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Case Name Braam v. State of Washington CW-WA-0001
Docket / Court 98-2-01570-1 (Whatcom) ( State Court )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization National Center for Youth Law
Case Summary
Plaintiffs, thirteen current and former foster children, brought suit against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in the Washington state Whatcom County Superior Court in August 1998. The plaintiffs brought claims under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, 42 U. ... read more >
Plaintiffs, thirteen current and former foster children, brought suit against the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) in the Washington state Whatcom County Superior Court in August 1998. The plaintiffs brought claims under the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act, 42 U.S. C. §§ 671 et seq, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and numerous state statutes and regulations. We have some documents related to this case, but much of our information is from the relevant National Center for Youth Law webpage, and from a website set up by the oversight panel that implemented the settlement agreement.

In July 2000, the plaintiffs moved to certify a class of all children who are now or will be in the custody of DSHS foster care system and who were placed in three or more placements. In June 2001, Judge Nichols certified the class. Defendant DSHS moved for summary judgment. As a result, the trial court dismissed all claims based on procedural due process, the Washington State Constitution, and most claims based on state and federal child welfare and disability statutes.

The parties agreed to try the case before a jury, and following a seven week trial in October 2001, the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs. The trial court entered a broad injunction, mandating the recruitment of new foster parents, notification prior to placement changes, arrangements to improve education, additional training and institutional support of foster parents, and increased emphasis on the preservation of sibling relationships. The trial court ordered the plaintiffs to monitor compliance.

The State appealed to the Court of Appeals, which certified the case for appeal to the Washington Supreme Court. See Braam v. State, 81 P.3d 851 (Wash. 2003). Judge Chambers for the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that foster children possessed substantive due process rights that the State was required to respect, but there was erroneous jury instruction on the State's culpability.

Upon remand, the trial court ordered the parties to mediation. The parties reached a settlement in July 2004. The settlement provided for an independent panel to collaborate with DSHS to establish benchmarks for in six identified areas. The panel released an implementation plan in February 2006. Additionally, the panel issued monitoring reports every six months.

In January 2008, the plaintiffs filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, based on the State's failures to complete steps in the implementation plan. The court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on June 30, 2008, finding the State had failed to comply with the plan. In June 2009, the parties reached an agreement to provide for fees and costs for the remainder of the settlement agreement.

In 2011, DSHS and the plaintiffs modified the settlement agreement and extended the agreement until December 31, 2013. The revised agreement provides for the oversight panel to continue monitoring through 2012, and provide annual monitor reports. The agreement remains in effect after this monitoring ceases, however.

Elizabeth Homan - 02/10/2013


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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
Monitor/Master
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Reporting
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Adoption
Classification / placement
Counseling
Education
Failure to train
Family reunification
Foster care (benefits, training)
Funding
Juveniles
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Poverty/homelessness
Siblings (visitation, placement)
Special education
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Mental health care, general
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
State law
Defendant(s) Washington State
Plaintiff Description Plaintiffs are a class of all children who are now or will be in the custody of Washington state Department of Social and Health Services foster care system and who were placed in three or more placements.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations National Center for Youth Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Attorneys fees
Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2004 - 2013
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
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)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Order 12/18/2003 (81 P.3d 851)
CW-WA-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Final Settlement 07/31/2004
CW-WA-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Defendant or Defendant's Counsel
Fifth Amended Complaint 10/04/2004
CW-WA-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Defendant or Defendant's Counsel
Revised Settlement and Exit Agreement 10/31/2011
CW-WA-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Document Source: Defendant or Defendant's Counsel
Judges Alexander, Gerry (State Supreme Court, State Appellate Court)
CW-WA-0001-0004
Bridge, Bobbe (State Supreme Court)
CW-WA-0001-0004
Ireland, Faith (State Supreme Court)
CW-WA-0001-0004
Johnson, Charles W. (State Supreme Court)
CW-WA-0001-0004
Madsen, Barbara (State Supreme Court)
CW-WA-0001-0004
Owens, Susan (State Supreme Court)
CW-WA-0001-0004
Sanders, Richard B. (State Supreme Court)
CW-WA-0001-0004
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Farris, Timothy (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0001 | CW-WA-0001-0002 | CW-WA-0001-0003
Grimm, William H. (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0001 | CW-WA-0001-0002 | CW-WA-0001-0003
Grimm, William L. (California)
CW-WA-0001-0003
Laird, Jennie (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0002
McCann, Erin Shea (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0003
Midgley, John (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0001 | CW-WA-0001-0002
Trupin, Casey (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0001 | CW-WA-0001-0002 | CW-WA-0001-0003
Defendant's Lawyers Ahluwalia, Uma S. (Maryland)
CW-WA-0001-0002
Braddock, Dennis J. (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0002
Clark, William G. (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0002
Huber, Sheila Malloy (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0003
Robinson, Denise Revels (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0003
Tillett, Rochelle (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0003
Wayno, Carrie Hoon (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0003
Williams, William L. (Washington)
CW-WA-0001-0002
Other Lawyers None on record

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