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Case Name R.C. v. Hornsby CW-AL-0001
Docket / Court No. CIV. A. 88-D-1170-N ( M.D. Ala. )
State/Territory Alabama
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Public Benefits / Government Services
Case Summary
As we have been unable to locate the complaint and a few of the earlier opinions for this case, some information in this summary is based on material made available by the Alabama Department of Human Resources and from the National Center for Youth Law.

On November 15, 1988, the children ... read more >
As we have been unable to locate the complaint and a few of the earlier opinions for this case, some information in this summary is based on material made available by the Alabama Department of Human Resources and from the National Center for Youth Law.

On November 15, 1988, the children of Alabama with behavioral or emotional disorders filed an action against the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). The plaintiffs were represented by the Bazelon Center, Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, and Southern Poverty Law Center. for (1) failure to provide plaintiffs and their families with in-home supports and other services needed to preserve family unity; and (2) to provide plaintiffs with appropriate care, treatment, and services after removal from home. Plaintiffs asserted that DHR violated their constitutional rights to family integrity, proper care while in state custody, adequate mental health care, reasonable efforts toward reunification, and freedom from discrimination on the basis of their disabilities in violation of § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

According to the National Center for Youth Law, on April 19, 1989, the district court held that plaintiffs had a private right of action to enforce the federal statutory claims. The court also rejected DHR’s assertions of qualified immunity and Eleventh Amendment immunity.

In June 1992, the court approved a consent decree that required the creation of a “system of care” run according to principles emphasizing placement prevention, family reunification, permanency, and home-based and community-based services. The system was designed to assist children (1) with emotional or behavioral disorders who are in foster care; (2) with emotional or behavioral disorders who are at imminent risk of foster care placement; and/or (3) at imminent risk of foster care placement who are at high risk of developing emotional or behavioral disorders.

The system of care is required to provide services to these children and their families to protect the children from abuse and neglect, and to enable the children to live with their families, achieve permanency and stability, and become stable, gainfully employed adults pursuant to an individualized service plan. The decree is structured to ensure that family preservation services are provided to most children at imminent risk of foster placement.

An implementation agreement, incorporated into the decree, describes how the state will achieve compliance with the decree through initiatives in staff training, service development, quality assurance, and advocacy for class members and their families. Implementation began in October 1992. Each year, a group of counties representing 15% of the child welfare caseload were targeted for reform. These counties were required to implement fully the consent decree’s requirements by the end of their “conversion” year. The goal was full statewide compliance by October 1, 1999. An independent monitor has been overseeing compliance.

By fall 1993, though the first group of counties had achieved progress, obstacles in compliance remained, and the parties negotiated a new consent order to resolve implementation barriers. The new order required hiring senior-level staff, setting caseload standards, creating a resource development plan, reinvesting cost-savings, and improving the system of contracting with private providers.

Plaintiffs’ March 1997 contempt motion was resolved with a consent order extending the time for compliance and granting other relief in February 1999. One year later, the court approved an order to ensure that all child welfare workers were appropriately certified and licensed.

In November 2004, defendant filed a motion for an order terminating the consent decree. In May 2005, the court found that DHR had not submitted evidence sufficient to sustain its burden of demonstrating that DHR is and will remain in substantial compliance with the terms of the consent decree and the implementation plan required for termination of the decree. The court ordered DHR to file a performance report in August 2005.

In August 2005, DHR submitted a performance report and a second motion for an order terminating the consent decree. The court requested that the court monitor file a report responding to the assertions in DHR’s second motion and plaintiffs’ response to that motion by November 18, 2005. Following submission of the monitor’s report, the court ordered the monitor to complete an extensive qualitative and quantitative review process to determine the counties’ current compliance with the consent decree.

On January 16, 2007, the court terminated the consent decree in a 148-page order. Subsequently, the Eleventh Circuit upheld the lower court’s decision.

Ariana Fink - 03/09/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Disability
disability, unspecified
Least restrictive environment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Family discrimination
General
Failure to train
Family abuse and neglect
Family reunification
Habilitation (training/treatment)
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Placement in mental health facilities
Siblings (visitation, placement)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Youth / Adult separation
Medical/Mental Health
Mental health care, general
Mental health care, unspecified
Mental Disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Alabama Department of Human Resources
Plaintiff Description Alabama children with emotional or behavior disorders
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Bazelon Center
NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Southern Poverty Law Center
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Private Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1992 - 2007
Case Closing Year 2007
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies 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)
2:88−cv−01170 (M.D. Ala.) 06/23/2008
CW-AL-0001-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion 10/18/1991 (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0006 PDF | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Order 12/13/2004 (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 05/13/2005 (390 F.Supp.2d 1030) (N.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0005 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Final Judgment 01/16/2007 (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order 01/16/2007 (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0007 PDF | Detail
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama 04/09/2008 (270 Fed.Appx. 989)
CW-AL-0001-0004 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order 06/23/2008 (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges De Ment, Ira (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0001 | CW-AL-0001-0002 | CW-AL-0001-0003 | CW-AL-0001-0005 | CW-AL-0001-0007 | CW-AL-0001-9000
Hill, James Clinkscales (N.D. Ga., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
CW-AL-0001-0004
Hobbs, Truman McGill (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0006
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (M.D. Fla., Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit)
CW-AL-0001-0004
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Nancy Ellen (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Burnim, Ira Abraham (District of Columbia)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Cohen, J. Richard (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Eytay, Iris (California)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Lawrence, Barbara Ann (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
McDavid, Ashley Lomers (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Mixson, Andrea Jane (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Nazarian, Douglas R. M. (Maryland)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Reynolds, Patrick J. (Maryland)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Simon, Rozalind Teresa (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Tucker, James A. (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Tyler, Ralph S. (Maryland)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Childs, Larry Brittain (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Ficquette, Sharon Elaine (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Fletcher, Shayla Rae (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Giliberti, Mary (District of Columbia)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Glenos, Nicholas Christian (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Holtsford, Alex L. Jr. (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
King, Troy Robin (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Marsh, Joel Christopher (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Montiel, Mark (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Park, John J. Jr. (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Prendergast, William Francis (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Pryor, William Holcombe Jr. (Alabama)
CW-AL-0001-9000
Other Lawyers None on record

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