Lawsuit filed against Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services

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A lawsuit has been filed against the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services following the death of an infant.

Day Law Group, PCCL claims the department is responsible for the wrongful death of Charlee Ford, a three month old who died on April 16, 2016.

The lawsuit claims the infant tested positive for drugs, following a urine examination conducted at birth. That urine sample was reported to Child Protection Services since it would have classified the child as “high risk.”

Defendant Wade Cress, of Child Protection Services, reportedly filed those samples incorrectly.

The suit requests $17,000,000.00 be paid in damages to the Estate of Charlee Marie Faith Ford.

Below is the original press release:

Lynchburg, VA (July 24, 2018)- Day Law Group, PLLC has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Estate of Charlee Marie Faith Ford, an infant who died on April 16, 2016.

A complaint filed in the Rockbridge Circuit Court, that was amended on June 21, 2018, alleges that the Virginia Department of Social Services; the Piedmont Regional Office of Virginia Department of Social Services; Former Director, Susan Reese, of the Piedmont Regional Office; the County of Rockbridge, Virginia, Board of Supervisors; the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services; the Board of Directors of the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services; Former Director Meredith Downey, of the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services; Brenda Perry, Supervisor of Child Protection Services of the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services were responsible for the wrongful death of Charlee Ford and are named as defendants.

Charlee Ford’s parents Charles Ford and Diana Hazelwood- were also named as defendants. Thomas Chaffin has been appointed as Administrator of Charlee Marie Faith Ford’s Estate.

The Complaint is asking damages in the amount of Seventeen Million Dollars ($17,000,000.00) in the form of damages, Attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses.

Day Law Group is suing under six counts, including charges of gross negligence, failure to protect, and conspiracy. “Our laws guarantee the right to all children to be protected from harm and to keep children from harm when that child is identified at risk,” stated Richard Gilman, the attorney filing the lawsuit,. “The policies and practices of the Defendants constitute a failure to meet their affirmative duty to protect Charlee and keep her free from harm.”

Charlee Marie Faith Ford was born on December 21, 2015, to her parents Charles Ford and Diana Hazelwood. Ford died at her parent’s home at 216 Alone Mill Rd., Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia on April 16th, 2016. The death report lists sudden unexpected infant death as the cause of Ford’s death.

This lawsuit is in the shadow of an investigation of Rockbridge area Department of Social Services by the Virginia Department of Social Services known as a Quality Management Review (QMR) in 2016. The QMR uncovered 70 infractions including shredding and altering reports, ignoring reports, and complaints of abuse and neglect, and not following proper procedures. As a result, Downey and Perry departed from their roles at the Department of Social Services during the investigations.

A special grand jury was convened from allegations that have arisen. It report the following: upon birth, , as the hospital conducted a urine test on Ford that determined the positive existence of drugs. This should have classified Ford as “high risk.” The results were reported to Child Protection Services as required by law. Upon receiving Infant Ford’s positive urine test, Defendant Wade Cress of CPS inaccurately completed the risk assessment and scored Infant Ford as “low risk”, resulting in the considerable reduction of the involvement of CPS and the approval of Infant Ford to be released to her parents. Several weeks prior to the child’s death, CPS responded to another complaint concerning Infant Ford’s wellbeing and made a home visit. Though the home was classified as “high risk”, no services were offered to Infant Ford and no follow up was made prior to her death. Following her death CPS did not comply with a request by the Sheriff’s Department for a hair analysis test of the parents. It was determined by the special grand jury that Supervisor of CPS, Brenda Perry, created her own intake system, which operated counter to the state policy. Further, she frequently altered and forged the dates on case records in order to comply with response time policies and shredded a number of intake records without entering them into OASIS which is the mandatory statewide CPS reporting computer system.

In addition to three counts of Wrongful Death (negligence), and two counts of Failure to Protect, the lawsuit also alleges the Defendants committed Conspiracy, claiming RADSS, its Board Members, Downey, and Cress conspired by accepting and condoning the policies, patterns, and practices set forth by Perry, agreeing to act to deprive Infant Ford by supporting the policies that deprived her of her rights, simultaneously failing to protect her from harm or keep her reasonably free from harm. “The Commonwealth has an affirmative duty to care for and protect infants at risk,” according to the complaint.

Attorney Gilman stated, “It is our hope that this lawsuit will help with the healing of a grieving family who lost a very young and precious family member. It is also the family’s hope that this may have a positive impact on the way we may be protecting our most vulnerable children and may help prevent this from happening to others.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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