The situation began in 2012 when Lane and Susan Funkhauser took their two children, a boy and a girl, to a doctor as the children had not been feeling well, but was unable to diagnose the problem. As the children remained ill, the Funkausers decided to homeschool their children while they sought further medical help so that they would not continue to miss school.
School officials soon filed truancy charges, which were dismissed. However, as a result, the Clarke County Department of Social Services soon became involved in the matter, and social worker Michael Austin accused Susan of having Munchausen Syndrome by proxy, a mental illness in which a parent invents, induces or exaggerates their child’s illness in order to draw attention to themselves.
During this time, the Funkhausers obtained a diagnosis from another doctor, who determined that the children had a combination of strep throat, parasites and a serious and contagious bacterial infection called C. Diff. (short for clostridium difficile) which kills over 14,000 Americans a year. As laboratory tests proved the presence of the C. Diff. infection, the doctor sent the Funkhausers to the hospital, where they were treated and released.
Nonetheless, in July 2012, the Funkhauser’s children were removed from the home by Clarke County DSS. They were taken to the emergency room, where it was confirmed that the children had C. Diff.
However, building off of Austin’s theory, social workers from the neighboring Shenandoah County DSS also became involved and placed the Funkhauser children in foster care. The county went to court over the matter, where a judge allowed them to continue to investigate and interrogate the children.