On Tuesday April 25, a Fairness Hearing will take place in the Charlie and Nadine H. lawsuit, for which CSSP has served as the Federal Monitor since 2006. After many years of sustained effort and significant improvements in the work of the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (NJ DCF) to ensure all children and families in the state are safe, healthy, and connected, the Parties in the lawsuit entered into an Exit Plan and Agreement on June 21, 2022. This agreement required the State to fulfill a list of ongoing commitments in order to successfully exit from federal oversight. These requirements included: a revised and comprehensive qualitative review system, continued production of data regarding the measures in the Sustainability and Exit Plan (SEP), legislation that would codify certain elements of the SEP, and enhancements to the Staffing and Oversight Review Subcommittee (SORS) of the New Jersey Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect as the entity responsible for reviewing DCF performance going forward.
On December 20, 2022, Governor Murphy signed the legislation that codified elements of the SEP and established enhancements to the SORS Committee. As a result, in early 2023, the Parties applied to the Court for approval of the settlement. The Honorable Stanley R. Chesler granted preliminary approval, and the Fairness Hearing on April 25 will provide the opportunity for final approval. This means that, at the hearing, if the Court determines that the settlement is fair, reasonable, and adequate, the lawsuit will end. This is an impressive accomplishment for the state of New Jersey, the administration of Christine Beyer, who has served as Commissioner of NJ DCF since January 2018, and all those who preceded her.
Class Members and local advocacy groups have already been notified of their opportunity to testify at the Fairness Hearing to express questions or comments on the Exit Plan and Agreement. The Federal Monitor and former CSSP President Judith Meltzer will also testify about the actions that NJ DCF has taken to become a transformed, self-monitoring system that has met or exceeded 44 of 48 Performance Measures in the SEP, and has undertaken many initiatives outside of the scope of the SEP to promote safety and well-being for children, youth and families served by the agency.
CSSP’s final comprehensive monitoring report was released in October 2022, and another report will be published by November 1, 2023, detailing NJ DCF’s efforts to comply with the Exit Plan and Agreement during the “Transition Period,” which will take place in the six months between April 25 and October 25, 2023. All of CSSP’s monitoring reports that have been filed with the Court are available online here.
The Fairness Hearing before the Honorable Stanley R. Chesler of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey is public, and will take place at the Senator Frank R. Lautenberg Building. Please check with the Court to confirm the time of the hearing. The courthouse is located at 2 Federal Square, Newark, New Jersey, 07101-0999.
About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. We translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, and support strong and inclusive communities. We advocate with and for all children, youth, and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at www.CSSP.org.