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Comply with Court Order
Lose Child

October 24, 2007 permalink

On our help page we suggest parents molested by children's aid should scupulously comply with court orders, to get better treatment from the judge at the next hearing. Here is an exception. Garrett Thomas, 14, ran away from foster care and called his mother to pick him up. His mother, following a court order, did not do so, instead asking the foster facility to pick up her son. The boy has not been seen since. To most families, saving a child is more important than compliance with a court, so this is a place to defy a court order. The remainder of the story below details a boy led into a life of crime by the system claiming to protect him.




Posted 2007-10-19

Elkton Boy’s Disappearance Fuels Dispute

Mom Claims Social Services Shouldn’t Have Let Him Stray

By David Reynolds


HARRISONBURG — A 14-year-old Elkton boy has run away from an institution in Salem, his mother says, leaving her fearing for his safety and wondering whether the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Department of Social Services should have kept closer watch.

On Sunday, Garrett Thomas left the home where Social Services placed him days earlier, according to his mother Teresa Shenk.

Garrett called Shenk, 41, from a Salem bus station, she says, but because picking him up would violate a court order, she called the home he left to arrange for them to pick him up.

Before that could happen, Garrett was gone, and hasn’t been heard from since, she says.

Garrett’s disappearance is the latest in an ongoing dispute between Shenk and Social Services that began in March when a juvenile court judge granted the agency custody of the boy.

Since then, Shenk says, her son, who is bipolar, has left homes, accumulated a criminal record, and warned Social Services that he won’t stay in homes in the future.

Shenk says that the agency, which won’t allow her to care for her son, isn’t doing enough to protect him.

“These people are supposed to protect our children. That’s what our tax dollars pay them to do,” Shenk said. “What are they doing with my kid?”

The Runaway Case

Sgt. Joe Mills of the Salem Police Department says Garrett was on a field trip with other children, when he told another boy he was going to the bus station, then left.

A counselor with Hope Tree, a home for troubled children in Salem, had been accompanying the children when Garrett ran away, Mills said. On Thursday, a representative of the home said that information about Garrett should come from police or the Harrisonburg-Rockingham DSS.

Mills said there is no sign of foul play, that Garrett left voluntarily and presumably he knows people are concerned for his safety.

But, because he is a juvenile, Mills said, a detective began working the case Monday morning. Since then, the investigator has forwarded Garrett’s picture to officers at the Salem department and other authorities in the area.

Police also have sent out an alert to law enforcement nationwide.

The boy’s picture and a description have been forwarded to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. He is 5 feet 6 inches tall and 140 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.

Runaway cases are common for police, Mills said, and children often turn up with a friend or relative.

An Ongoing Conflict

Shenk says she’s concerned for her son’s safety and that his disappearance shows Social Services isn’t watching the boy as closely as she would.

The dispute started in March when the agency sought custody to give Garrett expensive in-patient mental health treatment, according to court records and Shenk.

The agency’s reasoning changed two weeks later, however, when it said the mother could not properly care for the troubled boy and that residential treatment wasn’t necessary.

The change came the day after Shenk’s complaint about the agency’s handling of her son’s case appeared in an article in the Daily News-Record.

During the seven months since the agency took custody of Garrett, his mother says, he has been in several homes, run away more than once and been arrested for disorderly conduct.

Earlier this month, Shenk says, Garrett told her and a DSS worker that he intended to run away again.

Contact David Reynolds at 574-6278 or

Source: Harrisonburg (Virginia) Daily News Record truncated by Dufferin VOCA

Addendum: The boy was found twelve days later. To show their appreciation for saving the boy, authorities arrested his father.



Friday, October 26, 2007

Missing boy found in Tazewell County

By Reed Williams

A 14-year-old boy who ran away in Roanoke while in the care of HopeTree Family Services is no longer missing.

Garrett Thomas and his father, Brian Thomas, turned themselves in to authorities in Tazewell County today.

Brian Thomas was arrested on outstanding warrants unrelated to Garrett's disappearance. Garrett was being returned to the Harrisonburg-Rockingham County Department of Social Services.

Garrett is in the custody of the social services department but had been placed in the care of HopeTree, a group home for troubled youths in Salem. He ran away Oct. 14 during a field trip to Elmwood Park in Roanoke. He has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and a pervasive developmental disorder, his mother, Teresa Shenk, has said.

In March, Garrett was taken from the custody of his mother, who lives in Rockingham County, under an emergency Child in Need of Services petition, Shenk said.

Source: Roanoke Times