New York (Marisol A. v. Giuliani)
Children’s Rights filed this class action lawsuit against New York City and New York State on behalf of more than 100,000 children living in the city’s child welfare system. At the time of filing, New York operated one of the worst systems in the nation, resulting in the deaths of multiple children and causing irreparable physical and mental harm to thousands more. Systemic problems cited at the time of filing include:
- An understaffed child abuse hotline that frequently dismissed well-founded reports of abuse and neglect, even from credible sources such as doctors or teachers;
- Poor foster home oversight and investigation, resulting in high rates of abuse and neglect of children while in foster care;
- Shortage of appropriate foster care placements, resulting in children being placed in any available bed, regardless of their needs; and
- Failure to plan for children’s futures, resulting in children languishing in foster care for years longer than the national average.
Historic settlement agreements were reached with the state and city, respectively, in 1999. The state settlement requires New York to implement a computerized data management system and to exercise its oversight responsibilities over the city’s child welfare system. The agreement yielded improvements, including audits by the state of the city’s treatment of children in nine specified areas; however the state’s failure to sufficiently develop its computer system prompted further legal action by Children’s Rights in 2001. Children’s Rights continues to monitor the state’s compliance with the remaining portion of the settlement agreement pertaining to the data management system.
The consent decree with New York City also yielded many improvements. With such reforms as reduced caseloads for workers and an improved case practice model in place, the lawsuit against the city ended successfully in December of 2000. However, in 2007, an assessment of New York City’s child welfare system compiled by Children’s Rights revealed alarming problems, including a growing rate of repeat abuse and neglect of children known to the child welfare system. The city is currently implementing its own reform effort, which Children’s Rights is closely monitoring to see whether it yields improvements for children and families.