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Across the Fence/Against the Tide

by Rhonda Robinson

Rhonda Robinson an 18 year home school veteran, mother of nine and grandmother to six grandsons. Rhonda is also conference speaker and writes the weekly newspaper column Across the Fence.

You may contact Rhonda Robinson at

Across the Fence is a parent-to-parent commentary on the social, political and everyday issues that affect the autonomy of homeschooling parents today.


Who owns the children? Okay, I realize "owns" sounds a little on the harsh side because we are not speaking of property here. But ultimately, the question remains . . . who do they belong to? Are they our children? Or are they the state’s most vital resource?

Although homeschooling families come in all shades and sizes, and we run the gamut in teaching styles, economics and ethnicity; we all have one common denominator: The fundamental belief in the autonomy of parents. We believe it is our right, coupled with our high duty, to direct the education of our own children.

And yet, ever so quietly, state intervention on "behalf of the child" has become commonplace. Without realizing it, parents are losing small pieces of autonomy, which threaten our homeschooling freedom.

The latest and most frightening threat to parental rights is the rapidly growing monster created by the President’s New Freedom Commission (NFC) on Mental Health. Which has taken on new life by states seeking federal dollars.

The New Freedom Commission was established by an executive order on April 2, 2002, which states in part,

"The Commission’s goal shall be to recommend improvements to enable adults with serious mental illness and children with serious emotional disturbances to live, work, learn, and participate fully in their communities."

That sounds reasonable, why should parents be alarmed about this? Why wouldn’t lawmakers support this?

Fifteen months later, bureaucrats gave birth a vision not even Orwell could have imagined.

They presented the President with, "Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America." Which begins with this statement.

"After a year of study, and after reviewing research and testimony, the Commission finds that recovery from mental illness is now a real possibility." -- but quickly adds, "Today’s mental health care system is a patchwork relic — the result of disjointed reforms and policies."

Translation: We now have drugs to take care of these people! But we need to coordinate federal funding to pay for it and get them to the masses. We have a lot of health care workers who need more pay, heck we can create more jobs.

And further, while we’re at it, "The Commission suggests a national focus on the mental health needs of young children and their families that includes screening, assessment, early intervention, treatment, training, and financing services."

Bulls-eye! The new target . . . our children, our families. Not just the severely mentally ill, but also the general population. We are to be the screened, assessed, and treated. Treatment in today’s psychiatrics means psychotropic drugs. The report goes on to recommend the model drug program TMAP that uses the newest, most-expensive psychotropic drugs (which by the way have since been all but banned for their lethal side effects.)

How do they plan on doing this? First, by the path of least resistance -- casting a wide fishing net into the public school system, the child welfare systems, and juvenile justice system; those children who are out from under the watchful eye of their parents are the easiest prey. This process has already begun, and has taken hold in many states.

So, now you’re thinking, "Hmm, Reason #521 to keep my kids out of the public school system." Before you get too comfortable resting on your laurels, this commission also states in its goals, to include "social and emotional check-ups’ in primary health care."

The road to destruction has long been paved with good intentions. Lawmakers have sold this bill of goods by proclaiming the key to improving academic achievement, "is to identify mental health problems early . . . and provide services." "Intervention!"is their battle cry! "Screen the babies, the pregnant women, and the teenagers!"

The NFC is not federal law . . . yet. What it is is a large piñata of federal funds hung out for states to reach for.

Congressman Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas, and a physician for over 30 years, before being elected to Congress, tried to pull the plug on the initiative last summer by forbidding funding to states who would use appropriations money to establish universal mental health screening. He valiantly fought for parental rights, and the rights of children to just grow up without being "forced to spend their wonder years on state-approved psychotropic drugs." He stood before the senate and charged,

"The New Freedoms Commission on Mental Health . . . has recommended universal mental health screening for all our children in our public schools, as well as adults who work in these schools . . . I strongly reject this notion, this plan, as dangerous and nonproductive . . .

We already have an epidemic in our schools today of [students that] are over-treated. Too often under these conditions, children are coerced into taking medicine. It has been known that parents who have denied medication for their children have been accused of child abuse. There is already tremendous pressure on parents to allow public school officials to put children on medication like Ritalin."

"An unruly child is going to be the first one to be determined as mentally disturbed. It is happening all the time. Those are the individuals that are hyperactive even in a normal sense and end up on Ritalin. But can you imagine a list of this sort? They claim it will be private, but can you imagine if there is a list that has identified an individual as a possible candidate for violence?"

After the amendment failed miserably, 95-315, Congressman Paul wrote in his weekly commentary,

"Anyone who understands bureaucracies knows they assume more and more power incrementally… A few scattered state programs over time will be replaced by a federal program implemented in a few select cities. Once the limited federal program is accepted, it will be expanded nationwide. Once in place throughout the country, the screening program will become mandatory."

Meanwhile, Back Home . . .

Here in Illinois, we are striving to be first, and lead the nation, by enacting the NFC recommendations. Following in the footsteps of the White House, a Children’s Mental Health Task Force was formed by executive order. Followed by a new law, the Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003, which mandated the establishment of the Children’s Mental Health Partnership.

The Illinois Law begins,

"Whereas, untreated mental health problems in children have serious fiscal consequences for the state because they affect children’s ability to learn . . . "

Justification for intrusion; children with problems have serious fiscal consequences for the state.

The law has already placed "emotional development" within the Illinois School Learning Standards. This "Partnership" was granted not only the responsibility of making recommendations to the Governor, but also is charged with monitoring the implementation of the plan they create.

The opening line, in their preliminary plan, as the primary goal says it all.

"A. Partner with parents. Priority recommendations: Develop a mental health system for all children ages 0-18 years that respects, supports and treats families and caregivers as partners."

That is their goal. To be on equal footing with parents. What government agency do you want as partner in parenting?

Note the all children 0-18. They are also talking about prenatal assessments, by screening all pregnant women for depression. Also notice that all new families are considered in the same category as those who are "at risk."

They want to gain access outside of the government systems by screening all women for depression during pregnancy and following the birth of a child up to one-year postpartum.

Their list of priorities to align systems of care with the President’s New Freedom Report, also include:

• Ensure all children receive periodic social and emotional developmental screens.

• Include social/emotional development screening as part of required medical exams and or at major transition times…

• In three to five years develop a data-reporting state system to track who is screened.

• Incorporate mental health education in all school health curricula and requirements; integrate social/emotional education across subjects and grades; and incorporate a developmental social and emotional education curriculum for grades K-12.


Lest we think none of this applies to homeschooling, tucked in the back of the plan, is the call to "explore mechanisms and strategies" for promoting protocols into private schools. And if one digs just a little further, buried on the seventeenth page of the twenty-page report, we see the sentence that tells the rest of the story . . .

"Explore strategies for maximizing the purchase of psychotropic drugs from the State Pharmacy at discounted prices." Follow the money. Major pharmaceutical companies do all the funding for the state’s start up "task forces." There is big business in labeling a generation of children and then "treating" them.

Ron Paul has promised to bring new legislation to the floor in 2005, to fight this onslaught of government intrusion into childhood. He states,

"Forced mental health screening is just the latest of many state usurpations of parental authority: compulsory education laws, politically-correct school curricula, mandatory vaccines, …all represent assaults on families. The political right has now joined the political left in seeking the de facto nationalization of children, and only informed resistance by parents can stop it." -- Congressman Ron Paul (R, Texas).

No state agency, no matter how "comprehensive" it is, can cure society’s ills. Nor can homeschoolers afford to turn a blind eye to the perils of the nation’s children. If we do, we will surrender our parental autonomy by default.

What will be waiting to fill in the gap? A 21st Century Frankenstein, that we can’t afford to feed, peering into our children’s "emotional health" trampling on parental rights.

Further Resources:

The Presidents New Freedom Commission on Mental Health

Illinois Children’s Mental Health Partnership preliminary plan

New Freedom Commission on Mental Health State Implementation policies

Bush’s Brave New World Washington Times

Illinois eye of the mental health storm

Rep. Ron Paul’s website:, where you can read the full texts of his speeches regarding these important issues


Rhonda Robinson is the homeschooling mother of nine children in Illinois.