On October 28, 1985, New York City families with children at risk of removal to foster care, along with non-profit institutions dedicated to children's rights, filed a lawsuit under the federal Social Services Law, U.S. Code, and various state laws mandating the provision of social services, ...
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On October 28, 1985, New York City families with children at risk of removal to foster care, along with non-profit institutions dedicated to children's rights, filed a lawsuit under the federal Social Services Law, U.S. Code, and various state laws mandating the provision of social services, against State Department of Social Services and City Department of Social Services in the Supreme Court of New York County, Special Term. Represented by public and private counsel, the plaintiffs sought declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief, claiming that the agencies failed to fulfill their duty to provide specified protective services as mandated by state and federal law. Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that federal and state law required defendants to provide a host of preventive and protective services designed to prevent the placement of children in foster care, and to ensure that reports of child abuse are effectively investigated in a timely manner.
The plaintiffs claimed that they suffered irreparable harm due to the defendants' failure to provide required services in a timely way. These services included childcare, homemaker assistance, assistance finding adequate housing, counseling, and other services designed to prevent the removal of children from their families into foster care. In addition, the plaintiffs alleged that the agencies consistently failed their duty under state law to investigate reports of child abuse within twenty-four hours, conduct home visits or in-person interviews of subjects of such reports, or offer appropriate services to allegedly abused children, their families, or both.
On May 27, 1986, the Court (Judge Edward Lehner) granted family-plaintiffs' motions for a preliminary injunction requiring City defendants to prepare service plans within 30 days and provide whatever preventive services were specified therein. The Court also granted institutional-plantiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction in part, requiring City defendants to investigate reports of child abuse within 24 hours. Finally, the Court denied the plaintiffs' motion for class certification as superfluous, and denied defendants' motion for summary judgment. Grant v. Cuomo, 509 N.Y.S.2d 685 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1986). Defendants appealed these three components of this order.
On July 9, 1987, the Supreme Court Appellate Division (Judge Leonard Sandler) affirmed and modified the lower court's order. This Court affirmed the granting of institutional-plaintiffs' injunction regarding protective services, but found that the statutes did not impose a nondiscretionary duty to comply with the service plans. For that reason, the Court modified the order to exclude the family-plaintiffs' injunction requiring City defendants to make and comply with service plans. Grant v. Cuomo, 518 N.Y.S.2d 105 (N.Y. 1988).
On December 20, 1988, the Court of Appeals of New York (Chief Judge Sol Wachtler, Judge Richard Simons, Judge Judith Kaye, Judge Alexander, Judge Vito Titone, Judge Stewart Hancock, and Judge Joseph Bellacosa) held that regulation of Department of Social Services did not impose any nondiscretionary duty to provide preventive services and affirmed the ruling of the Supreme Court Appellate Division. Timothy Shoffner - 06/01/2012