Final Settlement Agreement in LaShawn A v. Bowser Approved

Washington, DC (June 4, 2021)—On June 1, 2021, Judge Thomas Hogan approved a final Settlement Agreement in LaShawn A v. Bowser, bringing to an end this 32-year-old case. CSSP congratulates all participants in achieving this hard-won resolution.

“The dismissal and conclusion of this case is a huge accomplishment for the District of Columbia, and the changes that have been made over the past three decades also reflect substantial improvements to the supports and services available to children and families,” said Judith Meltzer, CSSP president and one of the original members of the monitoring team. “CSSP has been instrumental in the District’s changes through its independent research and data tracking, technical assistance, and problem-solving approach to monitoring the District’s reform efforts.” An important aspect of the District’s success, noted by Ms. Meltzer, is that while they worked to transform its child protection and foster care system, they also invested heavily in community based services and supports to keep children out of foster care.

CSSP’s final monitoring report includes a Historical Summary of the case, including information on:

  • Structure: In 1989, Child and Family Services Division (CFSD) was housed within the Family Services Administration of the Commission on Social Services within an umbrella agency, the Department of Human Services. In 2001, the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) was created as an independent cabinet-level agency that reports directly to the District’s Mayor.
  • Number of children in care: In 1989, although the count of children in foster care was inaccurate, it was estimated at 2,500 to 3,000. As of December 31, 2020, there were 667 children in foster care.
  • Prevention Services: In 1989, there were no specific resources devoted to prevention services and limited availability of and access to community services. As of 2020, CFSA invests in an array and continuum of prevention services to support families and to prevent children from child welfare involvement. The District was the first jurisdiction in the nation to submit an approved Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) plan.
  • Caseloads: In 1989, up to 100 cases were assigned per worker. In 2020, 95 to100 percent of workers had caseloads within required limits that range from 12 to 17 cases per worker based on job function.
  • Staffing: In 1989, 41 percent of budgeted positions were vacant, and many workers were hired on a temporary basis. As of December 31, 2020, CFSA had 215 FTE positions, with 19 vacancies reported.
  • Investigations: In 1989, the average time to initiate an investigation of alleged child abuse or child neglect was 10 days, and there was a backlog of 1,200 investigations per month. In 2020, 88 percent of investigations were initiated within 48 hours.

As part of the agreement to end the federal court case, the District agreed to a host of sustainability measures including maintaining low caseloads; publicly and regularly reporting performance data and maintaining processes to assess the quality and outcomes of its service delivery to families and children.

All of CSSP’s monitoring reports that have been filed with the court for the last decade are available online here.

About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy is a national, non-profit policy organization that connects community action, public system reform, and policy change to create a fair and just society. We work to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children and families thrive by translating ideas into action, promoting public policies grounded in equity, supporting strong and inclusive communities, and advocating with and for all children and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at