TX M.D. v. Abbott


Children’s Rights, along with co-counsel Haynes & Boone, Yetter Coleman and Canales & Simonson, filed this case against Greg Abbott, in his official capacity as Governor of Texas; Chris Traylor, in his official capacity as the Executive Commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission of Texas (HHSC); and John J. Specia, Jr, in his official capacity as the Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).The current structure of Texas’s child welfare system gives caseworkers approximately one year, or a maximum of 18 months, to either successfully reunify children with their birth families or find them adoptive homes before they enter “permanent managing conservatorship” or PMC. After entering PMC, many children have little hope for stable, permanent families. Children’s Rights brought suit on behalf of all children in Texas PMC. The Amended Complaint, alleged violations of the plaintiff children’s constitutional rights, including their right not to be harmed while in state custody and their right to familial association. Among the issues described in the complaint:


U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas
March 29, 2011
Focus Areas
Child Health, Families Together, Government Accountability

On the road to trial, the case encountered obstacles as the law surrounding class certification changed with the Supreme Court decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes. The class was certified in the District Court, but Defendants brought a petition for interlocutory review of the class certification order to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit reviewed the case and vacated the District Court order.In response, Children’s Rights filed the amended complaint creating a general class of children who will be or are in PMC of DFPS and four subclasses. These subclasses include: (1) all members of the general class who are now or will be in a licensed or verified foster care placement; (2) all members of the general class in a foster group home; (3) all members of the general class in a general residential operation and are receiving solely non-emergency, basic child care services; and (4) all members of the general class who are in an unverified kinship placement. In accordance with the Fifth Circuit ruling, the District Court Judge filed an ruled in favor of plaintiff children, declaring Texas must make targeted changes to its foster care system to improve thousands of young lives.

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