Children’s Rights, Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC), North Carolina Chapter NAACP State Conference (NC NAACP), and Moore & Van Allen filed Timothy B. v. Kinsley against the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for its pervasive, system-wide practice of unnecessarily warehousing children with disabilities in foster care in dangerous, locked psychiatric institutions—sometimes sending them out of state, hundreds of miles away from their families and communities. Children of color bear the brunt of the harms.
The complaint describes DHHS’s practice of discriminating against children with disabilities in foster care by locking up more than 500 of them every year in prison-like psychiatric residential treatment facilities, known as PRTFs, rather than providing them with the integrated community-based housing and services that they are eligible for. The unnecessary use of these prison-like settings is both unlawful and widely recognized as harmful to youth, who fare far better when supported in family-like settings in their communities.
The complaint further notes that Black and Brown children unjustly carry the burden of the state’s failure, as they are more likely to be separated from their families, placed in the state’s foster care system, and more likely to be locked away in unsafe institutions. According to recent DHHS data, children of color make up over 40% of the children on Medicaid confined to PRTFs.
Until North Carolina strengthens access to community services and supports and prioritizes families, children with disabilities who have already experienced the trauma of being separated from their families and communities will continue to be harmed.