By: Krystle Crossman
The Department of Social Services in Shenadoah County, Virginia is being sued by a home-school advocacy group on behalf of a local family. The family had their children taken away from them because the Department of Social Services falsely accused them of child abuse. The Home School Legal Defense Association will be representing the family in this fight.
The parents, Lane and Susan Funkhouser, were told that Social Services had stated that they both had a rare mental illness and their children were being taken away. The children were placed in a foster home for a month. It all started with an innocent doctor’s visit for an illness that both of their children had been stricken with. The doctors could not come up with any diagnosis for what ailed the children. They were sent home without any answers.
The children got worse as time went on. They missed a lot of school because they were so sick. They were brought to the doctor multiple times but came out with no answers every time. Finally the Funkhousers decided that it was time to home-school the children as they were missing so much school because they were too sick to leave the house. The school issued a truancy charge against the family for taking the children out of the school. This charge was eventually dismissed but thanks to it the family now had the Social Services department’s attention.
The children had been sick for quite a while and there still was no diagnosis for them. This lead the department to feel that there was nothing wrong with the children at all and that the parents were lying because they had a rare disorder called Munchhausen by proxy. Munchhausen’s is a condition where you make yourself sick in order to gain attention from others. Munchhausen by proxy is when you make someone else sick for attention.
Right before Michael Austin of the Department of Social Services stepped in, the parents had finally gotten a diagnosis that each child was suffering from a parasite, a bacterial infection, and strep throat at the same time. Just after the diagnosis Austin made the move and had the children taken from the home. They were brought right to the ER to be checked out and were given the same diagnosis that their parents had received earlier in the day. Even still they were placed in foster care. While in foster care it was reported that the children were told that their parents neglected them and did not love them. They also neglected to give the young boy treatment when he sustained an ankle injury. Finally after four long weeks a judge deemed Austin’s claims to be false and returned the children to their home.