CHARLESTON – A woman is suing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources after she claims the agency caused her defamation.
In November/December 2011, a Child Protective Services referral was made alleging that Rebecca Parks' home was unfit for the safety of minor children, due to domestic violence between Parks and her husband, David Martin; an aggressive pit bull being kept as a pet; an alligator being kept as a pet; and a wood heating stove, according to a complaint filed March 25 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Parks claims as a result of the investigation conducted by the WVDHHR, she and Martin were provided parenting classes and services to improve their living conditions where were alleged to be an unsuitable environment for young children, such as their two children, C.M. and M.M.
At the expiration of their home improvement period, rather than closing their ongoing case after having met all requirements placed upon them, the WVDHHR contacted the parents and informed them that an allegation had been made regarding purported sexual abuse of the children from a daycare provider, according to the suit.
Parks claims it was alleged that M.M., age 3, had claimed that her daddy bit her while having her diaper changed.
Upon contacting Parks, she informed the CPS worker that M.M. often made up stories about being bit by dogs or people and that Martin had often played where he would put his teeth on her belly and act like he was going to bite her, according to the suit.
Parks claims when the CPS worker, Bonnie Puckett, interviewed Martin regarding these allegations, he denied any type of abuse and informed her that his older daughter, C.M., age 4, had been talking about two boys playing with snakes at daycare and pointing to her behind, but the WVDHHR disregarding this information at the time.
The two children were removed from Parks' home in March 2012 and, as part of the ongoing case, the WVDHHR set up counseling service for the two children and informed the counselor from the initial intake process that Martin was a "suspected sexual abuser and drug abuser," according to the suit.
Parks claims the WVDHHR also set up supervised visitation for the parents with Second Chances, an organization operated in Princeton.
M.M. and C.M. were evaluated by a physician, who found no physical signs of abuse, but that the children exhibited developmental delays for their ages, according to the suit.
Parks claims after a few months of living with a foster family and attending weekly counseling with WVDHHR's preferred provider, the children allegedly changed their stories to expand that M.M. had been bit on her privates by her father and that C.M. had associated snakes being put down her pants by boys at daycare, which was a metaphor to truly describe sexual abuse, which was also associated with Martin having perpetrated the same.
During these counseling sessions, the children were transported by various employees of Second Chances, and on multiple occasions during transportation, the children relayed that their foster mother had told them to say their "daddy can't touch my privates," according to the suit.
Parks claims it was further discovered that the teenage daughter of the foster mother dressed the children in adult lingerie over their clothing and took photographs of them and then posted them to social media.
During the nearly one-year period the children were out of Parks' home, the children's development continued as would normally be expected for children of that age, including an increase of vocabulary skills, according to the suit.
Parks claims Puckett seized upon this opportunity to plant ideas into their heads to have them associate biting and snakes as metaphors for body parts with sexual connotation.
"Upon learning that plaintiff and Mr. Martin were not exhibiting any negative behaviors during their supervised visits with the children, CPS Worker Puckett requested the Second Chances worker be removed from the case because she had nothing bad to say about the parents," the complaint states.
Parks claims despite having no proof whatsoever that any sexual abuse had occurred, the WVDHHR subjected Parks and Martin to court proceedings seeking to terminate their parental rights and have the court declare the children had been subject to sexual abuse by Martin.
On Feb. 14, 2013, an evidentiary hearing was held in Mercer Circuit Court and on Feb. 20, 2013, the court ordered that the WVDHHR failed to establish evidence that Martin had sexually abused his children and in March 2013, the children were returned to Parks' home, according to the suit.
Parks claims she and Martin attempted to establish a parental relationship with their children, who had been subjected to negative thoughts and ideas by WVDHHR, their counselor and their foster families.
As a result of the stress, anxiety and false allegations of being labeled a sex abuser, Martin lost his job and became severely depressed and frustrated, leading to the use of alcohol and a drunk driving incident that led to his license being suspected and he was admitted to the hospital for psychological care after having suicidal tendencies, according to the suit.
Parks claims she also became very depressed and embarrassed as a result of the proceedings falsely accusing her of knowing her children had been sexually abused and failing to take action.
Parks is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by Robert B. Warner and Tammy Bowles Raines of Warner Law Offices PLLC.
Martin also filed a similar complaint in Kanawha Circuit Court. Parks intends to file a motion to consolidate her complaint with her husband's after the defendant responds to her complaint.
The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie Webster.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-588