this family had all 5 of their kids placed in this home because their IQ was not that high. I wanted to throw up every time my mother would pompously declare that she has now allowed one (then two and then three) of the oldest kids home, but was certainly planning on keeping the younger children (i.e. more vulnerable and innocent victims) for several more years, because the woman was already pushed to her limits taking care of some of her kids. I wouldn't even be able or willing to care for one such child ruined and perverted in their wicked children's home. Not only that, but the family was also forced to move into government housing, and to have a social worker live with them 24/7. When I asked my mother to give me an example of why this mother was so incompetent and stupid, she told me that while the woman was drying her dishes, she wiped her sweaty forehead with the dishtowel, and then went on to dry her dishes with that same towel. They take your kids away for THAT??
Please, all you bleeding hearts, don't bother writing to me that I am being too hard on my mother. She has pretty much disowned me ever since I became a Christian. I have more compassion for the children that she knowingly exposes to abuse and perversion than for her, who does all that for a paycheck and the satisfaction that she gets from running someone else's life since her own is so messed up.
(6) Saddest of all, this case reminds me of the pastor I recently wrote about, the one who wants to stamp out homeschooling in his church, claiming it is wrong and unscriptural. He, too, likes to run everyone else's life for them for money and influence. Apparently, someone recently pointed him to my blog and he wrote my husband a nasty and long-winded e-mail this week berating him/me for what I wrote. I didn't bother reading it because I don't have time to sit around all day like he seems to have, nor did I want to lose every last bit of respect I ever had for him since I think that part of his strange behavior might be caused by strong prescription drugs (just guessing based on the fact that he did have a problem with that a few months back and that his erratic behavior is a typical side effect). The Bible says not to answer a fool according to his folly. Excuse me, I didn't know that he was my Daddy or husband and could tell me what I can and cannot write about, so I will continue to expose the ignorance that motivates people to categorically object homeschooling.
(7) Please pray for these German families, and please consider sending them a note of encouragement. The addresses of the other families mentioned above can be found on HSLDA's website.