National Center for Youth Law

STRATEGIES

W.R. v. Connecticut Department Of Children and Families   

Plaintiffs filed this suit on behalf of children with mental and emotional disabilities in custody of the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF). Plaintiffs allege that by denying them community-based residential treatment that meets their special needs, DCF violated their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (the Rehabilitation Act), and Connecticut’s law and Constitution. Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as money damages (for one named plaintiff).

Overview

FILE NO., COURT AND DATE FILED

3:02-CV-00429 (D. Conn., Mar. 8, 2002)

CITATIONS

2003 WL 1740672 (D. Conn. Mar. 24, 2003) (unreported); 2004 WL 2377142 (D. Conn. Sep. 30, 2004) (unreported); 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 37773 (D. Conn. May 23, 2007).

ATTORNEYS FOR PLAINTIFFS

Anne Louise Blanchard
Bet Gailor
Douglas M. Crockett
Connecticut Legal Services
872 Main Street, P.O. Box 258
Willimantic, CT 06226
(860) 456-1761
Fax: (860) 456-7420
ablanchard@connlegalservices.org

Catherine L. Williams
Connecticut Legal Services
211 State Street
Bridgeport, CT 06604
(203) 336-3851
Fax: (203) 333-4976
cwilliams@connlegalservices.org

Lori Welch-Rubin
Engelman & Welch-Rubin
195 Church Street, 11th floor
New Haven, CT 06510
(203) 787-4259
Fax: (203) 785-8378
lwr@werlaw.com

HISTORY AND STATUS

On June 4, 2002, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint. In August, defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the court should abstain pursuant to the doctrines of Younger and Burford abstention, that plaintiffs had failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and that money damages were not available. Defendants also argued that they were not liable under the ADA or the Rehabilitation Act.

On March 24, 2003, the court denied most of defendants’ motion to dismiss. However, the court dismissed plaintiffs’ damages claims.

On September 30, 2004, the court denied without prejudice plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. The court rejected plaintiffs’ class description as too vague, but left open the possibility of amending the description.

On July 21, 2005, defendants moved for summary judgment. The motion was denied.

On August 8, 2007, the parties reached a settlement. The three year agreement required defendants to expand the hours of the Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services in several high-need cities and develop and implement community-based placement options for youth with mental health needs who were at risk of placement in residential treatment facilities.  Defendants also agreed to provide additional training to staff who work with foster youth with mental health needs. A third-party consultant was hired to monitor implementation of the settlement agreement. In addition, the named plaintiffs received monetary relief.  The settlement agreement ended on June 30, 2010.