The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOGAN
THOMAS F. HOGAN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
This is a class action brought on behalf of children who are in foster care under the supervision of the District of Columbia Department of Human Services (DHS)
and children who, although not yet in the care of the DHS, are known to the department because of reported abuse or neglect.
It is a case about thousands of children who, due to family financial problems, psychological problems, and substance abuse problems, among other things, rely on the District to provide them with food, shelter, and day-to-day care. It is about beleaguered city employees trying their best to provide these necessities while plagued with excessive caseloads, staff shortages, and budgetary constraints. It is about the failures of an ineptly managed child welfare system, the indifference of the administration of the former mayor of the District of Columbia, Marion Barry, and the resultant tragedies for District children relegated to entire childhoods spent in foster care drift. Unfortunately, it is about a lost generation of children whose tragic plight is being repeated every day.
The complaint in this case alleges both statutory and constitutional violations in the administration of the District's foster care system. These allegations include the failure of the DHS to initiate timely investigations into reports of abuse or neglect, the failure to provide services to families to prevent the placement of children in foster care, the failure to place those who may not safely remain at home in appropriate foster homes and institutions, the failure to develop case plans for children in foster care, and the failure to move children into a situation of permanency, whether by returning them to their homes or freeing them for adoption.
In over two weeks of trial, this Court heard testimony about the system's deficiencies from a vast array of witnesses, including experts in child welfare and child psychiatry, social workers and managers at the DHS, foster and adoptive parents, and the parent of two children who spent several years in the District's custody. The Court has before it over a thousand District admissions confirming many of the plaintiff class' allegations. The inescapable conclusion is that the foster care system operated by the DHS does not comply with federal law, District law, or, for those plaintiffs in the District's foster care, the United States Constitution. Defense counsel has argued that public institutions cannot solve the problems brought about by poverty, neglect, and abuse until society addresses their causes. Plaintiffs have not asked for a "perfect world," however, they merely request compliance with statutory and constitutional requirements and they ask not to be harmed while in the District's custody. Mindful of the uncomfortable position in which the Court is placed by entertaining such a challenge to local government action, it is nevertheless compelled by the evidence to enter a judgment of liability against the defendant officials.
The Court shall defer ordering specific injunctive relief until after further briefing and argument by the parties.
Plaintiffs' complaint alleges that the District's practices in administering the city's foster care system violate numerous provisions of federal and District statutes. The federal statutes allegedly violated are the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-272, 94 Stat. 516 (June 17, 1980) (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 620-627 and §§ 670-679) (Adoption Assistance Act) and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Pub. L. No. 93-247, 88 Stat. 4 (January 31, 1974) (codified as amended at 42 U.S.C. §§ 5101-5106) (Abuse Prevention Act). The District statutes allegedly violated are the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Act of 1977, D.C. Law 2-22 (Sept. 23, 1977) (codified as amended at D.C. Code Ann. §§ 2-1351 to -1357, §§ 6-2101 to -2107, §§ 6-2121 to -2127, and §§ 16-2351 to -2365) (Abuse and Neglect Act) and the Youth Residential Facilities Licensure Act of 1986, D.C. Law 6-139 (Aug. 13, 1986) (codified as amended at D.C. Code Ann. §§ 3-801 to -808) (Licensure Act). Plaintiffs' complaint also alleges violations of the Child and Family Services Division (CFSD) Manual of Operations (September 1985) and reasonable professional child welfare standards.
The federal Abuse Prevention Act and the District's Abuse and Neglect Act both deal with the investigation of reports of abuse and neglect and the provision of services to families for whom reports are substantiated. The District law establishes a 24-hour intake unit within the CFSD, the function of which is to receive reports of abuse and neglect and respond with investigations and emergency services. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2122(e). The federal law requires "prompt" investigations, 42 U.S.C. § 5106a(b)(2), whereas the District law requires investigations "within 24 hours of the receipt of the report." D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2102(b). The purpose of the investigations, according to District law, is to determine the nature and extent of the abuse or neglect, the person responsible for the abuse or neglect, the conditions in the home, and whether the health or safety of the children in the home are in jeopardy. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2104. Both federal and District law require the DHS to take whatever steps are necessary to protect the health and welfare of a child for whom a report has been made. These steps may include providing emergency services so that the child may remain in the home, or removing the child and placing him or her in temporary care if the provision of services could not adequately protect the child. 42 U.S.C. § 5106a(b)(2) & (b)(3); D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2105 & § 6-2124. Federal law requires "reasonable efforts" to prevent the removal of a child from the home or to return the child to the home if removal is necessary. Adoption Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. § 671(a)(15). District law similarly requires the CFSD to develop a plan for providing services to prevent the child's removal from the home or facilitate the child's return to the home if removal is unavoidable. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2107. Finally, District law requires that if the child is removed from the home as a result of the investigation, within 90 days of removal the DHS shall either return the child to the home or request the filing of a neglect petition in the Family Division of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2123.
The federal Adoption Assistance Act and the District's Abuse and Neglect Act include provisions on placing children in foster care, preparing case plans, providing continuing services to children and their natural and foster parents, periodically reviewing the necessity and appropriateness of placements, recruiting adoptive families, and maintaining a system that comports with professional standards.
There are five ways a child may come into the custody of the DHS. The first is through voluntary placement, by which the child's parent or guardian voluntarily requests a temporary placement not to exceed 90 days. Before a child is taken into placement, a variety of in-home services directed at maintaining the child in the home must be offered or considered. CFSD Manual of Operations at § 601.1. Other methods of bringing a child into the custody of the DHS are through voluntary relinquishment of parental rights, see id. at § 601.2, temporary shelter care while a court action is pending, see id. at § 601.3, protective custody when a child has been left alone or with inadequate supervision, see id. at § 601.4, and police hold when a law enforcement officer has reason to believe the child is in immediate danger and removal is necessary. See id. § 601.5.
With respect to voluntary placements, also referred to as "emergency care" by the DHS officials, District law requires the CFSD to return the child to the home or request the filing of a neglect petition in the Family Division of the District of Columbia Superior Court within 90 days of placement. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2123(a)(2). Federal law requires return to the home within 180 days unless there has been a judicial determination that placement is in the best interests of the child. 42 U.S.C. § 672(e).
Federal law requires that children for whom placement is necessary be placed in "the least restrictive (most family like) setting available and in close proximity to the parents' home, consistent with the best interest and special needs of the child." 42 U.S.C. § 675(5)(A). See also CFSD Manual of Operations at § 602.5(a). Additionally, federal law requires that all foster homes and institutions receiving federal funds meet standards "reasonably in accord with recommended standards of national organizations concerned with standards for such institutions or homes, including standards related to admission policies, safety, sanitation, and protection of civil rights." 42 U.S.C. § 671(a)(10).
Federal regulations require social workers to prepare written case plans within 60 days of the assumption of responsibility for a child. 45 C.F.R. § 1356.21(d)(2). Similarly, District law provides that case plans be prepared "as soon as possible" for children for whom there has been a substantiated report of abuse or neglect. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2107(b). This requirement is expanded upon in the CFSD Manual of Operations, which mandates a case plan within 45 days of the child's entry into care or within 30 days if the child has been voluntarily placed in care. CFSD Manual of Operations at § 401.2(a). To be in compliance with federal law, a case plan must contain a description of the home or institution in which the child is to be placed and a discussion of the appropriateness of such a placement. Additionally, the plan must set forth the agency's intentions for carrying out the voluntary placement agreement or judicial determination that resulted in the child's placement in foster care.
The plan must also include a program for providing services to the child and his or her natural and foster parents, with the goal of either returning the child to the home or permanently placing the child. The plan must further detail the services necessary to address the child's needs while in foster care and must discuss the appropriateness of the services that have been provided. Finally, the plan must include the health and educational records of the child, to the extent those records are available and accessible. 42 U.S.C. § 675(1).
The District's Abuse and Neglect Act requires similar information to be included in case plans and requires specific arrangements for the management of each case for which protective services are required. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2107(b). The CFSD Manual of Operations is more specific, requiring case plans to include the reasons for placement, the goal for the child and the date it is to be achieved, the reasons for the choice of the goal, and the changes necessary to achieve the goal. CFSD Manual of Operations at § 401.2(h). Case plans must also include a visitation schedule specifying who will visit, how frequently visits will take place, where the visits will occur, and whether any conditions of supervision will apply. Id.5
The Adoption Assistance Act requires agencies to provide "proper care" to children in their custody and to provide services intended to facilitate the return of the child to the home or to place the child in a permanent family. 42 U.S.C. § 675(1) and § 627(a)(2)(C). The District's Abuse and Neglect Act contains similar requirements. See D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2107(b), § 6-2123(a)(3), and § 6-2124. The services that the CFSD is authorized to provide include emergency financial aid, temporary third-party placement with neighbors or relatives, emergency caretaker services, homemaker services, day care, counseling, medical services, and other appropriate services available in the community. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2124.
Both federal and District law require periodic judicial or administrative reviews of the status of children in foster care. Federal law requires reviews at least every six months by either a court or administrative panel. The purpose of the reviews is to "determine the continuing necessity for and appropriateness of the placement, the extent of compliance with the case plan, and the extent of progress which has been made toward alleviating or mitigating the causes necessitating placement in foster care, and to project a likely date by which the child may be returned to the home or placed for adoption or legal guardianship." 42 U.S.C. § 675(5)(B).
District law similarly provides that, once a child has been adjudicated as neglected, the Family Division of the Superior Court shall hold a review hearing every six months unless the child is over the age of six and has been in custody for longer than two years. D.C. Code Ann. § 16-2323(a).
The CFSD's policy manual contains further requirements for recruiting adoptive families. The manual provides that, even when a child is not legally freed for adoption, his or her case must be referred to the Adoption and Placement Resources Branch of the CFSD within three days of the selection of adoption as a goal for the child. CFSD Manual of Operations at § 703.3.
With respect to the general infrastructure of the child welfare system in the District, both federal and local law have certain requirements: Federal law requires the District to maintain an information system from which the status, location, and goals for the placement of all foster care children may be readily determined. 42 U.S.C. § 627(a)(2)(A). District law requires the maintenance of a Child Protection Register to index cases of abused and neglected children and assist in the treatment of those children. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2111. District law also requires the CFSD to have "sufficient staff, supervisory personnel, and resources to accomplish the purposes of [the Abuse and Neglect Act], including the capacity to provide emergency and continuing service resources to abused and neglected children and their families." Id. at § 6-2122(c). Moreover, District law requires the staff qualifications, caseload levels, and supervision requirements of the CFSD to be guided by the standards set out by the Child Welfare League of America or other child welfare organizations. Id. at § 6-2122(d).
C. Licensure of Foster Homes and Institutions
The District's Licensure Act requires every facility providing foster care in the District to be licensed and inspected annually. D.C. Code Ann. § 3-802 and § 3-805(a)(1). Facilities caring for District children outside the District must be inspected at least once a year. Id. at § 3-805(a)(2).
THE EVIDENCE PRESENTED AND THE COURT'S FINDINGS OF FACT
The Court was presented with various types of evidence during the lengthy trial of this case. First, the Court had before it over a thousand stipulated facts. Second, the Court was presented with several reports and case studies prepared by experts in the areas of child welfare policy and practice, social service methodology and research, the types and uses of automated information in public services programs, and the financing, administration, and delivery of human services. Third, the Court heard testimony from child psychiatrists, foster, adoptive, and natural parents, and employees of the DHS ranging from front-line social workers to upper-level management. After explaining more fully the nature of the expert evidence presented, the Court will make its findings of fact.
A. The Nature of the Expert Evidence
The complaint in this case names seven children as plaintiffs on behalf of the class. Their stories, according to plaintiffs, are representative of the stories of countless other children who have spent time in the District's foster care system. Introduced as evidence in this case is a report prepared by Clarice Dribble Walker, an expert in the field of child welfare policies and practices and an associate professor of social work at Howard University in Washington, D.C.
For purposes of this litigation, Professor Walker prepared a "Case Review" of the case records of each of the named plaintiffs and the extent to which those records are in compliance with federal and District law and national professional standards (the Walker Report). Professor Walker based the report on her examination of the case records maintained by the DHS, as well as on deposition transcripts, reports by other experts in the field, and DHS documents, including the CFSD Manual of Operations. Professor Walker reviewed the cases in the context of her knowledge of the federal Adoption Assistance Act and Abuse Prevention Act and the District's Abuse and Neglect Act. The Walker Report details the experiences of each of the named plaintiffs in the District's foster care system, the social work and legal issues related to each, and the systemic problems identified in providing services to each of the children. The report concludes that the DHS has not complied with "the legal and social work mandate for permanency planning for children in the child welfare system," Walker Report at 5, because it has failed to make appropriate placements, set appropriate goals for children in placement, provide services toward the achievement of those goals, and move children through the system quickly so that they may obtain permanency by either returning home or being adopted.
Serving as the basis for many of plaintiffs' allegations about the widespread and systemic deficiencies in the District's foster care system is a Case Reading prepared by Theodore J. Stein, Ph.D., an expert in the fields of child welfare policy and practices and social science methodology and research (the Stein Report). Dr. Stein is a professor of social welfare at the State University of New York at Albany, where he has taught courses including "Child Welfare: Policy and Practice," "Research and Quantitative Methods," and "Law and Social Work." He has conducted six "case readings" since the passage of the federal Adoption Assistance Act and is currently working on another.
Dr. Stein's case reading consisted of a review of a random sample of 675 case records for children in custody or formerly in the custody of the DHS and children who had been the subject of an investigation into a report of abuse or neglect.
This random sampling represents approximately 25 percent of the cases of children in foster care in the District, a figure that Dr. Stein testified is compatible with accepted scientific methodology.
The cases for review were selected using a table of random numbers.
Once the data from the case reading instruments was entered, Dr. Stein analyzed the data. His findings are broken down into eight areas making up Volume I of the case reading. These areas are: demographic information about the sample; information regarding abuse and neglect investigations; information describing case planning and service provision for children in foster care with plans of either return home, adoption, independent living, or continued foster care; information regarding medical, dental, psychiatric/psychological services, and educational progress; information on administrative and judicial reviews; and information on the monitoring of foster homes and institutions. Volume II of the case reading includes detailed case examples illustrating the findings reported in Volume I. Based on these findings and examples, Dr. Stein concluded in his report and in testimony before this Court that, at the time of the case reading in early 1990, the District's foster care system was operating in much the same way as other jurisdictions had operated prior to the passage of the federal Adoption Assistance Act in 1980: as a holding system for children. Very few District children receive services to prevent their placement in foster care. Thirty-seven percent of children in the District's foster care system have been in care for four or more years and 62 percent do not have written case plans. Stein Report at 195. As a wrap-up to Dr. Stein's direct testimony at trial, he emphasized his conclusions by stating that he had not seen a system in the last eight to ten years that had made so little progress since the passage of the federal Adoption Assistance Act.
3. Center for the Study of Social Policy Report
In addition to the Walker and Stein Reports, plaintiffs introduced into evidence a report prepared by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (the Center), entitled Children and Family Services in the District of Columbia (September 1990) (Center Report), and consisting of an analysis of the District's child welfare system and recommendations for its improvement.
The Center is a nonprofit organization, based in Washington, D.C., that conducts policy research and analysis and provides technical assistance to state and local governments in various areas of human services, including child welfare. In the area of child welfare, the Center has directed comprehensive child welfare reform initiatives in three states and has provided direct technical assistance to over 20 states with respect to the financing, administration, and design of children's policies and programs. The Center staff consists of numerous professionals in the human services field and many specialists in child welfare policy. Testifying as experts during the trial of this case were three Center staff members who contributed to the report: Frank Farrow, Director of Children's Services Policy at the Center and former Executive Director of the Social Services Administration of the Maryland Department of Human Resources; Carol Wilson Williams, Ph.D., a senior research analyst at the Center and former professor of social work at the University of North Carolina and the University of California at Los Angeles; and Judith Meltzer, a senior research associate at the Center who specializes in federal entitlements funding under the Adoption Assistance Act and has offered technical assistance to a number of states regarding maximizing their federal reimbursements under the Act.
The Center's report was prepared with two goals: to independently analyze the alleged deficiencies in the District's child welfare system and to propose concrete, feasible remedies for the future. The report analyzes the system in relation to the requirements of federal and District law, DHS and CFSD policies, and generally accepted professional child welfare practice. To conduct its analysis, the Center staff extensively reviewed DHS documents including all pertinent legal and policy documents produced by defendants. Center staff interviewed DHS employees, including case workers and supervisors within the CFSD, administrators in the Family Services Administration, and the Director of Income Maintenance at the DHS. Additionally, Center staff observed several depositions, including those of all four branch chiefs within the CFSD. The Center Report concludes that the District has consistently failed to meet the requirements of federal and District law and its own policy. These failures, according to the report, have resulted in a system that does not adequately protect at-risk children and families. See Center Report at i. For each area of the District's alleged failures, the report offers several specific recommendations for improvement, both short-term and long-term. In addition, the report sets forth a proposed "Sequenced Implementation Plan," including target dates, for putting the Center's recommendations into action. See Center Report at 75-80.
4. Psychiatrists' Testimony
Testifying at trial were four child psychiatrists who had reviewed the case records of and conducted personal interviews with four of the named plaintiffs. Each gave their expert opinion on the psychological and emotional harm that the named plaintiffs have suffered as a result of the failures of the defendants to provide for their needs. In addition, Dr. Harold Eist gave his opinion about the psychological and emotional harm to all of the children in the plaintiff class, resulting from the systemwide deficiencies in the delivery of services to foster children and children who have been the subjects of reported abuse or neglect.
Based on all of the evidence presented, including the stipulations entered into by defendants, the Court issues the following findings of fact. To assist the reader in understanding the significance of these facts, the Court will first present some general findings and will then present the bulk of the remaining findings in categories that relate to the statutory framework detailed in Part I, supra. The Court will conclude with those findings involving harm to the plaintiff class.
Department of Human Services (DHS)
Commission on Social Services (CSS)
Family Services Administration (FSA)
Child and Family Services Division (CFSD)
The CFSD, which has primary responsibility for the implementation and administration of the child welfare system, is comprised of five branches:
The Intake and Crisis Services Branch (ICSB) is responsible for receiving and investigating reports of neglect filed with the CFSD. The branch maintains a 24-hour hotline specifically for this purpose. The branch also makes initial assessments of need and provides emergency and crisis intervention services. Two Intensive Services Branches (ISBs) are responsible for those cases for which an initial investigation indicates that the placement of a child is probable or that family breakdown is imminent or very likely without the provision of intensive services to the family. The branches were planned so that each social worker would handle a maximum of 20 cases and would work intensively with the assigned families in a short period of time. The Continuing Services Branch (CSB) is responsible for those cases for which the initial investigation indicates problems resulting from chronic conditions that require the continuing provision of services but are not likely to lead to total family breakdown. The branch also provides continuing services to children in foster care and their families. The Adoption and Placement Resources Branch (APRB) is responsible for recruiting foster and adoptive families, conducting home studies, and training foster and adoptive parents. Finally, the Monitoring Unit, which is not a "branch" but a separate unit reporting directly to the division chief, is responsible for monitoring all foster homes and group homes in which children in the custody of the CFSD are placed and which are located within a 50-mile radius of the District of Columbia. The unit monitors these facilities to ensure compliance with all federal and local statutes and regulations. See CFSD Policy Manual at Chapter 100.
According to stipulations entered into by the parties, as of September 30, 1988, 2,166 children were in foster care in the District of Columbia. As of June 1989, the average stay for children in the District's foster care system was 4.8 years. This compares to a national average of just over two years. See Center Report at ii. According to the Stein Report, as of December 1989, 27 percent of the children in the District's custody had been in that status for more than five years and 60 percent had been in custody for more than two years. Approximately 95 percent of the children in the District's foster care are black.
2. Abuse and Neglect Investigations and Preventive Services
a. Timeliness of Investigations
Both federal and District law require prompt investigations into reports of abuse or neglect. 42 U.S.C. § 5106a(b)(2); D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2102(b). District law and CFSD policy specify 24 hours for initiating investigations and two weeks for completing investigations. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2102(b) and CFSD Manual of Operations at § 301.15. Despite these stringent requirements, the stipulations entered into by the parties indicate that for several months during 1988, 1989, and 1990, the department consistently failed to initiate timely investigations into reports of neglect
and consistently failed to complete investigations within two weeks. In August 1988, for example, the ICSB failed to initiate investigations into five reports of neglect it received that month, involving seven children. As the backlog began to worsen, the then-acting-chief of the CFSD, Evelyn Andrews, notified the administrator of the FSA in her November 1988 monthly report that:
Staff shortages in the critical area of protecting children has [sic] required supervisors to take uncovered caseloads, staff to cover for co-workers who are in the field or on leave (there has been a significant increase in staff absenteeism), staff to attempt to fulfill the demands made through court orders, and make every effort to comply with mandated timeframes. It is virtually impossible to protect children in such an environment and under the current conditions. Children are at risk.
Stipulation 137. One month later, in December 1988, the branch failed to initiate investigations into 30 reports it received that month, involving 84 children. At that time, the branch also had a backlog of 584 reports, involving 828 children, for which investigations had not been completed.
Despite the dire situation within the CFSD in December 1988, the backlogs continued to worsen throughout 1989 and 1990. In June 1989, the ICSB failed to initiate investigations into 50 reports it received that month, involving 75 children. It also ended the month with a backlog of 716 reports, involving 1,285 children, for which it had not completed investigations. A study conducted in fiscal year 1989 by the chief of the ICSB revealed that the average length of time between the receipt of a report of neglect and the branch's initiation of an investigation was ten days.
Although the ICSB chief's report revealed serious and continuing failures to comply with District and federal law, the backlogs continued to grow. In January 1990, the ICSB failed to initiate investigations into 91 reports received during the month, involving 171 children. Additionally, it had a backlog of 1,112 reports, involving 1,853 children, for which investigations had not been completed. At the end of January 1990, the ICSB had only 12 social workers assigned to it to conduct investigations. Defendants have stipulated that as of February 1, 1990, staffing shortages within the CFSD prevented workers from initiating investigations within the statutory time period.
The number of backlogged investigations dipped slightly in early 1990, so that by April 1990, a new study conducted by the chief of the ICSB revealed that the average length of time between the receipt of a report and the initiation of an investigation had dropped to four days. Nevertheless, for nearly 50 percent of the reports received during April 1990, the ICSB failed to initiate an investigation within 24 hours. Moreover, the branch ended each month between July 1989 and May 1990 with an average backlog of approximately 1,200 reports for which it had not completed investigations. The backlogs were reported by the then-chief of the ICSB, Carolyn Smith, to the chief of the CFSD, Evelyn Andrews, in June 1990. Ms. Smith also reported that the branch lacked a sufficient number of automobiles to investigate neglect reports within 24 hours. Ms. Andrews reported the situation to the then-administrator of the FSA, Jean Hunter,
in her June monthly report.
During the summer of 1990, the ICSB borrowed workers from other branches and tried to alleviate the backlog by working significant overtime hours. Nevertheless, by the end of August 1990, the ICSB had failed to initiate investigations into 41 reports it received that month, involving 93 children. It had also failed to complete investigations for 445 reports, involving 750 children. As of October 1990, it was taking the ICSB up to five days to initiate investigations into reports of neglect. According to the testimony of Carolyn Smith, as of December 1990, for the three units within the ICSB on the day shift, there were four vacancies out of a possible full staffing level of 15 social workers. On the evening shift, there were four vacancies out of five social worker positions. The midnight shift, primarily responsible for receiving reports and staffed in part with paraprofessionals, was fully staffed.
Based on the foregoing facts, almost all of which have been stipulated, this Court finds that the CFSD has, since at least the beginning of 1988, continuously failed to initiate investigations into reports of neglect or abuse within 24 hours and complete investigations within two weeks. These failures have been largely due to staff shortages and the lack of access to resources, such as automobiles, necessary to conduct investigations. The Court also finds, based on the testimony of Dr. Williams, an expert in the field of child welfare policy, as well as Ms. Smith, the former chief of the ICSB, that the failure to initiate timely investigations can be partially attributed to the inability to screen out inappropriate reports. Although many jurisdictions use screening instruments to lessen the number of reports requiring investigations, District law currently requires the investigation of all reports of neglect or abuse.
b. Provision of Preventive Services
Both federal and District law require the provision of services to enable a child for whom a report has been made to remain in the home or, if removal is necessary, to enable the child to return home as quickly as possible. See 42 U.S.C. § 5106(a)(b)(2) & (b)(3); D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2105 & § 6-2124. The CFSD is authorized to provide services including emergency financial aid, shelter, emergency caretaker services, homemaker services, day care, counseling, medical services, and other appropriate services. D.C. Code Ann. § 6-2124. Based on the testimony of Dr. Stein and Professor Walker, the Court finds that the CFSD has consistently failed to provide the services required to enable children to remain with their families or reunite with them if temporary placement is required.
According to Professor Walker's testimony and report, none of the case records of the named plaintiffs indicates that any services were provided to prevent placement. Similarly, according to the case reading conducted by Dr. Stein, none of the case records studied contained a judicial determination that "reasonable efforts" had been made to prevent placement, in accordance with federal law. Although defense counsel elicited through cross examination that the absence of a record of services in the children's case records does not necessarily mean that no services were provided, the Court finds little or no reason to believe that services were indeed provided. Testimony of social workers and of the former chief of the ICSB revealed that services frequently are not provided because they are not available. Defendants have admitted that although a number of parents have substance abuse and mental health problems, the CFSD has no drug treatment services or counseling services that it can provide directly to families in need. Similarly, although a substantial number of parents have housing and unemployment problems, the CFSD does not have the capability to directly provide housing or job services. Because the CFSD is unable to provide many direct services and does not have any priority access agreements with other agencies or organizations, defendants have candidly admitted that the CFSD has insufficient service resources to meet the "reasonable efforts" requirement of federal law. Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that defendants have consistently failed to provide services or otherwise use "reasonable efforts" to prevent placement. The result has been an increased risk of arbitrary or inappropriate placements as well as an increased cost to the District.
Once a child has come into foster care, either through voluntary placement or emergency placement resulting from a substantiated abuse or neglect investigation, both federal and District law place limits on the time a child may remain in care without a judicial determination that placement is in the child's best interests. Federal law mandates that a child return home within 180 days unless such a determination has been made, 42 U.S.C. § 672(e); District law mandates return home ...