Lawsuit on foster care survives challenges

A lawsuit claiming that local and state child welfare agencies are failing to protect minors in foster care remains in play despite legal efforts to have it quashed.

In a 48-page order entered into the electronic court record on Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Jones ruled on numerous motions to dismiss the lawsuit or release various government agencies, public employees and elected officials named as defendants.

The action, filed in August on behalf of families represented by the National Center for Youth Law, claims children in protective custody are endangered by the very system intended to safeguard them.

Jones denied all efforts by the state and county to have the action dismissed because the cases in question have been closed or because the plaintiffs involved lack the standing to bring a lawsuit.

Jones did agree to dismiss the Clark County Department of Family Services as a defendant, noting that as a department of a political subdivision, it can’t be sued under Nevada law.

He also released Gov. Jim Gibbons as a defendant but left in the other individuals named. They include four Clark County commissioners, Bruce Woodbury, Tom Collins, Chip Maxfield and Rory Reid; former commissioners Yvonne Atkinson Gates, Lynette Boggs and Myrna Williams; Clark County Manager Virginia Valentine; Director of Nevada Health and Human Services Mike Willden; and Director of Clark County Family Services Tom Morton.

"In this case, the plaintiffs allege that the individually named defendants have taken actions that violate the Constitution," Jones wrote.

Jones said that if, as the case unfolds, individual defendants can show they took no part in the alleged violations, the court again would consider dismissing them from the suit.

Bill Grimm, senior attorney for the California-based National Center for Youth Law, was pleased with the order, saying that in it, Jones also affirms that every child in foster care has the enforceable right to a guardian ad litem to protect their legal rights in court.

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