Federal Court Hearing on Child Welfare Progress in New Jersey: Release of CSSP Monitoring Report for the Charlie and Nadine H v. Murphy Sustainability and Exit Plan

Newark, NJ (January 25, 2021)—On Wednesday, January 27th at 9:00 AM ET, the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), Federal Court Monitors for the Charlie and Nadine H. v. Murphy child welfare reform litigation, released a new monitoring report documenting progress that New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) has made toward meeting the requirements of the Sustainability and Exit Plan (SEP) negotiated as part of the Charlie and Nadine H. v. Murphy class-action lawsuit. Reports are released to the Honorable Stanley Chesler of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey and the public approximately every six months. The current report covers performance during January 1 to June 30, 2020.

Judith Meltzer, CSSP President and Court Appointed Monitor, will report on the state’s progress to Judge Chesler at a virtual public hearing in federal court. The hearing will also review how the state and specifically DCF have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessary accommodations it has made in its practices and operations as well as the impact on its performance. See the conclusion of this press statement for instructions on how to request attendance to the virtual hearing.

The pandemic impacted New Jersey at a time when performance with respect to children and families served by DCF had never been more promising. Less than three months into the period of review, Governor Murphy issued a stay-at-home order, and DCF closed its 46 offices, restricted access to nine area offices, and moved 16 regional schools and two DCF-operated, hospital-based satellite schools to remote learning. Over six thousand staff were abruptly transitioned to working remotely, and daily contact with children and families had to change drastically. Like child welfare systems around the country, DCF has had to amend its policies and practices in order to keep staff and families safe.

Despite the enormous challenges presented by the pandemic, between January and June 2020 DCF continued to build on its prior achievements and sustain the previous years’ progress, ending the monitoring period still having met 44 or 48 measures in the Sustainability and Exit Plan. These are in addition to maintaining each of the Foundational Elements such as training, services for specialized populations (such as survivors of domestic violence and LGBTQ+ youth), and keeping caseloads within the standards.

“DCF’s leadership has been impressive during this crisis—they have maintained performance on the Sustainability and Exit Plan measures, as well as continued to work toward their strategic goals to place more children with kin, ensure safety for staff and families, expand preventive efforts and focus on race equity,” said Judith Meltzer, CSSP President and Court Monitor of the lawsuit. She continued, “We are hopeful that, particularly in these troubled times and in the face of escalating demands on New Jersey’s budget, both the Governor and the legislature will continue to prioritize the needs of children, youth, and families served by DCF, many of whom have been particularly hard hit by the virus.”

Read the full monitoring report here.

To request attendance to the virtual public hearing in federal court taking place on Wednesday, January 27, 2021 at 9:00 AM ET, please e-mail ecfhelp@njd.uscourts.gov stating that you would like to remotely attend the Charlie and Nadine H. public hearing (case number 99-3678). Include your name and telephone number as well as the case name and number in your email request. By submitting a request, participants consent to follow the Court’s audio and video teleconferencing rules.

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.