National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Higgins v. Saenz

Plaintiffs alleged that the California State Department of Social Services failed to enforce federal regulations requiring states to license foster homes of relatives that care for youth to ensure that the homes meet health and safety requirements. The suit charged that some children were living in substandard and dangerous conditions because of the state’s failure to require counties to investigate fully relative homes and to provide assistance to relatives in meeting licensing requirements.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED

CPF-02-501937 (Cal. Super. Ct., L.A. County, Oct. 24, 2002)

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Carol Shauffer
Alice Bussiere
Youth Law Center
417 Montgomery Street, Suite 900
San Francisco, CA 94104
(415) 543-3379
Fax: (415) 956-9022
abussiere@ylc.org

HISTORY AND STATUS

The settlement, which was filed October 31, 2002, and will be monitored by the court, requires uniform, statewide standards for foster parents who are related to the children in their custody. It also calls for audits and requires counties to help unqualified relatives meet the standards, rather than simply not considering the relatives or taking the children away from them. The state has set aside $1 million a year to help those families.

In light of the settlement, plaintiffs agreed to dismiss the action with prejudice on January 30, 2003. The parties agreed that the court would retain jurisdiction of this case until two years after court approval of the settlement agreement. Plaintiffs continue to monitor compliance with the settlement agreement.