Recently a family in Kentucky that was living off the grid made national news. Controversy arose when the local sheriff took the family’s 10 children into custody. The police department had received an anonymous complaint about the conditions the children were living in.
There are allegations against the parents that extend far beyond the “unfit living conditions” that caused law enforcement to take custody of the kids. Included on the list is theft, unclean living areas, and endangering the kids’ safety, along with an assortment of other misdemeanors like passing bad checks and failure to appear in court.
The father allegedly threatened a neighbor after trespassing onto their property to steal water and asking one of the children to retrieve his gun from the glove box of their car that was parked nearby, though a weapon was never produced.
The family, the Nauglers, live on 26 acres in rural Breckinridge County in a three-walled “cabin” as they call it—a fourth wall is added during the winter months. To add to the debate, the family not only lives off the grid but also fails to school their children.
First off, I myself grew up being homeschooled, and enjoyed it for 10 years of my life. I think that a lot of people have the perception that homeschoolers are uneducated and illiterate.
The differences are that with homeschooling, the control over the subject matter remains with a parent or tutor. Homeschoolers use a curriculum and file a monthly Student Learning Plan with the school district.
Those who are unschooled have no regimented learning plan, and “specialize” in subjects that they find particularly interesting. Unschooling is also based upon and focused on learning through life experience rather than in a classroom. Adults in the children’s lives are seen as facilitators rather than instructors.
My second objection in all of this is how everyone’s complaining that Child Protective Services had ulterior motives for taking custody of the kids. There are a lot of comments and complaints being made that the children were taken away from their parents because the government doesn’t approve of their off the grid lifestyle and alternative education choice.
Look at the facts, and read more than just the headlines. Breckinridge sheriff took custody of the Naugler children on grounds of unsafe and unclean living conditions. Not because they didn’t attend public school, not because the family lived off the grid, but because the living environment the children were being provided with sucked.
There is also the fact that this is not the first time they have been contacted by CPS. The mother, Nicole Naugler, who is currently five months pregnant with child number 11, posted on her blog back in November of 2013 that the family was contacted by CPS.
It is unclear why the initial contact was made back in 2013, but the point remains that the family was already on CPS’s radar before this recent anonymous tip came in.
An audio recording was posted by the family from their interaction with the police, and the mother can be heard saying that she wouldn’t report child abuse of a neighbor’s kids even if they were bloody from a beating. This of course threw in a whole new question about the parent’s disciplinary tactics.
There was a hearing scheduled for May 11, and the final decision stated the children would not be returned until the Cabinet for Health and Family Services completes its investigation, which I think is only fair.
Though both parents denied the media any comments, their 19 year old estranged son Alex had some interesting things to say. Alex Brow was put into the foster care system at the age of four, and his comments to reporters contained some serious allegations, saying “I got all the beatings. I got most of the mental abuse. There was a lot of sexual abuse towards me. We had a very dysfunctional relationship.”
I think that from the conditions described, and from comments made by people who knew the family or were a part of it at one time, CPS had every right to take custody of those kids. The evidence is overwhelming that the parents were unfit to provide for and take care of the number of children they had. No conspiracy theories, just evidence and testimony that these kids are better off living with foster families, at least for the time being.