In our last issue we reported on our newly filed lawsuit in South Carolina, a state that has long struggled with a severe lack of foster homes, excessive caseloads and the mass institutionalizing of kids in care — in fact, the state has the highest rate nationally for institutionalizing children 12 and under.
While legal advocacy is an effective tool to leverage change, it can take time. But thanks to our zealous, creative legal team, which is partnering with exceptional local counsel — the South Carolina Appleseed Legal Justice Center and Matthew T. Richardson, partner at the Wyche P.A. law firm — South Carolina has agreed to critical improvements for its child welfare system even as we negotiate a comprehensive settlement in the case.
This interim relief requires South Carolina’s child welfare agency to:
- end its practice of placing kids 6 and under in group facilities, including shelters;
- phase out the use of child welfare offices, hotels and motels for housing children;
- stop keeping youth in juvenile justice facilities simply because there is no place to put them;
- conduct a study to develop appropriate workload limits for caseworkers; and
- perform a statewide assessment to determine the needed range of placements.
“It is gratifying to get this type of meaningful relief for our clients so early in litigation,” said Ira Lustbader, litigation director for Children’s Rights. “While there is much work to be done, it is significant that the state will no longer make kids wait for certain key changes.”
Read additional articles in Notes From the Field, the Children’s Rights Newsletter: