Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Class action lawsuit against the state of Nevada

Nevada receives millions of dollars from the federal government to provide for foster care. Yet, an increasing number of children are dying in Clark County, Nevada.

The National Center for Youth Law is not asking for money.
They are asking for reform.

Today, they filed a class action lawsuit against:
-Nevada Governor Kennth Guinn
-Nevada Health and Human Services Director Michael Willden
-Clark County Official.

The charge is failing to protect the health and safety of the children in Clark County's child welfare system. This Nevada county is responsible for the welfare of over 3,600 children.

Among the charges against Clark County:
-Violating federal law that requires full disclosure of information about child abuse victims who have died or suffered near fatalities. Rather than doing so, staff have hidden behind a cloud of "confidentiality."

-Federal, state and county reports have documented the county's failure to protect child abuse victims and children in foster care. Children are dying, due to unsafe foster placements and by being left with their parents after substantiated reports of abuse.

Systemic problems with the Clark County child welfare system:

1.) Overcrowding in Child Haven: Infants and young children being placed with older children who have behavioral problems. Youth forced to sleep in the gym / on the floor.

2.) Inadequate investigations of child abuse: Not removing a child when the abuse charges are substantiated. Leaving children in life-threatening situations.

3.) Inadequate caseworker training: Combined with high caseloads, this is a recipe for disaster.

4.) Lack of representation for children in dependency court hearings: No one to speak for the children, who cannot speak for themselves.

5.) Failure to provide appropriate educational services to foster children.

Shortcuts have been taken, and children's deaths have been the result:
-Cases have been closed, although problems in the family and risks to the child's safety have not been resolved.
-DCF records do not contain coroner or law enforcemen reports.
-Caseworkers have been substituting a monthly phone call for home visits.
-Children have been returned to parents who have failed to complete substance abuse treatments.
-No follow-up with siblings, to ensure their safety, after a child has died.

Mandatory safery assessment forms were:
-Often incorrect
-Often incomplete
-Dated long after the date of the abuse

I applaud Bill Grimm, lead counsel in the case against Clark County, when he says, "The suffering of these children has gone on long enough. For years, state and county officials have known of the serious deficiencies ... and yet the situation keeps getting worse. The lives of thousands of children are literally hanging in the balance."

Sources:
McCarty, Colleen McCarty. Lawsuit filed against Nevada over child welfare. KLAS-TV,Aug 30, 2006.
Schroth, Tracy. National Center for Youth Law files lawsuit in Nevada to improve child welfare system. Press release from National Center for Youth Law, Aug. 30, 2006.

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Comments:
Shameful that an outside law firm must step in to bring about reform.
The children in foster and protective care are ruled over with no voice of their own, till now.
The director of Family Services has yet to make a comment.
 
I found your site by accident...
Thank you!! I started looking for "someone else" and found you. I see that there are a lot of voices that need to be heard!!
 
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