Theresa and her family at a lake

Theresa Fogel, her boyfriend, Tyler Tingley, her son Azriel, her older daughter, Rylenn, and her younger daughter, Everly, at a lake in southeast Ohio. Missing from this family snapshot is her older son, Josiah, who will not be returning home. [Photo courtesy of Theresa Fogel]

Chapter 8
What was accomplished?


Theresa is thinking about moving again. Tennessee sounds good. 

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen,” she said. “I know I’m not going back to Butler County. I can tell you that. And if you find me anywhere, it’s gonna be away from people. … I like to be in the sticks. I like it. A lot of people wouldn’t like that kind of life. I feel like the less stress, the better off I’m gonna be mentally.” 

On June 25, 2022, one month to the day after moving to Glouster in hopes of a fresh start, Theresa’s family was blown apart. 

It’s mostly back together now. Life is starting to settle down into a routine. 

Theresa’s boyfriend found a good job at a powder coating plant, easing their financial burdens. Her younger son and two daughters are in school and seem to be moving past the trauma they experienced. 

She isn’t sure they are ready for more disruption in their lives, so any move may have to wait a while. 

Theresa is having a harder time letting go and moving on. She is angry and hurt and reminded daily of all that happened because her older son is not home, and no longer a part of her life. 

She blames Athens County Children Services for this. 

The agency removed her children based on allegations for which it appears the agency did little to investigate and never provided much evidence to support. What evidence is available shows most of the allegations were false. 

Still, it took Theresa months to get three of her children back. In the meantime, her daughters suffered abuse at a foster home and her younger son descended into a mental health crisis. 

Her case was closed Feb. 27, almost eight months to the day after it opened. 

The caseworkers and all the others from the agency were strangers who, from her perspective, swept into her life, blew up her family and then left her to pick up the pieces. 

But it was Josiah, her own child, who set all this in motion. In a fit of anger, he met with a caseworker at the Glouster library on June 25 and, she believes, told a bunch of lies.

A meeting room at the Glouster library

The room at the Glouster Public Library where Theresa Fogel’s sons made allegations against her and her boyfriend that led to the removal of her children. [Max Correa | WOUB]

Josiah was taken to his aunt’s home in Butler County after the removal. It’s exactly where he wanted to go, and it’s where he will likely remain until he turns 18 in May and is no longer in the agency’s custody. 

He declined to be interviewed for this story. 

Theresa feels betrayed by her son, and she’s upset he hasn’t had to suffer any of the consequences of his actions. 

“Everybody else has,” she said. But her anger and sense of betrayal are mixed with sadness and a feeling of helplessness, sometimes even in the course of a single thought as she continues to process what has happened and plans for a future without her son. 

And the mother in her still worries about what will happen with Josiah. She has heard from others he has been getting into trouble, and once he’s on his own she’s not sure where he will end up. 

She insists it will not be back in her home. 

Absolutely not. And that is to protect my other children and myself,” she said. “How do you let somebody that’s done all these things, that doesn’t even care, come back and trust that they’re not going to do it again? I can’t go through this again. I won’t ever put myself in a position for anyone to do this to me again.”

In school, making friends

Theresa’s younger son, Azriel, is about to finish his freshman year in high school. Despite starting several months into the school year, it seems he made the transition well, Theresa said. He made the honor roll and has already made more friends than he ever did in Butler County, she said. 

One day a couple of months ago, Azriel left the house to go play basketball with some friends. 

“He was gone for 10 minutes,” Theresa said, “and I’m sitting in the kitchen making myself something to eat and I look out the window and I’m telling you that, like, there was 12 to 15 people walking down the street with my kid. And I’m like, oh God, they’re not coming here, are they? And yes, they did. He brought literally like 15 kids into my house.” 

In the months leading up to the move to Glouster, Theresa struggled to get Azriel to go to school. Now he is talking about possibly joining the track team, and he wants to play football in the fall. 

Azriel seems to be developing a stronger sense of his own identity. “I think before he tried so hard to be like his brother and he wanted that acceptance,” Theresa said. “And now he is allowed to be himself and not have somebody stand over top of him and tell him he’s doing it wrong. And he’s made a lot of friends now that he doesn’t have somebody telling him who to be. 

“So, I’m proud of him. I mean, he’s been through a lot, but he’s realizing who he is and he’s figuring that out. And, you know, he’s good.” 

Theresa’s older daughter, Rylenn, who had her 10th birthday while she was removed from home, is a fourth grader. Everly, who is 4, is in preschool and rides the bus back and forth every day with her big sister. They are excited about going to school and are making friends, Theresa said. 

“I can’t go through this again. I won’t ever put myself in a position for anyone to do this to me again.”

— Theresa Fogel

Both girls seem to be moving past the experience of having their family torn apart. 

“Thankfully it was a very brief period of time that this happened … because I feel like if the girls would have been gone from me longer than the four months, that there might be more issues,” Theresa said. 

The last time foster care came up was a couple of months ago when Theresa handed Rylenn a hair brush. 

“She’s like, ‘Eew, I don’t want that. I got that in foster care,’ and threw that in the trash,” Theresa said. She also threw away the toothbrush and toothpaste she was given. “She doesn’t want any of that. None of that.” 

One of the first things Theresa did when her children returned home was get them into counseling, something she had begged Children Services to do the entire time they were in its custody. Theresa, meanwhile, has stopped going to therapy. She said it wasn’t doing much for her. 

“I can go for a walk and feel better than me having to rehash what happened to me this week,” she said. “It’s just more traumatic for me to have to keep reliving what happens … than for me to just accept it and move on.” 

She’s also looking forward to being able to spend more time in nature, which she believes will help with the healing process. 

“It’s about to be summertime and I’ll be fine,” she said. “It’s been hard being trapped inside with my thoughts.” 

Theresa has long wanted to go back to school and study for a career in an environmental field that will allow her to work in the outdoors. She’s thinking about enrolling in an online program for a degree in wildlife conservation biology. But she’s not sure when. 

She’s trying not to plan too far ahead right now. 

I just have to live within the day and figure it out,” she said. “I think that a lot of us try and look ahead too far and then we’re disappointed that these things happened and that we just didn’t get there. And I’m not giving up on my dream, but at the same time I’ve been handed a whole hell of a lot of s***. And the fact that I’m sanely sitting here able to talk about it and still have a shimmer of hope that I might one day still have the opportunity to do that? I’m cool with that.”

Taking stock

When children are removed from their parents, the agency’s primary goal is to work toward reunification. A case plan is developed listing the things parents need to do so their kids can come home. In this way, the agency’s intervention is intended to improve conditions at home for the children. 

Theresa was given a case plan, but she said she wasn’t required to follow it. A caseworker came out to her home a few times to observe the children after they returned, but Theresa said the woman acknowledged on one visit that there wasn’t much point in her being there. 

“She’s like, you know, you don’t really need my services,” Theresa said. “You haven’t needed my services. So I’m gonna go give my services to some family that actually needs them. I mean, that was directly said to me, Azriel, Rylenn and Everly.” 

This raises the question of what was accomplished in Theresa’s case. The allegations against her were said to place her children in such danger that an emergency removal was necessary for their welfare. But the agency didn’t take any actions to address the concerns raised by these allegations, Theresa said. This could be because it soon realized there was no truth to most of them. 

It is difficult to see what positive change in Theresa’s family the agency could point to and say that its involvement in her life made this possible. 

“Nothing was accomplished,” Theresa said. “Nothing.” 

“All they created was stress and more trauma,” she said. “They did nothing else but create more havoc in my life.” 

Theresa acknowledged that after a rough start, their life in Glouster is now moving in a better direction. But she said the good things that are happening are not because of the agency’s involvement but in spite of it. 

“We didn’t expect this move to be easy,” she said. “We knew it was gonna be hard for everyone. They just added to that. They didn’t make anything easier.”

“Never gonna be over”

Two weeks before moving to Glouster, Theresa took her two sons on a hiking trip in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge for Josiah’s 17th birthday. She had dropped a domestic violence charge against him a few days earlier and he was released from juvenile detention. She was ready to start putting the past behind her. 

In a comment to a Facebook post about the trip, Josiah wrote: “Had so much fun this weekend thank you all for making my 17th birthday one I will remember for the rest of my life I had so much fun.” 

Theresa is planning another hiking trip to the gorge the weekend of Josiah’s 18th birthday. It’s a tradition, she said. “It’s gonna be unfortunate that he’s not able to be there,” she said, “but I’m not breaking what I normally do. We’re trying to still get past that.” 

That’s going to take some time. Josiah’s absence, and all that it represents, remains a strong and painful presence in her life. 

Theresa has not communicated with Josiah in months. In some of their final text exchanges, there are hints of remorse from Josiah. 

“I’m sorry like I really am but I don’t think I could be out there and everything happens for a reason and ik I can never say how sorry I really am bc I never wanted too do any of that but I hand not choice I love you guys.” 

Theresa: “All I did was try for you kids. Everyday.” 

Josiah: “Ik but the thing you didn’t realize is none of us wanted too go all the way out there and no of us liked it out there.” 

One of their last communications was in early December, a lengthy text exchange in which Theresa lays out the allegations he made. 

“When did you ever have nothing?? When did you ever not have clothes shoes toys or anything else you ever wanted or needed?? You said there was no food in the house. The house was full of food. And you know it.”’ 

Josiah: “I never said nun of that.”

Part of a text exchange between Theresa and her older son, Josiah

Part of a text exchange between Theresa and her older son, Josiah, in early December. It was one of the last times they communicated.

Theresa then mentions the allegations involving Tyler, about the hammer and the shotgun and the erratic driving. “I’m just telling you what the allegations are and what children’s services claim you said about me.” 

Josiah: “Mom I honestly don’t know what too say other than most of that is bs and I never said any of it and I’m sorry.” 

Josiah’s maternal grandmother, Cheryl Boger, who lives just a few blocks from her daughter Jaime, the aunt with whom Josiah and his brother were placed, said she believes the allegations were the product of a boy deeply unhappy about his circumstances and desperate to change them. 

He didn’t wanna be there. He didn’t wanna live there,” Cheryl said. “His friends are here, his girlfriend is here. … He’s always wanted to live with Jamie. He loves Jamie, and he’s wanted to, just to be there. 

“Well, he’s there, at everybody’s expense, but he’s there.” 

Theresa now has Josiah blocked on her phone so that he cannot call or text her. She got tired of waiting for him to say he wanted to try to fix things and maintain some kind of relationship with her. 

She’s hurt that after all the family has been through — everything she believes his actions have put them through — he could just walk away from her, from his brother and sisters. 

“Nobody can undo any of this,” Theresa said after her final court appearance. 

Yes, this is over with today and I am very grateful for that,” she said. “But it’s never gonna be over for me. It’s never gonna be over. I will never be OK because of what happened to me last June 25th. I’ll never be OK. Ever.”

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