Lawyers For Children Successfully Opposes Settlement that Would Curtail Advocates’ Ability to Bring Impact Litigation
Lawyers For Children is pleased to report a recent victory in the ongoing fight for reform to the foster care system.
In the summer of 2015, a class action lawsuit was brought against the city and state agencies that oversee New York City’s foster care system. The lawsuit alleged that children in New York City are staying in foster care for too long, and should be returned home or adopted within strict timeframes.
Just twelve days after the suit was filed, a settlement was reached with the State of New York that provided for the appointment of a monitor and a research expert to review New York City’s foster care system—both of whom would be chosen by the state. In exchange for this illusory relief, children in foster care would not be allowed to bring any legal action for systemic relief against the state of New York for at least the next seven years.
This settlement offered no clear benefit to our clients, failed to address the shortcomings in oversight of the foster care system, and also curtailed our ability as advocates to use impact litigation as a tool for fighting for our clients’ rights. Lawyers For Children, the Legal Aid Society, The Children’s Law Center, pro bono supporter Vaughn Williams, Skadden Partner (retired), and supporters at Cooley LLP joined forces to oppose this settlement.
In a victory for the rights of children in foster care across the city, Judge Laura Swain, in Federal District Court, has refused to approve the settlement. Her comprehensive decision, which reflected many of our arguments against the settlement, called the settlement “patently unfair and unreasonable.”
Lawyers For Children will continue the fight to compel comprehensive reform of the foster care system for our clients and for children in foster care throughout New York City.