Friday, April 01, 2005

Trying to enroll in a parenting class

I tried to sign up for a parenting class at Simply Your Best, a local parenting school that the court endorses. I wasn't expecting to learn anything, and I was only doing it in order to pacify the family court judge. I thought that it would be a simple matter to enroll in some classes, and to suffer thru them. I was wrong.

I had to make an appointment for an intake interview. When I got there, a woman asked to make a copy of my drivers license. Then she had a big stack of forms for me to fill out. It was like buying a house. She wanted my criminal records, psychiatric records, history of marital disputes, biographical info on my relatives, Social Security number, education and work history, and detailed views on parenting and other issues. She wanted a copy of my divorce court file, and a copy of my tax return. I was asked to sign an assortment of waivers and releases, including promises not to sue, promises to supply whatever psychological and judicial info they want, and agreements to allow the school to release personal info about me. I was also asked to sign pages of promises to lead a nonviolent life, not yell at anyone or abuse anyone, etc.

The school is a private company. It wanted my tax return because it has a sliding fee scale that depends on my income, and it wanted proof of my income.

I am desperate to get my kids back, and I was willing to go along with all that, until I looked at the course materials. The school believes in a particular parenting philosophy similar to what is described in the book Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. That philosophy has its pros and cons, but it sure isn't the only way. It teaches that all spanking is child abuse, and it teaches faulty research about the effects of spanking.

The classes consist of discussion groups, and the school sends reports to the court. I was told that if I don't participate as expected, or if I express an opinion that spanking was acceptable under certain circumstances, then the school would send bad reports to the court.

This policy was more than I could take. I happen to know that their textbook was misrepresenting the spanking research. It said that studies had proved that spanking causes juvenile delinquency. I would have to keep my mouth shut about it. I would be at the mercy of some flaky teacher who may or may not like my attitude. He could ruin my life on a whim, and there would be nothing that I could do about it.

I couldn't find anything in the course materials that even related to the complaints against me. Most of it was about spanking, drug abuse, and anger management. There were no complaints against me about any of those things.

The woman admitted that if I had told her that I was enrolling on my own, then I could have avoided the court reporting requirements. But once I admitted that I was involved in the family court, then they wouldn't take me unless I supply court papers, sign all the waivers, and pay for reports being sent to the court.

I eventually walked out, frustrated and annoyed. I tried to explain that all I wanted to do was to pay some money, take some classes, and hope to eventually get my kids back. She said that it is possible that her boss would grant some sort of exception for me, but I'd have to wait a couple of weeks and see someone else. I don't know what to do now. She later called and cancelled by appointment. My guess is that the school is as eager to get rid of me and I am to get rid of the school.

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