AL A.A. v. Buckner


Children’s Rights, the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, and the Southern Poverty Law Center filed A.A. v. Buckner against the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) on behalf of children in foster care living with mental health impairments who are held in psychiatric residential treatment facilities (PRTFs)—a population that is disproportionately Black youth. The case targets the state’s failure to place children in the least restrictive environment where they can access support while enjoying the same activities as peers and thrive into adulthood. Instead, they are often shuffled from one facility to another, further isolating them from their families and communities.


U.S. District Court, Middle District of Alabama
May 20, 2021
Focus Areas
Child Health, Government Accountability, Families Together, Racial Justice

The complaint alleges that DHR, the agency responsible for administering the child welfare system in Alabama, is violating federal law, placing children in these highly rigid and often dangerous settings instead of meeting their mental health needs in a loving home or community-based setting. Children segregated into these institutional settings are less likely to achieve permanency and are more likely to age out of the foster care system without the appropriate community-based care to facilitate a successful transition to adulthood.

In Alabama and across the U.S., Black youth are more likely to be removed from their communities and placed in these facilities. 41% of Black children in foster care with a diagnosed emotional disturbance are placed in residential facilities compared to 31.2% of their non-Black peers with an emotional disturbance. 

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring DHR to immediately change its policies and practices to ensure that no foster child is unnecessarily placed in these draconian facilities.

Return to In The Courts