This class action involving neglected and abused children placed in Philadelphia's foster care system was filed on April 4, 1990, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). The plaintiffs, represented by private counsel and Children's Rights, Inc. and American Civil Liberties Union, sought class action certification as well as declaratory and injunctive relief against the Governor of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, President Judge of County Court of Common Pleas, Mayor of Philadelphia, and Department of Human Services, claiming that the defendants responsible for the operation and administration of DHS failed to comply with statutory and constitutional requirements that protect and serve children in the child welfare system. The plaintiffs alleged that the state violated their rights under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments, and state law.
Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that systematic deficiencies prevented DHS from: providing protective service investigations; monitoring and supervising children in state custody; providing safe and secure foster care placements; providing written case plans; providing necessary medical, psychiatric, psychological, and educational services; and planning for the return of children to their families or planning to find alternative permanent placements for the children. These deficiencies were, they said, caused by insufficient number of trained caseworkers; insufficient number of medical, psychiatric, psychological, and educational service providers; insufficient number of trained foster parents; insufficient number of placements for children who need more structured environments than foster homes; insufficient number of potential adoptive parents; and inadequate policies and procedures.
On January 6, 1992, the plaintiff's class certification was denied by the district court. In addition, the court stated that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the Next Friends were acting with "a good faith interest" in the children's welfare. The plaintiffs filed a Motion for Reconsideration for class certification and, in the alternative, a Motion to Certify Subclasses on March 20, 1992. The Motion for Reconsideration was denied and the court noted that it could not rule on the Motion to Certify Subclasses at the time. However, the court did grant the plaintiffs' Motion for Substitution of New Next Friends. 1992 WL 58311.
On April 13, 1993, the defendants filed for summary judgment, and the district court partially ruled in their favor. The district court ruled that individuals are not granted a private right of enforcement under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 or the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. The district court also granted defendant's motion for summary judgment regarding the plaintiffs' claims that their constitutional right to a relationship free from unwarranted governmental interference has been violated and claims that the plaintiffs have a constitutional right to the least restrictive placement. The defendants' motion for summary judgment regarding the Rehabilitation Act, the Disabilities Act, the Equal Protection Clause, and the Procedural Due Process Clause were denied. 821 F.Supp. 320.
In May of 1993, the plaintiffs renewed their Motion of Certification for Subclasses. On October 13, 1993, the district court denied the Motion. The court opined that the injunction plaintiffs sought, which consisted of addressing "specific case-by-case deficiencies" of DHS, was not "appropriate" under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2). 151 F.R.D. 282 (E.D. Pa. 1993). While the motion was pending, fourteen children intervened (the Third Circuit later noted that this constituted a demonstration that "children in DHS's custody and care continued to be harmed by DHS's failure to provide legally mandated child welfare services." 43 F.3d 48 (3rd Cir. 1994).)
The plaintiffs again sought reconsideration; however, the district court denied the motion and "forbade" the plaintiffs from pursuing further class certification motions. The case was scheduled for trial, but, by 1994, most of the individual service needs of the plaintiffs were met or resolved, and the parties settled the remaining claims, while preserving the plaintiffs' right to appeal class certification denial.
After being denied class and sub-class certification many times, the plaintiffs appealed to the Third Circuit. The Third Circuit reversed the district court's ruling and remanded the case, stating that the plaintiffs satisfied all requirements under Rule 23 and that forcing DHS to comply with state and constitutional mandates would constitute relief applicable to the entire class. The fact that the plaintiffs sought only injunctive and declaratory relief, rather than damages, also enhanced the "appropriateness" of class certification. In addition, the Third Circuit opined that the district court abused its discretion by denying the class certification. 43 F.3d 48 (3rd Cir. 1994).
On December 7, 1995, the plaintiffs filed for a Motion of Reconsideration regarding the district court's April 13, 1993 Order, which granted in part the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The plaintiffs sought reinstatement of their claims under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. The district court denied the Motion, stating that the Motion was untimely and baseless. 1995 WL 728589.
According to the docket sheet, the plaintiffs and city defendants filed a joint motion for preliminary approval of the settlement agreement on October 5, 1998, and the court granted preliminary approval the following November. The remaining defendants also reached settlement agreements with the plaintiffs. From mid-November of 1998 to September of 2001, the court approved all settlement agreements between plaintiffs and defendants. Alice Liu - 04/03/2013