Toms v. Hanover Department of Social Services

616 S.E.2d 765 (2005)

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Toms v. Hanover Department of Social Services

Virginia Court of Appeals
616 S.E.2d 765 (2005)

Facts

Frazier and Laura Toms (defendants) had eight children. In early 2003, Laura went to a neighbor’s house for help, claiming that Frazier abused her and had been holding her captive. The sheriff’s deputies arrived at the Tomses’ residence and found that most of the children had fled to the woods. The deputies discovered that the family lived in squalor in a shack with no plumbing, no electricity, no bathrooms or sinks, and no kitchen. Trash filled the structure, and empty bottles of alcohol littered the yard. Frazier arrived, angry and inebriated, and refused to help the deputies find the children. Frazier was arrested. Deputies searched for hours until the children finally emerged from the woods in the early morning, improperly dressed for the freezing weather. Laura was hospitalized for mental illness. The department of social services (DSS) placed the children in foster care, expecting to provide rehabilitative services with the goal of reuniting Frazier, Laura, and the children. The juvenile court held that Laura and Frazier had abused or neglected the children and approved DSS’s plans for foster care and family reunification. Over the next few months, therapists, social workers, and psychologists met with Laura, Frazier, and the children. A psychologist found that Frazier could probably not recover from his numerous debilitating mental illnesses and alcoholism. Experts found that because of the neglect the children had suffered, their social, emotional, and intellectual development was severely delayed. The children could not speak intelligibly and communicated with grunts. Standardized-testing scores placed the children below the first percentile in terms of their development. As a result of receiving this information, DSS changed its goal to that of adoption, and the juvenile court approved that change in October 2003. The juvenile court entered an order of termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption in February 2004, which Tom and Laura appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court affirmed the order of TPR and adoption. Laura did not appeal the circuit court’s orders. Frazier appealed, arguing that the court should not have ordered TPR because DSS did not provide rehabilitative services to improve Frazier’s parenting. Meanwhile, Frazier was tried, convicted, and imprisoned for abusing and neglecting his children.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Kelsey, J.)

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