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PJC Asserts Foster Kids’ Rights to Decent Care: Brief Filed in Court of Appeals in L.J. v. Donald

An ongoing lawsuit to protect the health, safety, and well-being of 5,000 children in foster care in Baltimore City took another step forward on May 27 as Public Justice Center attorney Rhonda Lipkin and Mitchell Y. Mirviss of Venable LLP filed a brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The brief in L.J. v. Donald asserted that the federal court has the authority to enforce the State of Maryland’s responsibility under a consent decree to provide proper care for foster children in Baltimore City. The brief challenges the State’s appeal of an October 9, 2009 court order denying the State’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.

The case against the State began in 1984. In 1988, the State entered into an agreement requiring that it take specific steps to properly care for the children, and in 2007, the children’s attorneys filed a motion to hold the State in contempt for more than 90 violations of that agreement. The State and the children’s attorneys negotiated a Modified Consent Decree (MCD) which requires the State to enact specific, enforceable, and comprehensive reforms in the foster care system, meeting more than forty outcomes and additional commitments. The State then turned around and filed a motion to dismiss the entire case. U.S. District Court Judge Motz denied the motion and approved the MCD over the State’s objections. While the appeal goes forward, the PJC, Lipkin, and Mirviss will continue to monitor the State’s implementation of the requirements of the MCD to meet Baltimore City foster children’s rights to decent care (including with their families if safely possible), appropriate foster placements, prompt and comprehensive planning to achieve permanent living arrangements, good health care, access to education, and regular oversight by caseworkers and other requirements for safety.

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