National Center for Youth Law


Sam and Tony M. v. Carcieri

This lawsuit charges Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) with failing to ensure the safety and well-being of more than 3000 children in state custody. Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges the following systemic problems: frequent abuse and neglect of children in foster care; placement of children in large orphanage-like institutions instead of family homes; unnecessary languishing in foster care for many children; and a lack of essential medical, dental, and mental health services.




1:07-cv-00241-L-LDA (D. R.I., Sept. 7, 2007)


610 F. Supp. 2d. 171 (D. R.I. 2010); 608 F. 3d 77 (1st Cir. 2010).


Jametta O. Alston
Child Advocate of the State of Rhode Island
John O. Pastore Complex
57 Howard Avenue, 4th Floor
Providence, RI 02920
(401) 462-4300
Fax: (401) 462-4305

John W. Dineen
305 South Main Street
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 223-2397
Fax: (401) 223-2399

Marcia Robinson Lowry
Susan Lambiase
Children’s Rights Inc.
330 Seventh Avenue, Fourth Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 683-2210
Fax: (212) 683-4015

Vernon M. Winters
Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP
201 Redwood Shores Parkway
Redwood Shores, CA
(650) 802-3005
Fax: (650) 802-3100



Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in June 2007. The federal court dismissed the case on narrow, technical grounds in April 2009, finding that the proposed next friends lacked standing to bring suit on behalf of plaintiffs. The court held that next friends must have a “substantial relationship” to the minor they serve, thus giving an extremely narrow interpretation to existing case law and severely limiting foster youths’ ability to bring suit.

Plaintiffs filed an appeal in August 2009.  NCYL, along with other children’s legal organizations, filed an amicus brief in August 2009 in support of plaintiffs’ appeal.  On June 18, 2010, the First Circuit reversed the district’s court dismissal of the case.  The appellate court remanded the case and instructed the lower court to allow the next friends to represent the named plaintiffs. The First Circuit noted that the law does not compel a guardian ad litem to act as the next friend in lawsuits outside the proceedings for which the guardian is appointed.