National Center for Youth Law


Rosales v. Thompson
also known as State of California Department of Social Services v. Thompson and State of California Department of Social Services v. Shalala, California Department of Social Services v. Leavitt

The California Department of Social Services (DSS) brought suit against the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), seeking a judicial determination that pursuant to Title IV-E, children who were AFDC-eligible in a relative’s home on the date of removal to state custody are also eligible for federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children Foster Care Program (AFDC-FC) benefits. After the district court dismissed the action, relatives (as foster parents for children) intervened as plaintiffs and appealed.



2:99-cv-0335 (E.D. Cal., Feb. 24, 1999)


115 F. Supp. 2d 1191 (E.D. Cal. 2000); overruled by 321 F.3d 835 (9th Cir. 2003); 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13542 (E.D. Cal. March 28, 2006), 444 F. Supp. 2d 1088 (E.D. Cal. 2006), 523 F. 3d 1025 (9th Cir. 2008)




Marjorie Shelvy
Yolanda Arias
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles
1102 S. Crenshaw Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 801-7989
Fax: (323) 801-7921


On March 3, 2003, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of plaintiffs-interveners, (“interveners”) concluding that under Title IV-E, children who are AFDC-eligible while living with a relative are similarly AFDC-FC eligible upon removal into foster care (Rosales I).

On February 20, 2004, the district court ordered DSS and HHS to pay retroactive AFDC-foster care benefits to interveners as mandated by Rosales I. Subsequently, interveners filed a motion to compel performance and DSS filed a motion to extend the date by which it was required to issue an All County Letter informing county welfare departments of the procedures and time line for implementing the court’s order.  On August 16, 2004, the court reaffirmed judgment in favor of interveners, ordered DSS and HHS to comply with the Ninth Circuit decision, and created a timeline for preparation and approval of the All County Letter and for making payments to interveners.

Congress subsequently enacted the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which changed the interpretation of the statute mandated by Rosales I.  Shortly thereafter, defendants sought relief from the court’s order, and plaintiffs moved to enforce the order.  In connection with that motion, plaintiffs served a request for documents on the State regarding county compliance with Rosales I, but the State produced no documents.  In July 2006, the Court granted defendants’ relief from judgment and largely denied plaintiffs’ motion to enforce the judgment.

In April 2008, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the lower court’s decision to deny the motion to enforce the judgment.  The Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court’s order granting defendants’ relief insofar as it relieved defendants from complying with Rosales I as of June 9, 2006.  However, foster parents whose cases were open on or after March 3, 2003, were still entitled to benefits under Rosales I for the period from December 23, 1997 through June 9, 2006.  The court also ruled that, as to such cases, the lower court should not have denied plaintiffs’ motion without first considering their request for limited discovery.

Subsequently, plaintiffs issued subpoenas to various counties to determine whether they have complied with Rosales I.  Plaintiffs anticipate being able to make a determination as to compliance by the end of the year.