HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — Seven homeschoolers in Arkansas who were seized by the Garland County Sheriff’s Department this month remain in state custody after a court hearing on Thursday over the matter.
Hal Stanley, a pastor, and his wife Michelle state that they are in shock after their children were removed from their Hot Springs home on Jan. 12 following an anonymous complaint.
The situation began last month as a social worker with the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) showed up at the Stanley’s door after receiving a complaint that the children were permitted to go outside in the snow barefoot. The Stanleys assured the case worker that everything was fine, and that the children had plenty of shoes, but had a custom of making footprints in the snow for fun.
“We showed her some of the 200 and something pair of shoes and told her—actually the kids told her—how it was their preference to go barefoot and that it was like a tradition to briefly run out in the snow barefoot and take a picture of the footprints,” Michelle Stanley told reporters.
However, authorities then received a second complaint claiming that the couple had a “poisonous substance” in their home, and so on Jan. 12, both DHS and members of the Garland County Sheriff’s Department appeared at their door. According to the family, officials forced the parents to step outside, at which time they were served with a search warrant.
“[They] said we could not enter our house or talk to our kids until the search and the investigation was through,” Stanley said. “They said the charge was that we had a poisonous substance in our house and that the kids were being exposed to it and it endangered their welfare.”
It turned out that the substance that was being referred to was MMS (“miracle mineral supplement”) or sodium chlorite, which is used to purify water and is claimed to help to cure diseases. The Stanleys state that the product was used to balance the PH of their fish tank, but that her husband had also been drinking it to help make his system more alkaline.
Five hours later, after the search concluded—along with an interrogation of the children, officials informed the Stanleys that all seven of their children were being taken into custody.
“Six intimidating, brute looking males and one DHS female all lined up in our den to tell us they would be taking our kids into their custody for 72 hours,” Stanley recalled.
But after a week later, the couple’s children still were not returned, and yesterday, a hearing was held in court over the matter.
“The judge ruled that there is probable cause to temporarily keep the children,” a friend of the family who handles the Facebook page “Bring the Stanley Kids Home,” wrote in an update. “Hal and Michelle will have visitations with the children.”
The Garland County Sheriff’s Department claims that the seizure of the children had nothing to do with the Stanley’s possession of MMS, but the family says that they do not know what else the issue could be.
“There have been a number of reports in various media outlets the decision was made to remove the minor children from the residence based on one contributing factor of chemical known as ‘MMS’ or ‘Miracle Mineral Supplement;’ this is absolutely false,” the department wrote in a statement. “[T]here was a number of different factors and investigators felt they had no choice but to intervene in the best interest of the minor children.”
“Anyone who’s ever been in my house knows that these kids are not abused and they’re not neglected, and our house is full of all the provisions,” Michelle Stanley said in a statement posted to YouTube on Tuesday. “If they can do it to us, they can do it to your kids.”
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 12.