Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Certification of Class of Current or Future Foster Children Upheld in Suit Against Oklahoma Commission for Human Services

"Okla. Foster Children Can Proceed With Class Action"

"The 10th Circuit upheld the certification of a class of about 10,000 current or future Oklahoma foster care children who say the state fails to protect them from abuse and neglect.

Nine unnamed foster children accused the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services of failing to protect foster children from abuse and neglect, assigning massive caseloads to child welfare workers, failing to adequately monitor the children, placing them in unsafe and overcrowded emergency shelters or foster homes, and bouncing the children from one bad home or shelter to another, depriving them of the chance to develop critical family relationships.

The Denver-based appeals court ruled that the children had successfully argued that, despite the proposed class' 'considerable diversity,' the state's alleged endemic problems create a 'risk of harm shared by the entire class.'

The foster children said the agency consistently fails to follow its own policy requiring caseworkers to visit children in the foster care program at least once per month. For the last five years, Oklahoma has placed among the three worst states in the nation for the abuse or neglect of children in foster care, they claimed. They also cited a report by the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth finding that 25 percent of the foster homes it reviewed had "serious safety issues and should never have been approved for placement by OKDHS in the first place."

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