Virginia Family Files Lawsuit Over Foster Care Ordeal

The Dinwiddie family’s foster care nightmare began when their 16-year-old son decided to surreptitiously slip out of the house to have a night on the town.

Imagine how delighted Fred and his wife Michelle must have been the following morning when agents of the Giles County Department of Social Services arrived at 5 A.M. with officers of the Giles County Sheriffs Department in tow. Imagine also their delight at being arrested for felony abandonment, even as their other children were removed from their home.

Their son, you see, had told the police that he’d been kicked out of his home. He later recanted, and the Dinwiddie family was found not guilty on the abandonment charge. Nevertheless, DSS saw fit to hold their children in foster care for eight months.

Fred and Michelle later received copies of interviews detailing how DSS had questioned first their two older boys together, and then the two younger ones together.

“The difference in the two interviews was like night and day. The younger children told the truth and said what we have been saying all along even when they were obviously trying to trick the children with ambiguous questions,” Fred explains.

With respect to the two older brothers, interviewers had managed, by some means, to produce a 65-page transcript, notwithstanding that the interview reportedly only took 4 minutes to complete.

To be sure, no case against a family would be complete without allegations of sexual abuse. Naturally, these accusations arose out of sessions with a therapist that one of the daughters was compelled to attend. This led to several charges being filed, all of which were ultimately dropped in the complete absence of corroborating evidence.

Vindication may have at long last arrived for the family in the form of a recent court filing, Dinwiddie et al v. Giles County, Virginia Department of Social Services et al. Case no: 7:2011cv00008, filed January 7, 2011, the venue being the Virginia Western District Court, Roanoke Office, the Honorable Samuel G. Wilson presiding.

Naturally, the case arises as a Section 1983 action, which alleges a conspiracy to deprive the Dinwiddie family of their civil rights. The Defendants include:

    Amy Bishop, Phil Blankenbeckler, Linda Boggs, Braley and Thompson, Mike Dobbins, Sergeant Scott Dunn, Captain Michael Falls, Katherine Flaughrety, Doug Fleming, Laureen Fleming, Giles County Sheriff’S Office, Giles County, Virginia Department of Social Services, Anita Goodwin, Detective Ron Hamlin, Glenn Harris, Jennifer Harris, Sandi Hodges, Hope Tree Family Services, Rebecca Hughes, Darrell Hunley, Oma McReynolds, NRV Community Services, Sherri Nipper, Virginia Quaid, Jeff Ryan, Rhonda Ryan, Hattie Savage, Greg Schlake, Officer Mark Skidmore and Jean Williams.

Fred explains that he and his wife had been happily married for 20 years when their ordeal began. The family had lived a trouble-free existence – indeed, Fred hadn’t had so much as a parking ticket in 15 years. This bears relevance because it illustrates the point that bad things can – and often do – happen to good people.

“Throughout it all our children were well fed, clean, attended school and some even made honor roll on a regular basis along with other certificates of achievement. Everything and every decision we have made as parents, good or bad, have been for the ultimate well-being and proper care of our children. The social service workers in this state and nationwide are operating with immunity and stealing good parents’ children and doing more harm to children than good,” Michelle explains.

It would be two months before the couple would get their first visit with their children, and another two months for their second.

Naturally, DSS split the children up in various homes, and, up to two-half hours away from their home.

And, at one point during the lengthy and protracted legal proceedings, Fred and Michelle were ordered to pay $360 a month in child support to offset the costs of their oldest daughter’s care.

“They shopped for therapists and doctors (who weren’t even licensed in Virginia) to diagnose our children with disorders and to tell a judge their biased opinion that the children were better in foster care and doing well. What they did not tell the judge was that VDSS workers and workers from Braley and Thompson and Commonwealth Catholic Charities were bribing our children and when that didn’t work they resorted to threats and intimidation as well as physical, emotional, and sexual abuse by foster parents and workers,” Fred explains in one of his web postings.

Some of the highlights of the Dinwiddie childrens rescue into state care include:

  • The 14-year-old was fed rice and turkey daily, left in the car everywhere the foster family went, and was threatened and abused by an 18 year old foster child.
  • The 10-year-old child was squeezed so hard by the foster father that he had a mark on his stomach for months. He was also isolated in the middle of his room for hours on end, while allowed no contact with his sister – who shared the same foster home.
  • The 12-year-old daughter had her hair pulled out by her foster father as he was trying to hit her brother while driving. He reportedly almost ran off the road as he did so.
  • The 17-year-old child was made to work for 7 different foster families without pay. He was also strip searched, repeatedly harassed, and called a “Nazi” by his foster mom and other children. He also went for eight months with an infected toe without medical treatment, and, he was beaten in school after being placed in a group home. He wound up in four different schools over the period of his eight months in care.
  • The older daughter attempted suicide 2-3 times, and had to have her stomach pumped, after which she was committed for a week to Lynchburg Hospital, where her dosage of Lexapro – a drug that is known to induce suicidal thoughts and behaviors – was quadrupled.

Through it all, the children were all doing well and fine in their foster care placements, according to the GAL, CASA, the therapists, foster parents, and the foster care workers at Giles County DSS. According to Fred Dinwiddie, this is how they all testified in court – presumably while under oath.

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated attorney, the Dinwiddie family was reunited after an eight-month-long ordeal.

Fred notes that a social worker stated that at any given moment in Giles County, Virginia, there are 300 ongoing cases. He notes that the County has a population of less than 9000, and that it strikes him that this is a large percentage of families who are being impacted by the County’s DSS.

Postscript: The Dinwiddie family has since relocated to another state. The oldest son is now 19 years old, and is serving as a Private in Afghanistan. He left to fulfill his military duties on Tuesday, January 11, 2011.

“He tried really hard to turn his life around and now values his family,” Michelle explained.

Related reading:

Prisoners-of-War, Fred and Michelle Dinwiddie’s account of events on

Dinwiddie et al v. Giles County, Virginia Department of Social Services et al, Justia.

Virginia is Blocking Abuse and Neglect Investigations in State Care, Lifting the Veil Blog, Dec 2, 2010.

Foster Care Candidate Revenue Maximization Schemes Line County Coffers, Lifting the Veil Blog, Oct 22, 2010.

Child Support, Foster Care, and the Poverty Profiteers, Lifting the Veil Blog, Oct 13, 2010.

Child Support Harming Children: Subordinating the Best Interests of Children to the Fiscal Interests of the State, Daniel L. Hatcher, Wake Forest Law Review, Vol. 42, No. 4, 2007.

Collateral Children: Consequence and Illegality at the Intersection of Foster Care and Child Support, Daniel L. Hatcher, Brooklyn Law Review, Vol. 74, No. 4, 2009.