WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Attorney General Karl A. Racine issued the following statement after the United States District Court for the District of Columbia announced the end of the three-decade long LaShawn A. v. Bowser case, a class action lawsuit filed by children who were in foster care or known to the District’s child protection services and foster care system because of reported abuse or neglect.
Under AG Racine’s leadership, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) has concluded two long-term consent decree cases in the District. Last year, the DC Superior Court agreed to end the court oversight and monitoring in Jerry M., et al. v. District of Columbia, et al., a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of youth in the District’s secure juvenile detention facilities.
“Today is a critical step for the District and our most vulnerable residents – abused and neglected children – and I’m proud we were able to help CFSA achieve this milestone. Just in the past year and a half, my office has concluded two decades-long cases involving court administered reforms of District agencies – both of which centered around children – allowing the District to operate efficiently to protect and serve the District’s most vulnerable children,” said AG Racine. “The reforms at CFSA will help protect children, but the work isn’t done. The agency must continue providing robust in-home services whenever possible to help reduce the trauma and impact on children caused by removal from their families and placement in foster care.”
Earlier this year, the parties reached a settlement agreement continuing the reforms at the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), which have been underway for several years. Following today’s hearing, the court dismissed the LaShawn A. v. Bowser case – originally filed in 1989 – and retained jurisdiction until the end of June 2022. If there are no concerns from the plaintiffs about CFSA’s compliance with the settlement, it will expire at the end of June 2022.
OAG’s Family Services Division worked with CFSA to transform the District’s response to suspected abuse and neglect of children. After CFSA was elevated to a cabinet level agency to allow for more direct oversight, OAG supported CFSA to improve the array of services available to address trauma related to separation from parents and placement in foster care. OAG also worked daily with CFSA to make sure social workers provide critical services to parents and ensure the safety and well-being of children involved with CFSA. Having made these critical changes to the way services are provided, OAG worked closely with opposing counsel, the monitor, and the Court to negotiate the termination of this more than 30-year-old class action lawsuit.
OAG’s Family Services Division handles all child abuse and neglect litigation on behalf of CFSA, from the initiation of a case through finding a child a permanent placement. To enable OAG to best support children, the Family Services Division has been co-located at CFSA since 2002.