Child Welfare Reform Through Class Action Litigation

Supporting improved outcomes for children and families and pushing for results in child welfare systems


What We Work For

As independent court-appointed monitors, we drive lasting policy and practice change through increased public accountability.

Too often, structural and institutional limitations prevent child welfare systems from fully supporting the children and families they are mandated to serve. Long-standing practice and policy flaws, structural barriers, and lack of investment in resources impede these systems from ensuring that children are safe and effectively promoting the well-being and healthy development of stable families. The resulting poor outcomes to children, youth, and families involved with these systems demonstrate the need for creative strategies that have the real possibility of sustained change over time.

How We Do It

We are appointed to independently assess child welfare systems’ performance in jurisdictions under court-ordered agreements, and to support jurisdictions progress.

We promote and support non-adversarial problem solving among the parties so that court-ordered agreements can promote lasting systemic change.

We mediate among the parties bringing our knowledge of what it takes to catalyze and sustain child welfare system change.

We take an innovative approach to monitoring, giving equal attention to data and the quality of practice and outcomes of work with children, youth, and families.

We rely on data collection methods that utilize quantitative administrative data, structured qualitative service review (QSR) instruments and protocols, focus groups with caseworkers, families, and other stakeholders, as well as collaboration with agency leadership in order to get the clearest picture of how the system is working.

Through this work, we hope to one day see demonstrated and measurable systemic improvements and better outcomes for children, youth, and families.

Court ordered reform in child welfare systems can provide an opportunity for systems to identify areas in need of change, develop strategies to facilitate reform, and work toward measurable targets and improved outcomes for children, youth, and families. For more than 30 years, we have functioned as a federally appointed monitor in class action lawsuits to independently assess and report on how systems are working to transform the way they serve children, youth, and families. We have also helped to mediate agreements and support problem-solving and dispute resolution.

To achieve this work—and partner with systems as they transform their procedures and policies—we:

Take a non-adversarial approach, working directly with plaintiffs, policymakers, families, and community partners to develop and work toward common goals.

Develop strategic long-term plans with regular milestones and goals for progress. System reform is not a short-term process; all parties must recognize that thoughtful sequencing and prioritizing are necessary for lasting change.

Regularly collect, analyze, and use quantitative data to inform practice deficiencies and improvements and make decisions.

Develop, collect, and make use of qualitative data collected through structured qualitative service review (QSR) instruments and other review protocols to ensure a robust and clear picture of the systems we are monitoring.

Work with systems to develop and codify best practices and protocols that will function as a road map for current and future progress.

Assist states and local jurisdictions in planning development and through connecting to external technical assistance.

When a state successfully exits a lawsuit, it will have reached the standards established for safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes for the children and families served by the system. It is our goal to work as a guide and partner through this process, helping systems and families achieve the best possible outcomes now and in the future.

Learn more about our monitoring work here:

The child welfare systems in which CSSP is currently involved in class-action litigation monitoring work are:

Our Experts

Alexandra Citrin

Alexandra Citrin

Senior Associate
Contact:
She, Her, Hers
alexandra.citrin@cssp.org
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Elissa Gelber

Elissa Gelber

Senior Associate
Contact:
She, Her, Hers
elissa.gelber@cssp.org
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Ali Jawetz

Ali Jawetz

Policy Analyst
Contact:
She, Her, Hers
ali.jawetz@cssp.org
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Rachel Paletta

Rachel Paletta

Senior Associate
Contact:
She, Her, Hers
rachel.paletta@cssp.org
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Martha Raimon

Martha L. Raimon

Senior Associate
Contact:
She, Her, Hers
martha.raimon@cssp.org
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Gayle Samuels

Gayle Samuels

Senior Associate
Contact:
She, Her, Hers
gayle.samuels@cssp.org
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