Agreement Reached in Class Action Lawsuit to Ensure Better Outcomes for...

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Both sides in the civil rights class action lawsuit, Juan F. v. Rowland, have agreed today on a series of performance and outcome measures to ensure better outcomes for children in Connecticut's child welfare system that, if met by the state, could lead to an exit from a court-ordered Consent Decree. Enforcement mechanisms to protect the rights of foster children stay in place as the state moves to reach good practice outcomes that are embodied in the Consent Decree. During an 18-month transition period, detailed record reviews of hundreds of children's files will determine if the outcomes are being met. If the state is successful, and can maintain adequate performance levels, then it has the potential to eventually exit the consent decree in the Juan F. lawsuit. The agreement will be submitted for approval to U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas.

Under the agreement between counsel for the plaintiff children in the lawsuit and the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF), 23 separate outcomes for children are to be addressed, including:

*Getting services promptly to children and families to protect children in the home and prevent removing the child.
*Preventing further abuse while in foster care custody.
*Reducing the length of time in foster care.
*Reducing the number of moves for children while in foster care.
*Avoiding overcrowding of foster family homes.

"DCF has an opportunity to determine its future as it is within the agency's control to meet these important outcomes for children," said Ira Lustbader, lead attorney in the case for Children's Rights, the national children's advocacy group which is co-counsel for the plaintiff children in Juan F. "As attorneys for the children, we felt the timing was right to shift from compliance with detailed provisions of the consent decree to these specific performance outcomes. We have as much interest in the department succeeding as they do because it will improve the lives of children in Connecticut. However, if the department does anything to harm these children, this latest agreement guarantees our ability to go right back into court at any time and enforce the children's rights."

There are two stages set forth in the agreement:

1. An 18-month transition period during which time, DCF will have to meet the listed performance measures. During this time, the parties will continue negotiations over problem areas and will be able to add new performance measures.

2. Stage Two will take one of two paths. If DCF has shown promise in meeting performance measures, then the performance measures and ongoing case reviews will replace the consent decree. If DCF can sustain its performance for required periods of time, it has the opportunity to eventually end federal court involvement in its foster care system. Under the second path, if DCF fails to meet the performance measures, this new agreement will essentially cease as lawyers for the children return to court and seek to compel the Department's compliance with the Consent Decree and with any required additional remedies, including the possibility of taking management authority away from the Department placing it in the hands of a neutral Receiver.

As long as federal court oversight continues, the state is obligated to maintain DCF funding at its current level of funding.

Children's Rights is a national non-profit organization working throughout the United States in partnership with advocates, experts, policy analysts, and government officials to address the needs of children dependent on failing child welfare systems for protection and care. Children's Rights develops realistic solutions and, where necessary, uses the power of the courts to make sure the rights of these children are recognized and that reform takes place.

Children's Rights works throughout the United States in partnership with national and local experts, advocates and government officials to document the needs of children in the care of child welfare systems. Children's Rights helps develop realistic solutions and, where necessary, uses the power of litigation to ensure that reform takes place.
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