A national child advocacy group has dropped its federal lawsuit aimed at reforming Clark County’s foster care system.
The Oakland-based National Center for Youth Law dismissed its case Tuesday, three years after filing the lawsuit on behalf of abused and neglected children under the county’s care.
John O’Toole, the center’s director, said the case was dismissed because the original 14 plaintiffs had all been adopted or turned 18 and were no longer in the county foster care system. Lawyers for the center had a Tuesday deadline to file an amended complaint with new plaintiffs.
“We’re committed to fighting on their behalf, but we’ll have to do that on another day,” O’Toole said.
The dismissal of the case, which was before U.S. District Judge Robert Johnston, also ends the center’s appeal to create a class-action lawsuit that would have applied to all the county’s foster children.
Child welfare advocate Donna Coleman, who has been involved with the lawsuit, said she couldn’t comment on what the next step might be.
“Stay tuned,” she added.
The National Center for Youth Law filed the lawsuit in August 2006 alleging a litany of failures by the county’s Department of Family Services, which cares for abused and neglected children who are removed from their homes. Among the allegations were that children were placed in unsafe homes and officials failed to properly investigate reports of abuse and neglect.
O’Toole said not much has changed in three years.
“Everything we continue to hear is the system is broken,” he said.
Christine Skorupski, Family Services spokeswoman, said the lawsuit has been a significant drain on county resources and hasn’t led to any reforms. Any changes in the system were already under way when the lawsuit was filed, specifically in the form of the Safe Futures Plan implemented under department Director Tom Morton, she said.
The county has spent more than $993,000 in legal fees and costs fighting the case.
“Clark County remains committed to achieving the best outcomes for the children in its care as described in the Department of Family Services’ nationally-recognized Safe Futures Plan and is committed to continuing implementation of the reforms laid out in Safe Futures,” the county said in a statement.
Diane Comeaux, administrator of the state Division of Child and Family Services, who was also named in the lawsuit, said Clark County’s child welfare system has made “significant” improvements in recent years.
“They’ve made huge progress in Clark County, and they have really solid building blocks to continue making improvements,” she said.
She noted that the dismissal doesn’t mean the National Center for Youth Law couldn’t return to court.
“I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if they filed a second lawsuit,” she said.
Contact reporter Brian Haynes at email@example.com or 702-383-0281.