On July 30, 2006, the California Alliance of Child and Family Services, a non-profit organization that represents the interests of foster homes, filed a lawsuit under the Child Welfare Act (CWA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 670-679b, against the California Department of Social Services in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiff, represented by private counsel, alleged that defendant did not comply with the Child Welfare Act, as it failed to "cover the costs" for certain foster care expenses, as the CWA requires. The plaintiff sought declaratory and injunctive relief.
The crux of the dispute was the defendant's method of calculation and payment of these foster care costs. The defendant's system for determining the costs, adjusted annually based on a necessities index, was changed in 2001 so that adjustments were "subject to the availability of funds." The plaintiff claimed that this method did not adequately cover the foster care costs, since as of 2005-2006, the defendant was making foster care payments at only 80% of full costs based on proper index adjustments.
On August 25, 2006, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted since plaintiff does not have a private right of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On October 27, 2006, Judge Marilyn H. Patel denied the defendant's motion to dismiss, holding that the Child Welfare Act confers an individual right on plaintiff's members for enforcement of the foster care maintenance payments. The parties attempted to mediate on February 1, 2007, but were not able to resolve any of the disputed issues. The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment on July 16, 2007. Defendants then filed a motion for summary judgment on July 17, 2007.
On January 14, 2008, Judge Patel denied a motion to relate the case with California State Foster Parent Association v. Wagner (in the Clearinghouse as CW-CA-0003
On March 12, 2008, Judge Patel denied the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The court found that payment of 80% of the costs was in "substantial compliance" with the Child Welfare Act, and this was all that was required.
After denial of a motion for reconsideration, the plaintiff appealed to the Ninth Circuit. Before the appeal was heard, on September 25, 2009, Judge Patel granted a motion to relate the case with California Alliance of Child and Family Services v. Wagner.
On December 14, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Circuit Judges Alfred T. Goodwin and Pamela Ann Rymer, and District Judge George H. Wu, sitting by designation) granted summary judgment to the plaintiff, reversing the District Court's grant of summary judgment to the defendant. The court held that to "cover the costs" of these foster care expenses meant to cover all of the costs. Therefore, payment of 80% of the calculated costs was held not to be sufficient to comply with the Child Welfare Act. The Ninth Circuit then remanded the case to the district court to determine the proper injunctive and declaratory relief. 589 F.3d 1017 (9th Cir. 2009).
On February 23, 2010, Judge Patel signed a judgment, as required by the Court of Appeals, for the plaintiffs. Judge Patel ordered that plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was granted in its entirety and granted plaintiff’s request for declaratory relief and its request for permanent injunctive relief. Judge Patel ordered that the current standard rates paid must be adjusted to be on track with the California Necessities Index (CNI), that the standardized schedule of rates shall be adjusted annually to reflect the change in the CNI, that the new fully-funded standardized schedule of rates be used to establish the AFDC-Foster Care rates paid, and that the standardized schedule of rates be adjusted annually to reflect any new departmental requirements established during the previous fiscal year. Judge Patel also stated that the plaintiff may bring a motion to recover attorneys’ fees and costs.
An amendment judgment was signed on May 4, 2010, which no longer required that the standardized schedule of rates be adjusted annually to reflect any new departmental requirements. The court retained jurisdiction over the case to ensure that the parties complied with the judgment. On May 4, 2010, Judge Patel also granted plaintiff attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $510,000.
The defendants protested the amount of fees awarded, and on July 1, 2011, Peter L. Shaw, Appellate Commissioner, amended the judgment and awarded plaintiff $321,232.25 in attorneys’ fees and $5,520.12 in reasonable expenses.
On March 29, 2012, California Alliance of Child and Family Services filed a motion to relate case. As of April 2, 2016, there has been no further action on this case.Justin Benson - 03/25/2012
Frances Hollander - 04/02/2016