Phoenix AZ — Today U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver granted preliminary approval of a settlement agreement for B.K. v. Faust , a federal class action lawsuit filed on behalf of the more than 13,000 children in Arizona’s state foster care system. The settlement will require the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) to improve access to health care services — including mental health care — monitor and address caseloads of case managers, and prioritize placing children in family homes rather than group homes.
The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, Children’s Rights and the law firm Perkins Coie filed the case in 2015 to address shortcomings in Arizona’s child welfare system.
“This settlement agreement represents a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the lives of thousands of children,” said Harry Frischer, lead counsel at Children’s Rights. “We look forward to working with the DCS to make progress toward keeping Arizona’s foster children safe and ensuring they can thrive.”
“Children develop and succeed when they are in stable family homes,” said Anne C. Ronan, attorney with The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. “Our agreement is a major step toward ensuring that children who are in the state’s custody can live in their home communities, stay in the same schools and live with their brothers and sisters.”
The agreement focuses on four main areas of reform:
- Behavioral health care: The state will ensure the quality and accessibility of behavioral health care services available to children in its care, and regularly assess the mental health status and needs of children.
- Medical and dental care: The state will adequately track the physical health needs of children, and implement training for case managers to identify and facilitate specialized care for children with disabilities.
- Case manager workloads: DCS will monitor case manager caseloads to ensure that case managers have the time they need to meaningfully engage with children and their families and help keep them safe.
- Placements: The state will ensure that foster children are able to stay with relatives or in family-like homes, which are the best settings for children’s development and well-being, and work to reduce the system’s use of congregate care.
The settlement sets benchmarks and deadlines to achieve these goals, with the understanding that all actions will be completed no later than by the end of 2025.
“Ultimately, both parties in this case want what’s best for Arizona’s most vulnerable children, and this settlement agreement reflects those goals,” said Joseph Mais, partner at Perkins Coie. “We’re proud to have helped make this impactful agreement possible, and optimistic that it will improve the lives of thousands of foster children.”
To learn more about this suit, click here.
About The Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest: The Center is a nonprofit law firm that tirelessly defends the civil and legal rights of Arizonans, pursuing cases with enduring social, public health, and environmental impacts statewide. Standing up for Arizona’s most vulnerable residents, the Center holds the government accountable. www.acpli.org
About Children’s Rights: Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.
About Perkins Coie: Perkins Coie is a leading international law firm that is known for providing high value, strategic solutions and extraordinary client service on matters vital to our clients’ success. With more than 1,100 lawyers in offices across the United States and Asia, we provide a full array of corporate, commercial litigation, intellectual property and regulatory legal advice to a broad range of clients, including many of the world’s most innovative companies and industry leaders as well as public and not-for-profit organizations. www.perkinscoie.com