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:
- For the Welfare of Children: Lessons Learned from Class Action Litigation: This report brings together a series of papers authored by 22 top experts to address the factors that make system reform litigation successful.
- Lessons Learned from Child Welfare Class Action Litigation: A Case Study of Tennessee’s Reform: This case study is intended to help stakeholders engaged in comprehensive system improvement learn from Tennessee’s experience, whether those improvement efforts take place within the confines of class action litigation or are driven by other interests and priorities in their respective states.
The child welfare systems in which CSSP is currently involved in class-action litigation monitoring work are:
- New Jersey’s Department of Children and Families
- South Carolina’s Department of Social Services
- Washington, DC’s Child and Family Services Agency
- Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services and Sheriff’s Office (State of California Attorney General Settlement)
- State of Maryland Department of Human Services and Baltimore County Department of Social Services (Problem Solving Forum facilitators)
- Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (state successfully exited in 2017; learn more in this report)