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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
Attorney Organization Bazelon Center
NDRN/Protection & Advocacy Organizations
Southern Poverty Law Center
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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Content of Injunction
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Crowding / caseload
disability, unspecified
Least restrictive environment
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Family discrimination
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
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1992 - 2007
Filing Year 1988
Case Closing Year 2007
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
Date: Summer 2009
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School Faculty)
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
Date: Nov. 1, 1998
By: Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (Bazelon Center)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

2:88−cv−01170 (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/23/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Memorandum Opinion (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/1991
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Order [ECF# 725] (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/13/2004
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER [ECF# 752] (390 F.Supp.2d 1030) (N.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/13/2005
Source: Plaintiffs' counsel
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 849] (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/16/2007
Final Judgment [ECF# 850] (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/16/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama [Ct. of App. ECF# 873] (270 Fed.Appx. 989)
CW-AL-0001-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/09/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 875] (M.D. Ala.)
CW-AL-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/23/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges DeMent, 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 (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit, N.D. Ga.)
Hobbs, Truman McGill (M.D. Ala.)
Tjoflat, Gerald Bard (Fifth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit, M.D. Fla.)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Anderson, Nancy Ellen (Alabama)
Burnim, Ira Abraham (District of Columbia)
Cohen, J. Richard (Alabama)
Eytay, Iris (California)
Lawrence, Barbara Ann (Alabama)
McDavid, Ashley Lomers (Alabama)
Mixson, Andrea Jane (Alabama)
Nazarian, Douglas R. M. (Maryland)
Reynolds, Patrick J. (Maryland)
Simon, Rozalind Teresa (Alabama)
Tucker, James A. (Alabama)
Tyler, Ralph S. (Maryland)
Defendant's Lawyers Childs, Larry Brittain (Alabama)
Ficquette, Sharon Elaine (Alabama)
Fletcher, Shayla Rae (Alabama)
Giliberti, Mary (District of Columbia)
Glenos, Nicholas Christian (Alabama)
Holtsford, Alex L. Jr. (Alabama)
King, Troy Robin (Alabama)
Marsh, Joel Christopher (Alabama)
Montiel, Mark (Alabama)
Park, John J. Jr. (Alabama)
Prendergast, William Francis (Alabama)
Pryor, William Holcombe Jr. (Alabama)

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