Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin recently announced a settlement agreement between the State of Rhode Island and Children’s Rights, Inc., resolving a decade-long civil action that alleged deficiencies at the Rhode Island Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF). This case was negotiated and settled with the goal of making the child welfare system better for the children in the care of DCYF and their families.
The lawsuit, filed on June 28, 2007, on behalf of a putative class of all children in the legal custody of DCYF due to a report or suspicion of abuse or neglect, alleged violations of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to substantive due process and familial association and their alleged statutory rights to adequate case plans and foster care maintenance payments.
The lawsuit alleged systemic deficiencies including excessive caseloads to its caseworkers, failure to timely and appropriately license and oversee foster care placements, failure to timely and adequately investigate abuse and neglect, failure to maintain an adequate placement array to meet the needs of all children in care, failure to provide timely and adequate case plans, and failure to provide adequate foster care maintenance payments to foster parents.
Under the terms of the settlement, DCYF will implement significant reforms in case management, child placement, and child protective services involving the investigation of abuse and neglect, establish performance metrics to measure targets and compliance, and establish a reporting structure to the Office of the Child Advocate.
“This settlement is the result of years of many individuals working towards the goal of establishing a child welfare system that puts the well-being and safety of the child first and foremost and creating measurable targets to ensure DCYF is doing all it can in the best interest of the children and families it serves,” said Attorney General Kilmartin. “The agreement will serve as a roadmap for the improvement of DCYF and its care of children.”