Virginia mother argues for her 3 children during Virginia Supreme Court hearing

10 News is breaking down what happened in the courtroom

We have an update on a case we’ve been following all year. The case of a Carroll County mother fighting for custody of her kids was heard in the Virginia Supreme Court.

10 News is breaking down what happened in the courtroom.

“I regret to say in Carroll County, the crisis is real,” John Koehler argued in front of a Virginia Supreme Court panel.

He’s representing Angie Key as she continues to fight for her three children who went into foster care four years ago.

As we’ve reported, the Carroll County Department of Social Services has been under investigation for violating Virginia laws, rules and policies meant to protect children and families.

Something Koehler brought up in his argument as the state agency tasked with investigating complaints involving children in foster care investigated Angie’s case.

“Services required under the statute were not delivered in this case, despite the testimony of the director that they were. If the Office of Children’s Ombudsman found no they were not, how could that not affect the judge’s decision because the department has the burden to show that services were delivered? If services are not properly delivered, are not fully delivered, then how can we say a parent was at fault for not complying with them?” said Koehler.

After the investigation into Angie’s case, the final report showed “the lack of urgency or interest” to “achieve reunification,” “lack of meaningful visitation with the children,” court records that contained incomplete and inaccurate information and “troubling internal policies.”

But that report was never allowed in court. Koehler hopes appealing the decision in the Supreme Court will change the process for termination of parental rights and hold the local Department of Social Services accountable.

But this final chance for Key to get her kids back was denied by the Supreme Court.

“They recognize that because of certain timing aspects of it, it probably wasn’t the best case to review what the Office of Children’s Ombudsman is meant to do. So, I remain hopeful that we will eventually have a case where all of the pieces fit together, and we can have a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court,” said Koehler, who explained Key doesn’t have any other options at this point to get her children back. “This has always been understood that we were fighting a difficult fight. But I am pleased to say that it has raised awareness of this issue. The main problem here was that the case had already reached a decision before we tried to have this information this evidence brought into the case.”

Attorney John Koehler argued in front of a Virginia supreme court panel. (Courtesy: Supreme Court of Virginia)

We caught up with Angie after the ruling.

“Severe sadness and grief, that they wouldn’t just hear it. There’s not going to be a chance for them to just hear it, to know that we were telling the truth all the time, that they did wrong and there was corruption and I did everything right. And I should have gotten children back,” said Key.

Although her case may be over, she’s hoping this will change things for others.

“I’m praying that the ombudsman’s office will get more power and be able to step in more and that the courts will have to hear this evidence, these investigations and other families will reap the benefits,” said Key.

Koehler said Angie understood the odds were stacked against her, but she continued fighting for her kids and other families.

“She knew that other people were experiencing the same difficulties, having the same issues in getting proper services, and she wanted to advocate for them, and I think that was extremely brave of her,” said her attorney. “I think it makes her a hero in a sense, even though her pain is not relieved. She is giving hope to others”

Ultimately, Koehler said the Virginia legislature needs to make changes to help in situations like this.

10 News reached out to the Carroll County Department of Social Services Director Teresa Isom who gave us the following statement:

State law requires that local departments of social services maintain the confidentiality of CPS and foster care information concerning specific cases in order to protect the privacy of children and families. Therefore, the Agency cannot disclose information or participate in interviews concerning specific cases.

Carroll County Department of Social Services Director Teresa Isom

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You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.