August 17, 2023

M.B. v. Howard

Filing date
Case type
Class Action
Case jurisdiction
U.S. District Courts
District of Kansas Kansas City Division

In November 2018, a group of young people in foster care in Kansas, represented by NCYL and its partners, filed a lawsuit challenging Kansas’s failure to protect the safety and well-being of children and youth in the custody of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). The lawsuit focused on two specific systemic issues: first, DCF’s failure to provide adequate housing for children in the state’s care, leading to extreme housing disruption, and second, the failure to provide needed mental and behavioral health screening, diagnostic services, and treatment, including trauma-related services.

In January 2021, a federal judge approved a settlement agreement resolving the case. The settlement will bring transformative, structural change to Kansas’s broken child welfare system by ending extreme placement instability and ensuring children receive the mental health care they need.

The settlement requires structural changes and measurable outcomes directed to dramatically improving housing stability and mental health supports for children in DCF’s care. Its key requirements include:

  • Ending the practice of housing children in unsuitable places like offices and hotels;
  • Ending the practice of night-to-night and short term placements;
  • Ensuring that placements are not overcrowded and do not exceed licensed capacity;
  • Ending housing-related delays in the provision of mental health services; and
  • Providing crisis intervention services for children throughout the state.

The settlement also mandates 5 measurable outcome improvements for children in foster care, related to:

  • Achieving a low average rate of placement moves;
  • Addressing mental health and behavioral health treatment needs;
  • Ensuring children’s current placements are stable;
  • Limiting placement changes; and
  • Providing an initial mental health and trauma screen within 30 days of entry into state care.

The settlement’s requirements are phased in over a series of one-year periods, with compliance overseen by expert neutrals at the Center for the Study of Social Policy, and involvement from a stakeholder advisory group.