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Arizona’s child welfare and mental health system is facing a class action lawsuit over allegations the agency violated the rights of several foster care children.

U.S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver gave the green light to certify the class last month against named directors of the Department of Child Safety (DCS), the Department of Health Services (DHS), and the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).

Originally filed in February 2015 on behalf of 10 Arizona foster children ranging in age from 3 to 14, the class action lawsuit details alleged violations, including a “severe shortage of mental, behavioral and other health services, failure to conduct investigations of reports that children in care have been maltreated while in state custody, a severe shortage of foster homes and failure to engage in basic practices for maintaining family relationships.” Judge Silver’s ruling extends the lawsuit to include all youth in foster care.

The Arizona’s child welfare and mental health system’s class action lawsuit further alleges the state failed to provide foster children with proper health screening and treatment afforded to them under the federal Medicaid law. According to the lawsuit, foster care youth are eligible for Medicaid and services under the program’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.

Additionally, the class action lawsuit asserts the state was responsible for a “widespread failure to engage in basic child welfare practices aimed at maintaining family relationships.” Specifically, the plaintiffs say the state failed to place siblings together, conduct trial reunifications with birth parents, and failed to provide adequate visitation with children and their biological families.

Attorneys for the foster care plaintiffs are requesting the three state agencies put improvements in place that will allow for the guarantee of EPSDT services, increase the number of available foster homes for children who are not able to be placed with relatives, and to strengthen the birth parent reunification visitation program.

Reportedly, the class action lawsuit stems from claims that more than 20,000 child abuse and neglect allegations were ignored by the agencies for a period of over 60 days. In 2014, state legislators stepped in and removed the Department of Economic Security as the responsible agency and instated DCS as an independent agency.

DCS and DHS both dispute Judge Silver’s ruling for class certification, claiming they have already made strides in improving programs and services to the state’s foster care youth. In a statement issued by DCS spokesman Darren DaRonco, “The Department looks forward to articulating the policies implemented over the last three years which have solidified an enduring commitment to ensuring children in state custody receive the care they need and deserve.”

DCS Director Greg McKay told the Arizona Republic that the class action lawsuit is without merit since the improvements will ensure that the state’s foster youth will no longer be at risk for substantial serious harm.

The class action lawsuit is expected to go to trial in 2018. The foster youth plaintiffs are represented by Harry Frischer of Children’s Rights and Phoenix law firm Coppersmith Brockelman,

The Arizona Foster Care Youth Class Action Lawsuit is Case No. 2:15-cv-00185-ROS, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.

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  1. DCS has not improved. They did not do their job with the first report in 2016. They let the abuser have his step child and son back closed the case with no follow up. Well the abuse happen again. Now DCS has attracted every family member. They will not let any family member grandparents, Uncles, Aunts even the older brother to have any contact with the 2 kids that are 3 and 5. I have been try to tell them the 5 year old needs to get signed up for school Today they let me know she was not old enough for the 2018 school year. She will be 6 in Sept. They still tel me she is not old enough. They are clueless and are not keeping track o the children in their care. the last time I saw my grand kids was in Nov 2017. 1 of them did live with me. They just last week got the Christmas gits to them. I was told the they were too busy and when they had time they would get the gifts out to them. It is wrong for DCS to get Federal funding for every child they put in foster care. DCS is out for the money not the children well being. I’m looking for a very good lawyer who will not fall for all their stall tactics which is keeping this dragging on. I want my grand kids out of foster care

  2. How long must our children suffer at the hands of the State? My 3 children were removed from my home and care immediately following a court hearing on 12/13/2017. They were placed in separate group homes. I was denied any communication with them for the first 5 wks. At which time I was provided telephone numbers for their group homes. I am in constant contact with DCS assigned case mgr. either by telephone or via email. I have compiled hundreds of emails to various agencies, organizations, and government officials. Yet, DCS remains in multiple violations of court order by denying us bi-wkly visits. DCS case mgr. openly informed me my case file and records have been mishandled, lost, or just unobtainable due to administrative error. With the doubling statistics in children being removed and placed in foster care safeguards should have been put in place increasing the availability of family reunification services, creation of emancipation services, and development and upgrades to an already over-burdened flawed system of record-keeping. Where is the accountability? Where are the guidelines for procedure or expected time frames for such procedures?What is the point of judicial actions when clearly there is no enforcement or obligation to adhere to such. Finally, are we the people of Arizona prepared to suffer the consequences for all the damaged children now beginning to age out of foster care system?

    • I lost my grandkids to DCS In Nov. in Sept I let my homeoess daughter snd husband move in. The granddaughter was already living with me. In November my granddaughter who is 5 told me her step dad hit her and it hurt. CPS was called. And they took my grand kids. I have not seen or talk to them. They also lost my paper work. I’m on apeal 2 now. We all need to get ahold Of our federal government. The federal government is paying DCS for every child they take from their homes. Are children are being held ransom the states are collecting money for them this needs to stop and it needs to stop now our children are the ones are paying the price. and are the ones getting hurt.

      • Paige Meyer Rebstock

        Kris,
        You are 100% right in all you said. And I agree. I have yet to reach out to the federal level but feel I have exhausted all my options within the state. Most recently State Rep-Kelly Townsend, a few days ago. Please look me up on facebook.

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