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State finds Richmond DSS not at fault in two child deaths

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- A review conducted by Virginia’s Department of Social Services determined Richmond’s Department of Social Services (RDSS) did not contribute to the death of two children known to RDSS last year.

VDSS is reviewing what happened to five children who died since April of last year and were known to RDSS at some point.

Back in January, Stephen Harms, the Interim Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Human Services, told CBS 6 the state was investigating four child deaths, but the state confirmed that number is actually five.

“It’s part of an independent investigation by the state where we say we touched this case somewhere along the way; we are notifying you that there has been a death and we touched it somewhere back then,” Harms told CBS 6 in January.

This is the latest development on a story WTVR has been investigating for more than a year.

CBS 6 was the first to tell you about multiple cases where vulnerable Richmond children were left in abusive homes.

The state’s Regional Child Fatality Review team investigates every child fatality as part of its protocol.

A VDSS spokeswoman told CBS 6 one of the five children died from physical neglect and another from medical neglect.

In both of those cases, the state found RDSS did not contribute to the children’s deaths and closed the cases.

The state said three cases remain open, including the case of 10-month-old Gionna Sydnor.

Sydnor died in November, after her grandmother, Adrienne Sydnor, said she made calls to DSS because she was worried about Gigi’s living environment.

“I need answers,” Sydnor said.

Sydnor believes if DSS had taken action her granddaughter would still be alive.

“They didn’t do their job, and I know they didn’t do their job,” Sydnor said.

The state is waiting for reports from the medical examiner in the three remaining cases before making any decision.

Sydnor said she won’t rest until she knows the results.

“The toxicology will show whether there was foul play or not…if foul play was involved…then somebody needs to go to jail,” Sydnor said.

David Hicks, senior policy adviser to Mayor Dwight Jones, is temporarily overseeing RDSS.

When asked about the state’s findings, Hicks said he was not aware the state had finished their review of two of the child deaths.

Hicks said he would not comment on the matter until he talked to the state about its findings.


  • Norma Earls

    Social Services has determined that Social Services is not to blame. Meanwhile, the head of RDSS, David Hicks, was “not aware the state had finished their review of two of the child deaths.”

  • Joyce

    I think there should have been an outside agency investigating. The state DSS employs former Richmond DSS employees; therefore, I have some doubts about this investigation.

  • sw

    How does SS investigate SS and do it objectively? Come on now how ridiculous does this sound. I wouldn’t trust anything and I hope this grandmother screws them to the wall.

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