MO G.L. v. Sherman



U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple, U.S. District Court, Western District of Missouri
March 1, 1977
Focus Areas
Child Health, Families Together, Government Accountability

In 1977, Children’s Rights joined Legal Aid of Western Missouri and local advocates in a class action to reform the grossly inadequate child welfare system in Jackson County, Missouri. The charged the Missouri Division of Family Services (DFS) with many failures, including endangering the lives of children in state custody by failing to properly investigate and monitor foster homes. At the time the lawsuit was filed, children in foster care in Jackson County experienced very high rates of abuse and neglect, while living in foster homes that were often unsafe, unsanitary and poorly supervised.

A Settlement Agreement was reached with Missouri officials in 1983, mandating top-to-bottom reform of the foster care system. After the state repeatedly failed to implement court-ordered reforms, Children’s Rights and co-counsel successfully filed a contempt motion against the state and a full trial was held in 1992. A new Settlement Agreement was reached and approved in 1994; it mandated many improvements, such as training for foster parents and mandatory criminal history and child abuse checks for prospective foster families.

Over the next ten years, with court oversight, DFS successfully implemented all of the reforms required by the settlement agreement. Thanks to the lawsuit, the foster children of Jackson County benefited from vast, systemic improvements during the period of federal monitoring, including:

On February 1, 2006, the court conditionally dismissed the case court oversight officially ended, and the state agreed to keep in place until 2009 the policies, practices and staff positions created as a result of the lawsuit.

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