In the past several weeks there have been various stories (see, e.g., here) about "forced home visits" being included in the funding for Obamacare.
The HSLDA is very concerned about 4th amendment rights, and it sent an e-mail to its members with a link to this analysis, which argues that coerced home visits are no more legal now than they were before. In other words, not legal. In fact, the HSLDA even got language included in the relevant law stating that states which accept money for home visitation programs must establish procedures to insure that each family's participation in a home visitation program is voluntary.
But despite its reassurances, the HSLDA does oppose such home visitation programs, as its discussion here indicates. There, HSLDA sounds more like the alarmists. The HSLDA analysis points out, for example, that states will be motivated by federal dollars to identify "at-risk" families and that the categories for "at-risk" parents are overbroad. HSLDA expresses concern that anyone deemed "at-risk" will be pressured to accept a home visitation program. Er, voluntarily, of course.
The bottom line is that, despite the "voluntary" language in the bill, it is already the case that CPS in any state can put huge pressure on any family it chooses to target to accept parenting classes, a parenting plan, social services visits, and other forms of government intervention. Most families are not HSLDA members, and indeed most families cannot be HSLDA members. HSLDA represents only home schoolers. And it's worth bearing in mind, even for HSLDA members, that they technically reserve the right not to continue to represent a family to the bitter end in a social services contact if they conclude that it isn't related at all to home schooling. While they will usually help their members in these contacts, they do have an escape clause if things get lengthy and home schooling doesn't seem to come into the picture. In any event, most parents have no readily available, already engaged legal representative who is an expert in parental rights at all, and most can't afford it. This is all the more to the point given that low-income families are deemed "at-risk."
The power of CPS is already far too great in the United States, and the HSLDA itself recently lost an important case in this area, the Loudermilk case, which Tony discussed here. So even the people with lawyers don't always win these 4th amendment/parental rights cases.
The only way in which the language about "insuring that participation is voluntary" in the Obamacare law would be really reassuring would be if it actually made state CPS officials less likely than they are already to engage in arm-twisting. This seems to me highly unlikely. Moreover, I doubt there will be a lot of will in the Obama administration to scrutinize those state procedures very carefully. As long as at least one parent has signed "agreeing to" a parenting plan that involves enrolling them in the home visitation program, I doubt that the state will lose federal funding for lack of "voluntariness." My own prediction is that the process that leads parents to sign a parenting plan, a process that already is frequently highly coercive, will remain just as it is and will remain shrouded in shadows. What process, after all, do parents have for bringing complaints that a state receiving federal money for home visitation programs threatened them with taking away their children if they didn't agree "voluntarily" to a home visitation program? None. As far as I know, there is no procedure for bringing any such complaint or for penalizing states that engage in such tactics. And since they've been using such tactics for a long time, why would they stop now? Remember, too, that the 9th Circuit Court ruled that being threatened with losing your children doesn't count as coercion and that the Loudermilks voluntarily opened the door to their home in response to such a threat. And the Supreme Court refused the case. To my eye, the prospects look rather dim for penalizing states who force compliance with a home visitation program by threatening to take the kids.
What some people are pointing out about the Obamacare home visitation programs is that home visitation programs aren't new with Obamacare. That's true, they aren't. Neither is the egregious behavior of CPS anything new, either, so that's hardly comforting. Moreover,
--The left is increasingly enthusiastic about home visitation programs as part of early intervention to try to make people into good parents. See here for James Heckman's enthusiastic discussion of such early intervention. He neglects to tell us exactly why people who are otherwise doomed to be bad parents would welcome "family visitation" by a busybody "expert." He says nothing at all about the issue of how to induce people to participate, which is in itself a little creepy. Any time you see an enthusiastic liberal just assuming that hoi polloi will welcome an intrusive government program with open arms, it's time to back away slowly. A saying comes to mind about the most frightening words being, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you."
--Pouring federal money into an area where states are already violating families' privacy and parental rights is a recipe for making the situation worse, not better. Even if technically the programs aren't new, the obvious purpose of the Obamacare funding is to make them more numerous and widespread. This is not a good thing.
So the bottom line is this: Technically, no, Obamacare doesn't per se include forced home visitation programs. Practically speaking, however, the funding easily could go to forced home visitation programs, since the state CPS bureaucrats often do, on extremely flimsy grounds, force parents to agree to further, intrusive plans, classes, and programs. In fact, I think it highly likely that the Obamacare funding for home visitation programs will go to state programs that are not administered voluntarily, programs that target allegedly "at-risk" families, inter alia in the hospital when a baby is born, and that put enormous pressure on those families to agree to be visited and, in effect, inspected by agents of the government. The funding will just make such programs more numerous, and I have little faith in the law's provision that the states must insure that participation is voluntary.
Something new in Obamacare? No, not really. Something bad in Obamacare? You bet.