Louisiana Foster Children Sue State System

BATON ROUGE — On April 10, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 4,000 Louisiana foster children against the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, DCFS Secretary David Matlock and Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry. The suit alleges that the state’s child welfare system is “failing its most vulnerable children and desperately in need of systemic reform.”

“We are aware of the complaint and are reviewing it,” said a DCFS spokesperson in response to an email from Biz New Orleans.

The 95-page complaint describes a child welfare system with “far too few workers and far too few adequate placements for children, where children are routinely subjected to mental and physical harm.” The plaintiffs say the problem is “well known to the state and has continued for at least the last 10 years, while the state has failed to take necessary action and continued to cut the DCFS budget.” In addition, the complaint says data reveal “overwhelming caseloads, high placement instability, lack of access to medical care, and rates of child death in the state 50% higher than the national average.”

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National nonprofit A Better Childhood worked with national trial and law firm Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell and New Orleans firm Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn to collect information for the lawsuit and prepare the case for the court. The partners said they collaborated for nearly a year, spoke with hundreds of people in the state and reviewed “all available information and reports.”

“Foster children in Louisiana have essentially been abandoned by the state,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry,  executive director of A Better Childhood, in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “The stories we have heard in putting this case together are nothing less than tragic, and we hope the court will order the state to enact significant reforms. The constitution requires nothing less.” 

“We are working in partnership with A Better Childhood and stand firm in the quest to bring improvements to the foster care system in Louisiana,” said Robert L. Redfearn Jr., who is leading the case for SPSR in Louisiana.

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