Class Actions

Arizona

AZ - B.K. v. McKay

At the time the complaint was filed, there were 10 named plaintiffs, including B.K., 10, and J.M., 8.

When B.K. went into foster care for the third time at age 8, she had been diagnosed with PTSD, psychosis and anxiety. Despite her fragile state, she was separated from her siblings, put in a group home on an “emergency shelter” basis and was left there for two years. The state ignored her need for glasses, and didn’t address her limp or toothache for months. B.K. was denied consistent counseling and mental health services, even though she was hearing voices and threatened to hurt herself and others.

In his two and a half years in foster care, J.M. has lived in at least 13 places, including four different group homes within four months. As a result, he has attended five schools in two years, at one point missing 60 days of school. At times he had to travel six hours round trip for two-hour visits with his mother. He was approved for a therapeutic foster home, but none was available and J.M. had to continue living at a shelter for four more months before being moved to a non-therapeutic foster home.

U.S. District Court, District of Arizona, Phoenix Division
STATUS: Active
FILED: February 3, 2015

Children’s Rights, along with co-counsel Perkins Coie LLP and the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, filed this case against Gregory McKay, in his official capacity as director of the Department of Child Safety, Cara M. Christ, in her official capacity as director of the Department of Health Services, and Thomas J. Betlach, in his official capacity as director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System. The class action, seeking reform on behalf of the more than 16,000 abused and neglected children in state care, asserts that Arizona has engaged in destructive practices that have exposed these children to “further physical and emotional harm and unreasonable risk of harm while in the State’s care.”

According to the complaint, four core deficiencies within the child welfare system are undermining children’s health, well-being and safety. For example, young people:

  • Have no place to go. In September 2014 the state had only 5,669 spaces in licensed foster homes available for 9,418 foster children who were not placed with relatives. As a result, there are many instances when children sleep in DCS offices because homes aren’t available.
  • Aren’t getting the medical, dental or mental health services they desperately need. There currently are only about 400 therapeutic foster homes; meanwhile approximately 1,000 teenagers in foster care have been clinically diagnosed as emotionally disturbed.
  • Are losing critical family connections. As of September 2013, the state failed to place all siblings together at least a third of the time. They also place children far from their home communities. As of September 2012, only 31 percent of children were placed in the same zip code as the homes from which they were removed.
  • Are at risk of abuse or neglect in foster care. The state’s own data shows that, between October 2010 and March 2013, over a thousand investigations into reports of maltreatment in state care had not been completed on time.

The suit asks the court to ensure that the state fixes these egregious failings, asserting that plaintiffs’ federal constitutional and statutory rights are being violated.