A Lubbock Couple Charged with Child Abuse, 8 Months Later A Family Remains Broken Apart

Date: 2014-05-13

By Anne Parker

LUBBOCK, TX-- Typically, kids in the foster care system are removed from their biological parents after they've been abused or neglected.

The idea is to, then, place them into a loving and safe environment.

Dave and Wonda Dixon, a Lubbock couple adopted 10 special needs children ages 5 to 14, out of the foster care system.

But, last October, everything changed when the Dixons were arrested on charges of child abuse.

Eight months later, they're still in jail.

In an interview we did with the Dixons five years ago, they told us how rewarding giving foster kids a new life can be.

And now, they face charges of injury to a child.

Investigators say Child Protective Services responded to a complaint last August, finding one child so severely malnourished, she was removed from the home immediately and needed hospital care.

They believe the Dixon's were withholding food and water.

The other nine were removed shortly after after accusations of more extreme punishments.

"CPS is making all reasonable efforts to tend to the not just that particular child, but the nine siblings. Not just in medical, but in terms of their educational needs, emotional needs," says Neal Burt with Lubbock's District Attorney office.

Burt says each child's level of care needed determines where they have been placed.

Today, one is in an emergency shelter, another in institutional placement, the other eight in foster homes.

What was once a family, is now broken apart.

"They have been having contact with each other it's not without great difficulties in making it happen, but the CPS team has been very diligent in traveling all over the state to help transport those kids and make that occur as best as they practically can," Burt said.

Ely Martinez at Caring Family Network, says these situations are traumatic.

"Any move regardless of why they move, theres always a sense of rejection. No matter how many times you tell them it wasn't you," said Martinez.

Especially if they move from a bad situation with their biological parents and into an abusive foster home.

"It's just inconsistency, more of a chaotic environment, it's just adding again to the trauma," she said.

But through the great deal of background checks, home studies and long application process to become a foster parent, agencies hope to avoid these kinds of situations at all cost.

"We are human and sometimes things do slip by, because people do put up a good front," Martinez said.

Kerry Piper, Wonda Dixon's attorney tells us, he doesn't think the Dixons did anything wrong.

"Certainly not to the degree alleged," said Piper.

Piper couldn't get into the facts of the case but says he doesn't think the charges have any merit.

"They've gone through 10 adoptions. These aren't just foster kids. They've been cleared and cleared and cleared. All of a sudden we are faced with these kind of charges," Piper said.

After fostering a child for six months, families like the Dixons are able to move into the adoption process.

Once the adoption is official, CPS and other agencies no longer check in.

So, Martinez says we have an obligation as a community.

"As a community, keeping an eye on each other and not turning a blind eye and saying that's none of my business. I think our kids are our business," she said.

"We are leaving no stone unturned," Burt says. "In trying to find the best resolution for each and everyone of the 10 children."

The CPS and criminal cases are still pending, but the number one priority is trying to establish some kind of normalcy for these kids, so they try to find joy away from what was once, their family.

May is Foster Care Awareness month, and the Caring Family Network says that, even after what happened with the Dixon's, it is important to acknowledge all of the good families working to give foster kids a safe and loving home.

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