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Case Name LaShawn A. v. Fenty CW-DC-0001
Docket / Court 1:89-cv-01754-TFH ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Special Collection Court-ordered receiverships
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Children's Rights, Inc.
Case Summary
In 1989, Children's Rights and the ACLU filed a federal class action on behalf of children placed in foster care under the supervision of the District of Columbia's Department of Human Services (DHS), and abused and neglected children who are (or should be) known to DHS by virtue of abuse or ... read more >
In 1989, Children's Rights and the ACLU filed a federal class action on behalf of children placed in foster care under the supervision of the District of Columbia's Department of Human Services (DHS), and abused and neglected children who are (or should be) known to DHS by virtue of abuse or neglect. The case asserted violations of Title IV-E of the Social Security Act, due process, the District of Columbia Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Act of 1977, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, and the District of Columbia Youth Residential Facilities Licensor Act of 1986.

In 1991, Judge Thomas F. Hogan of the U.S District Court, District of Columbia, approved a negotiated remedial order following trial and a liability judgment against the defendant. LaShawn A. v. Dixon, 762 F. Supp. 959 (D.D.C. 1991). Under the consent decree DHS agreed to develop policies and procedures in the areas of protective services; family preservation and preventive services; child placement; case reviews; adoption; staffing (qualifications, training, and caseload standards); resource development (foster homes, adoptive homes, and community based services); contracts with private providers and agencies; and development of a uniform computerized information system.

The decision was appealed and remanded a number of times. The District of Columbia argued that the remedy sought by the plaintiffs could not be provided under federal law; the Court of Appeals instructed the district court to modify the consent order to be based entirely on local law. LaShawn A. by Moore v. Kelly, 990 F.2d 1319 (D.C. Cir. 1993). The district court kept the entire content of the order finding that local law provided adequate support for the measures in the decree.

In October 1994, the plaintiffs filed a contempt motion, and the court ordered the creation of a limited receivership to address specific problems. In 1995, the judge found defendants in contempt of court and granted plaintiffs' request for appointment of a general receiver who would run the department. LaShawn A. v. Kelly, 887 F. Supp. 297 (D.D.C. 1995).

The district made another appeal, this time regarding orders of receivership. The Court of Appeals found two orders moot, but held that the district court could not direct the receiver to disregard District law even if it interfered with the receiver's discharge of her responsibilities. LaShawn A. v. Barry, 107 F.3d 923 (D.C. Cir. 1996).

In June 2001, the parties proposed and the court agreed to terminate the receivership and appoint a monitor, instead, along with implementing additional reforms, including the District's creation of a new agency, the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), with cabinet-level control of child welfare matters and consolidated jurisdiction over neglect and abuse cases. The District also agreed to fund additional lawyers to represent the CFSA in Superior Court and a variety of child welfare reforms.

In May 2003, the monitor issued a post-Receivership Implementation Plan, a comprehensive outline for reform negotiated among plaintiffs, CFSA, the District mayor, and the court monitor. The Plan envisioned that by December 2006 defendants would fully comply with the district court's 1991 remedial order.

The monitor continued to assess defendants' progress in 2004 and 2005. At one point during this period, the District failed to maintain an adequate number of attorneys on staff, and this failure apparently led to a severe case backlog for children who had a permanency goal of adoption. CFSA addressed the backlog, and is now required to ensure that such a backlog not recur.

In December 2006 (the Implementation Plan deadline), despite numerous marked improvements, CFSA had failed to comply fully with several benchmarks. Accordingly, in February 2007, the court approved a jointly-submitted Amended Implementation Plan, which established a new reform deadline of December 2008 and required CFSA to produce annual strategy plans in 2007 and 2008.

Setbacks in the reform effort prompted plaintiffs to file a contempt motion against the District in July 2008. The motion cited chronic problems, including a large backlog of unresolved abuse and neglect investigations, failure to move children into permanent homes on a timely basis, and frequent moves for children in foster care.

In an attempt to resolve these problems, the parties negotiated yet another stipulated order, approved by the Court in October 2008. The stipulated order set forth a number of requirements that CFSA was to meet by January 2009. However, CFSA was unable to meet these requirements, and plaintiffs renewed their contempt motion in January 2009.

In April 2010, the court ruled on plaintiffs' motion, holding the District and its mayor in contempt. LaShawn A. ex rel. Moore v. Fenty, 701 F. Supp. 2d 84 (D.D.C. 2010). The ruling cited the District's failure to implement an annual strategy plan approved by the court-appointed monitor and specifically mentioned Mayor Adrian Fenty's failure to consult with the monitor or with plaintiffs' counsel as stipulated in the 2008 order. In addition, the court rejected defendants' argument that under Horne v. Flores, 129 S.Ct. 2579 (2009), the consent decree should be terminated altogether. The court also ordered that more funds be allocated to assist children aging out of the foster care system. Defendants appealed the district court's decision; the Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in February 2011. LaShawn A. ex rel. Moore v. Gray, 412 F. App'x 315 (D.C. Cir. 2011).

In December 2010, the Court approved another Implementation and Exit Plan, superseding the 2007 Amended Implementation Plan. This document set forth which outcomes needed to be maintained, which outcomes still needed to be achieved, and a strategy plan for exiting the consent decree. In accordance with this new plan, CFSA developed strategy plans in each year since 2012 to develop means to achieve compliance and exit. Regular six-month monitoring reports continue to be filed.

As of the date of this summary, CFSA has not exited from the consent decree, and its progress continues to be monitored.

Ariana Fink - 12/04/2012
Dan Whitman - 11/29/2015


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Benefit Source
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Goals and Timekeeping
Hire
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Receivership
Reporting
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
Least restrictive environment
General
Classification / placement
Family abuse and neglect
Family reunification
Foster care (benefits, training)
Juveniles
Placement in shelters
Poverty/homelessness
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Wait lists
Youth / Adult separation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, 42 U.S.C. § 5101 et seq.
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) District of Columbia
Plaintiff Description Children placed in foster care under the supervision of the District of Columbia's Department of Human Services and children who are or should be known to the Department because they have been abused or neglected.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Children's Rights, Inc.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1995 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies LaShawn A. v. Dixon: Responding to the Pleas of Children
By: Stacy Marie Colvin
Citation: 49 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. 529 (1992)
[ Detail ]

  Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Making Child Welfare Work: How the R.C. Lawsuit Forged New Partnerships to Protect Children and Sustain Families
By: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Bazelon Center)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
1:89-cv-01754-TFH (D.D.C.) 11/24/2015
CW-DC-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Injunctive Relief 06/20/1989
CW-DC-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Memorandum Opinion 04/18/1991 (762 F.Supp. 959) (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0040.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Opinion 04/16/1993 (990 F.2d 1319)
CW-DC-0001-0033.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Modified Final Order 11/18/1993 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Memorandum Opinion 05/22/1995 (887 F.Supp. 297) (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0036.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion - General Receivership Order 08/24/1995 (1995 WL 520763) (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0037.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion 10/31/1995 (69 F.3d 556)
CW-DC-0001-0032.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion 07/09/1996 (87 F.3d 1389)
CW-DC-0001-0041.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judgment 10/30/1996 (107 F.3d 923)
CW-DC-0001-0034.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion 06/09/1997 (520 U.S. 1264)
CW-DC-0001-0035.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion 02/18/1998 (1998 WL 35243112) (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0039.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion 06/02/1998 (144 F.3d 847)
CW-DC-0001-0038.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion 04/05/2000 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Partial Final Judgment 04/06/2000 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0014.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 03/05/2001 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 03/05/2001 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 05/22/2001 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0016.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 08/01/2001 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0015.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 01/14/2002 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0017.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorializing Order 04/19/2002 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0018.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 01/06/2003 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0019.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Implementation Plan 04/09/2003
CW-DC-0001-0026.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 05/16/2005 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0020.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 10/21/2005 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0021.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 01/16/2007 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0022.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 02/27/2007 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0024.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Order 06/11/2008 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0025.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Plaintiff's Motion and Supporting Memorandum for a Finding of Civil Contempt 07/24/2008
CW-DC-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Order 10/06/2008 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion 04/05/2010 (701 F.Supp.2d 84) (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 04/05/2010 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Notice of Appeal 04/05/2010
CW-DC-0001-0023.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 09/27/2010 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0027.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 09/28/2010 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Attorney's Fees Settlement Agreement 10/28/2010
CW-DC-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Order [Implementation and Exit Plan] 12/17/2010 (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0028.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 12/17/2010
CW-DC-0001-0029.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judgment 02/28/2011 (412 Fed.Appx. 315)
CW-DC-0001-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Consent Motion for Adoption of Order Regarding Attorneys' Fees and Costs 05/24/2011
CW-DC-0001-0030.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 05/25/2011
CW-DC-0001-0031.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 08/26/2011 (2011 WL 3904130) (D.D.C.)
CW-DC-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supplemental Report on Performance on Select Exit Standards during January - March 2014 06/25/2014
CW-DC-0001-0042.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Supplemental Report on Performance on Select Exit Standards during July - October 2014 12/30/2014
CW-DC-0001-0043.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Progress Report for the Period July 1 - December 31, 2014 05/21/2015
CW-DC-0001-0044.pdf | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Garland, Merrick B. (D.C. Circuit)
CW-DC-0001-0008
Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (SCOTUS, D.C. Circuit)
CW-DC-0001-0008
Henderson, Karen LeCraft (D.S.C., D.C. Circuit)
CW-DC-0001-0034 | CW-DC-0001-0041
Hogan, Thomas Francis (D.D.C., FISC)
CW-DC-0001-0005 | CW-DC-0001-0006 | CW-DC-0001-0009 | CW-DC-0001-0010 | CW-DC-0001-0012 | CW-DC-0001-0013 | CW-DC-0001-0015 | CW-DC-0001-0016 | CW-DC-0001-0017 | CW-DC-0001-0018 | CW-DC-0001-0019 | CW-DC-0001-0020 | CW-DC-0001-0021 | CW-DC-0001-0022 | CW-DC-0001-0024 | CW-DC-0001-0025 | CW-DC-0001-0026 | CW-DC-0001-0027 | CW-DC-0001-0028 | CW-DC-0001-0036 | CW-DC-0001-0037 | CW-DC-0001-0039 | CW-DC-0001-0040 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Mikva, Abner Joseph (D.C. Circuit)
CW-DC-0001-0033
Randolph, Arthur Raymond (D.C. Circuit)
CW-DC-0001-0032 | CW-DC-0001-0034 | CW-DC-0001-0041
Silberman, Laurence Hirsch (D.C. Circuit, FISCR)
CW-DC-0001-0038 | CW-DC-0001-0041
Williams, Stephen Fain (D.C. Circuit)
CW-DC-0001-0008 | CW-DC-0001-0032 | CW-DC-0001-0034 | CW-DC-0001-0041
Monitors/Masters Meltzer, Judith (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0042 | CW-DC-0001-0043
Plaintiff's Lawyers Almonrode, Patrick S. (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Bartosz, Michael Sara (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Dembrow, Adam C. (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Dunn, Christopher (New York)
CW-DC-0001-0001 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Frei-Pearson, Jeremiah (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Levine, Craig (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Lowry, Marcia Robinson (New York)
CW-DC-0001-0001 | CW-DC-0001-0003 | CW-DC-0001-0004 | CW-DC-0001-0011 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Morrow, Kara (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Pitchal, Erik S. (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Robinson-Glasser, Sara (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Spitzer, Arthur (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0001 | CW-DC-0001-0003 | CW-DC-0001-0004 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Symonds, Elizabeth (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0001 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Thompson, Eric E. (New York)
CW-DC-0001-0011
Wood, Kathryn Anne (New York)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Adams, Eugene A. III (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Alexander, Robin C. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Allen, Natalie Frazier (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Amato, Maria-Claudia T. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Blackburne-Rigsby, Anna Elizabeth (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Burke, Beverly Jean (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Efros, Ellen A. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0023 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Lerner, Jacques Phillip (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Long, Victor E. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Lopes, Grace Michele (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Love, Richard Stuart (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0004 | CW-DC-0001-0023 | CW-DC-0001-0030 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Nickles, Peter J. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0004 | CW-DC-0001-0023 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Pittman, Lucy E. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0023 | CW-DC-0001-9000
Prager, Lutz Alexander (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0011
Reischel, Charles L. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0011
Rigsby, Robert (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-0011
Robinson, Arlene L. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Smith, Walter A Jr. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Utiger, Robert C. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Ziegler, Cheryl Lynn (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Zielinski, Michael Edward (California)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Hajjar, Anton (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Jones, Marcia G. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Jones, Michael D. (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Keller, Kimberlee (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Levita, Laurel L. (Maryland)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Mirel, Lawrence Hillel (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Pearson, Charles Quentin (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Ruiz-Salomon, Pablo (District of Columbia)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Shultz, Catherine M. (Maryland)
CW-DC-0001-9000
Smith, Carol A. (Maryland)
CW-DC-0001-9000

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