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Federal class action lawsuit against Texas DFPS brought on behalf of orphans

In recent news, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), the state agency in charge of overseeing the health, safety, welfare - and potential adoption - of children taken into long-term custody is now facing a federal class action lawsuit.

The lawsuit, filed by nine guardians on behalf of the roughly 12,000 children/orphans who are currently part of the "Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) program, alleges that the DFPS 1) failed to make the necessary effort to find permanent homes for the children in the PMC program 2) moved many of these children frequently without proper regard for their welfare and 3) placed them in substandard facilities.

Regarding the first claim, the complaint reads, "Once children enter the state's PMC, DFPS makes little effort to find them permanent homes. Instead, these children remain in state custody for many years, and many are abused while in the state's custody."

According to the 89-page complaint, there are multiple causes for the problems with Texas' PMC program, including a shortage of DFPS employees, a failure on the part of DFPS employees to implement "appropriate permanency plans for children," and a general lack of oversight by the state.

The class members are seeking a permanent injunction that would require the DFPS to create an "administrative accountability structure" designed to address the needs of every child regarding placement in a "family-like" permanent residence and the provision of mental health services.

In addition, the class members are seeking:

  • The establishment of "special expert panels" to review the cases of children who have been under state care for over two years or who have been placed over four times.
  • An order that bans the DFPS from placing children in settings (foster homes, group homes, shelters, residential treatment centers, etc.) that fail to meet the standards established by the Child Welfare League of America.

Named in the lawsuit are Governor Rick Perry, Executive Commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission Thomas Suehs, and Commissioner of the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Anne Heiligenstein.

To learn more about adoption or parental rights, contact an experienced and skilled legal professional.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Stay tuned for more from our Ft. Worth family law blog ...

Related Resources:

Texas accused of neglecting orphans (Courthouse News Service)

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