District of Columbia (LaShawn A. v. Gray)
Children’s Rights filed this federal class action in 1989, charging the District of Columbia with jeopardizing the health and safety of thousands of abused and neglected children in its custody. Following a 1991 trial on the merits and a finding by the trial court that the District’s child welfare system violated federal law, Children’s Rights and defendants reached agreement on the terms of a court-ordered reform plan in 1993.
In the years that followed, the District made only minimal progress toward achieving court-mandated reforms, prompting the court to impose the unprecedented remedy of a federal takeover of the child welfare system’s management in 1995. The District regained control of the beleaguered agency in 2000, after establishing a cabinet-level Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) and committing to major reform. Though CFSA initially made strides to improve the quality of services and outcomes for abused and neglected children in the District, it remained in violation of the court-ordered reform plan.
In recent years, the advances previously achieved by CFSA deteriorated, and CFSA’s overall performance declined sharply, prompting Children’s Rights to file a motion for a finding of contempt against the District in July of 2008.
The parties negotiated a stipulated order that set forth requirements for CFSA. When they failed to meet the requirements of the stipulated order, Children’s Rights filed a renewed motion for contempt, which was granted in part by the court. CFSA subsequently filed a motion to set a timeline by which the agency would exit court jurisdiction, which was denied by Judge Hogan, and that decision was subsequently upheld by the court of appeals.
In December of 2010, after the Court reviewed proposals from the District and Children’s Rights, the court ordered the adoption of the Implementation and Exit Plan (IEP). The IEP sets forth the outcomes CFSA must maintain and achieve. It also requires the Court-appointed Monitor to produce regular monitoring reports. The most recent monitoring report was released on May 2, 2011, and it shows that the agency is still out of compliance with a number of important measures.