National Center for Youth Law


Booraem v. Orange County

This taxpayer action against Orange County and the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) challenged the placement for an extended period of time of abused and neglected infants and young children in Orangewood Children’s Home under illegal and unconstitutional conditions. Allegations against the county defendant included depriving children of a secure emotional relationship with a primary care giver; confining children under the age of six in emergency shelters without a court order specifying the need for an extensive evaluation; confining children for long periods of time in overcrowded conditions under the supervision of untrained staff who are unable to meet their most basic developmental needs; and being unable or unwilling to treat psychological and behavioral disturbances experienced by children. Allegations against the state defendant included failing to develop standards and regulations for the operation of county run shelters as required by state law; permitting the county defendant to operate the institution in violation of the law and state and federal constitutions; and failing to monitor the care and services provided to children confined in Orangewood.




798871 (Cal. Supr. Crt., Orange County, Aug. 31, 1998)



Carole Shauffer
Youth Law Center
417 Montgomery Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 543-3379
Fax: (415) 956-9022



The parties entered into settlement discussions early in the litigation and reached a settlement agreement in May 2000.  The settlement agreement established protocol for completing emergency relative placements; protocol for placing children under six years of age in a family-like setting, when no appropriate relative is available; and protocol for expanding efforts to recruit and maintain a range of family-like settings to house children less than six years of age.  Additionally, the settlement agreement required CDSS to develop a placement coordination unit to divert or transfer children to family-like settings and provide monitoring data to the Youth Law Center. The County has dramatically decreased the number of young children confined in Orangewood, and CDSS agreed to promulgate regulations governing shelter care facilities. Plaintiffs continue to monitor the number of children under six years old who are at Orangewood, as well as compliance with state licensing standards for shelters.