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, ...
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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