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Case Name Gibson v. Burdette CW-WV-0001
Docket / Court 2:78-cv-02375 ( S.D. W. Va. )
State/Territory West Virginia
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Case Summary
Plaintiffs brought suit on October 12, 1978 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia against the West Virginia Department of Welfare and Department of Child Protective Services alleging violations of federal law and the U.S. Constitution, including the First, Fourth, Fifth, ... read more >
Plaintiffs brought suit on October 12, 1978 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia against the West Virginia Department of Welfare and Department of Child Protective Services alleging violations of federal law and the U.S. Constitution, including the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendment. The plaintiffs challenged several practices in use by the Department of Welfare, now known as the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources (WVDHHR). We only have the docket sheet beginning in 1996, and we have very few documents related to the case.

On January 8, 1979, the court certified a class consisting of all children and their parents and legal guardians who are residents of the state who are now or will in the future be subject of abuse or neglect proceedings in which the state seeks to terminate or otherwise affect custodial rights to the children.

The parties reached a settlement on June 8, 1984, which became known as the Gibson Decree. The settlement directly addressed the claimed violation of the Fourteenth Amendment by providing parents and children an opportunity to be heard in court in a preliminary pretaking hearing upon reason notice. The Decree also requires that children and parents be informed of their right of appeal.

The consent decree also addresses numerous casework practices and mandatory services for children. Foster homes must meet minimum standards that assure food, clothing, and shelter, and must avoid overcrowding. With respect to agency staffing and resources, a social service supervisor must review all protective cases within each area office regularly.

The Gibson Decree introduced the use of "Gibson payments" to purchase services for families in an effort to make their home and family environment safe for children. Use of Gibson payments are restricted to cases that are open for ongoing services. Information about the Gibson payments is integrated into the state's official child protective services policy.

Only a few notable events have taken place since the parties entered a consent decree in 1984. First, the parties amended the decree in 1989. Second, on February 21, 1996, a youth and her parents sought an order of contempt and damages as putative class members; and in 2011, another youth sought the same order. The court declined to reopen the case, concluding that the youths were not included within the class definition, because the class definition required members be residents of the state in 1979. Gibson v. Ginsberg, 989 F. Supp. 772, 774 (S.D. W. Va. 1996); Gibson v. Ginsberg, No. 78-2375, slip op. at 16 (S.D. W. Va. June 3, 2011).

Elizabeth Homan - 12/03/2012


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Equal Protection
Freedom of speech/association
Content of Injunction
Auditing
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Access to public accommodations - governmental
Adoption
Counseling
Emergency shelter
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Family abuse and neglect
Family reunification
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Foster care (benefits, training)
Grievance Procedures
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Individualized planning
Juveniles
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Payment for care
Relative caretakers
Siblings (visitation, placement)
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Youth / Adult separation
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action None on record
Defendant(s) West Virginia
Plaintiff Description West Virginia children and their parents and legal guardians who are the subjects of abuse or neglect proceedings in which the state seeks to terminate or otherwise affect custodial rights to the children.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
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 Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year 1984
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)
2:78-cv-2375 (S.D. W. Va.) 08/03/2011
CW-WV-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order and Opinion 08/02/1996 (989 F.Supp. 772) (S.D. W. Va.)
CW-WV-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Memorandum Opinion and Order 06/03/2011 (2011 WL 2214919) (S.D. W. Va.)
CW-WV-0001-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Copenhaver, John Thomas Jr. (S.D. W. Va.)
CW-WV-0001-0001 | CW-WV-0001-0002 | CW-WV-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Beter, George D. (West Virginia)
CW-WV-0001-9000
Dick, J. Benjamin (Virginia)
CW-WV-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Fox, Jan L. (West Virginia)
CW-WV-0001-9000
Jones, William P. (West Virginia)
CW-WV-0001-9000
Reed, Kelly R. (West Virginia)
CW-WV-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Dalby, Nancy A. (West Virginia)
CW-WV-0001-9000

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