New Mexico (Joseph A. v. Bolson)
Children’s Rights and co-counsel filed this class action in 1980 on behalf of children in New Mexico’s failing child welfare system. The federal complaint charges New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD) with failing to plan for children’s futures, forcing them to languish unnecessarily in state custody. At the time of filing, the average child in CYFD custody spent five years moving between temporary foster homes. The state lacked an adequate system for monitoring children in foster homes, and did not even maintain an accurate count of the number children in foster care
A settlement agreement was reached in 1983, but state officials failed to implement court-ordered reforms and continued to fight the case for years. Children’s Rights repeatedly brought the state before the court, each time successfully, for its failure to comply with the settlement agreement. After years of continued legal maneuvering by the state — including obtaining a dismissal ruling by the District Court in 2000, which was reversed by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2002 — a new consent decree was reached in 2003, focusing on permanency for children.
With a new management team at CYFD and a renewed commitment from the state, the implementation of the court-ordered reforms began immediately. On February 24, 2005, the case was successfully closed, with both parties agreeing that New Mexico would continue to implement the improved child welfare practices.