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Judge Approves Settlement Agreement in South Florida Foster Care Reform

“Too many young people were being harmed by the very system that was supposed to protect and support them”

Contact: Daniel Kessel, 646-216-3343, dkessel@childrensrights.org

(Tallahassee, FL) – A federal judge has given final approval to a settlement that promises dramatic improvements to the state’s foster care system as operated by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Florida’s Southern Region (Miami Dade and Monroe Counties).

The settlement agreement requires DCF to invite community stakeholders – including service providers, children, parents and their advocates – to help identify gaps in adequate family foster homes and other placements for foster children, along with gaps in mental health services and delivery, and publish a report with recommendations on how to fill those gaps. The state must also curb the dangerous practices of placing children in hotels, motels or offices, overcrowding in foster homes, and placing young children in group homes or shelters. Ultimately, Florida must meet specific benchmarks to show that children receive stable housing and mental health services. The state’s performance will be reviewed and validated by a neutral auditor, and Plaintiffs can return to federal court to enforce the settlement, if necessary.

“With the judge’s approval and clear federal court enforceability, Florida DCF now has a real opportunity to revamp a failing foster care system and transform the lives of vulnerable children,” said Ira Lustbader, Litigation Director at Children’s Rights. “We commend the state for committing to improving its standard of care for children, and we look forward to working with DCF to implement these comprehensive reforms.”

The settlement agreement, filed earlier this year in federal court, is part of the civil rights lawsuit H.G. v. Carroll, which challenged long-standing problems in the Southern Region’s child welfare system, in the areas of inadequate housing and the extreme movement of children among homes and facilities, and the lack of mental health assessment and treatment services.  The class action complaint was filed in February 2018 by national child welfare advocacy organization Children’s Rights and international law firm Baker McKenzie on behalf of all children in foster care in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties.

“We filed this lawsuit because too many young people were being harmed by the very system that was supposed to protect and support them. There was no real accountability over what was happening to these kids,” said Bernard Perlmutter, Professor of Clinical Legal Education & Co-Director of the Children and Youth Law Clinic at University of Miami School of Law. “We are thrilled that DCF is working with us toward solutions that will provide the housing, therapeutic, and mental health support that south Florida’s children need.”

 

For more information about H.G. v. Carroll, please visit childrensrights.org/class_action/h-g-v-carroll.

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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 Baker McKenzie: Baker McKenzie helps clients overcome the challenges of competing in the global economy. We solve complex legal problems across borders and practice areas. Our unique culture, developed over 70 years, enables our 13,000 people to understand local markets and navigate multiple jurisdictions, working together as trusted colleagues and friends to instill confidence in our clients. Our pro bono mission is to deliver first-class legal services to the underserved and disadvantaged by fostering an environment that encourages and promotes service and contributes to the well-being of the communities in which we practice and live. For more information, go to www.bakermckenzie.com.

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