National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

Kenny A. v. Purdue

This lawsuit against Georgia’s Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Fulton and DeKalb Counties sought to end statutory and constitutional violations of the rights of approximately 3,000 children and to ensure that DCFS provides proper protection and care for these children.

Overview

FILE NO., COURT, AND DATE FILED

02-CV-1686 (N.D. Ga., June 6, 2002)

CITATIONS

218 F.R.D. 277 (N.D. Ga. 2003); 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27025 (N.D. Ga. Dec 13, 2004); 356 F. Supp. 2d 1353 (N.D. Ga. 2005)

CLEARINGHOUSE REVIEW NO.

CW-GA-0001

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Ira P. Lustbader, Marcia Lowry
Children’s Rights’404 Park Avenue South, 11th Floor
330 Seventh Avenue, Fourth Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 683-2210
Fax: (212) 683-4015
ilustbader@childrensrights.org

Corey Fleming Hirokawa
Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP
1201 West Peachtree Street NW, Suite 3900
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 881-4100
Fax: (404) 881-4111

HISTORY AND STATUS

·      July 1, 2002—the court ordered expedited fact-finding for the DeKalb and Fulton County shelters.

·      September 9, 2002—plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction requesting the closure of DeKalb and Fulton County shelters.  Discovery began that month on claims concerning the entire system.

·      November 2002—defendants promised to close both shelters by March 2003. As a result, on December 12, 2002, the court denied plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary injunction without prejudice to allow plaintiffs to return to court if defendants did not close the shelters as promised.  The Fulton and DeKalb County shelters closed on December 27, 2002, and February 14, 2003, respectively.  In addition, defendants instituted a pilot initiative that substantially increased the reimbursement rates for private foster care providers with intentions to expand the project statewide. DeKalb County has also increased the number of attorneys hired to represent foster children by 150%.

·      February 8, 2005—the court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment on plaintiffs’ claims of inadequate legal representation in juvenile court proceedings.  Significantly, the court ruled that abused children have a constitutional and statutory right to an attorney and to adequate legal representation at every major stage while in state custody.

·      July 5, 2005—the parties announced that they had reached a settlement.  On October 28 2005, the court approved the settlement following a public fairness hearing.  Components of the settlement include: caseload limits, increasing payments to foster parents, guaranteeing ongoing planning processes to meet foster children’s needs, finding new homes and other places for foster children to live, preventing overcrowding and warehousing of children, and reducing the amount of time children spend in foster care.  Defendants must also meet 31 outcome measures in areas such as timely and thorough investigations of reports of abuse, ensuring frequent visits of foster children by their case workers, ensuring that children are kept in safe and stable foster homes, and ensuring that children are either returned safely to their parents or moved quickly into another permanent home.  Under the parties’ agreement, two independent joint monitors will provide public reports on defendants’ performance every six months.

·      May 2006—Two additional settlements were reached with Fulton and DeKalb counties guaranteeing every child the right to effective legal representation throughout any involvement with the child welfare system.  The federal court appointed two separate, independent monitors for Fulton and DeKalb counties. In Fulton County, caseloads have been reduced and an independent Child Advocate Attorney’s Office has been created, but oversight continues.

·      October 2008—court oversight of DeKalb County ended, following the monitor’s finding that all requirements of the settlement were met or exceeded.
·      August 2008—plaintiffs filed a motion to hold the state defendants in contempt, citing a failure to find permanent homes for hundreds of foster children. The motion was withdrawn after state defendants’ agreed to a court-enforceable commitment to find permanent homes for all children who remain in state custody since before the consent decree was signed. State officials agreed to work closely with national technical assistance experts to step up their efforts to find permanent homes for all foster children.

·      July 22, 2010—a monitoring report concluded that DCFS is not making progress in some key areas. The report found that DCFS is failing to provide safe homes for some children in foster care and is not meeting some children’s dental and health care needs. Child welfare workers’ caseloads have increased significantly, which may be partly attributable to high turnover rates and a lack of replacement workers due to budget constraints. Additionally, the report found that the rate of maltreatment of children in Atlanta’s foster care system in the second half of 2009 was the highest it had been since monitoring began. DCFS has made some progress in placing youth closer to home, reducing overcrowding in foster homes, and ensuring appropriate licensing of foster homes. Plaintiffs continue to monitor DCFS’s progress.

·      July 23, 2014—the sixteenth and most recent monitoring report was filed.  The court continues to monitor DCFS.

Last updated: 11/18/16