Court Decision on DCYF ‘Allows a Dangerous Foster Care System to Operate Unchanged,’ Says Children’s Rights

(New York, NY) — Today U.S. District Judge Mary M. Lisi found in favor of the defendants in a class-action lawsuit prosecuted by national advocacy organization Children’s Rights, attorney John Dineen in Providence and the national firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, asserting that Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) is failing to ensure the safety and well-being of several thousand children in state custody. In response to the ruling, Ira Lustbader, associate director of Children’s Rights, issued the following statement:

“We believe that the Court erred in its ruling, and that it has effectively denied abused and neglected children relief from one of the country’s most dangerous and broken foster care systems.

“Children in Rhode Island foster care are subjected to one of the highest rates of abuse and neglect nationwide. They are put in group homes and institutions far too often. Their caseworkers are overburdened and cannot sufficiently monitor and protect them. If they are abused, they cannot count on adequate investigations.

“For seven years plaintiffs sought to have this case heard as a class action, which would allow full evidence of systemic risks to be presented at trial, but the Court refused multiple requests to even rule on class-action status. The Court went even further and issued an order blocking fact-finding on DCYF as a whole, limiting it to the two plaintiffs discussed in the ruling. These actions, among other things, ultimately prevented full and fair hearing of the evidence.

“Because this decision allows a dangerous foster care system to operate unchanged, we are actively considering our options for appeal.”