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Case Name G.L. v. Sherman CW-MO-0001
Docket / Court 4:77-cv-00242 ( W.D. Mo. )
State/Territory Missouri
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Public Benefits / Government Services
Special Collection Court-ordered receiverships
Attorney Organization Children's Rights, Inc.
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Case Summary
In 1977 (and thereafter amended a number of times), the foster children of Jackson Missouri, represented by Children's Rights Inc., and Legal Aid of Western Missouri, filed a class action aimed at reforming the state's child welfare system. The federal complaint charges the Missouri Division of ... read more >
In 1977 (and thereafter amended a number of times), the foster children of Jackson Missouri, represented by Children's Rights Inc., and Legal Aid of Western Missouri, filed a class action aimed at reforming the state's child welfare system. The federal complaint charges the Missouri Division of Family Services (DFS) with endangering the lives of children in state custody by failing to properly investigate and monitor foster homes that were found to be unsafe, unsanitary and unsupervised. Plaintiffs alleged that children were exposed to contagious diseases, deprived of medical and psychiatric care, subjected to physical and emotional abuse, and transferred between foster homes inappropriately and without adequate preparation. The action was brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 42 U.S.C. §601 et. seq, and 42 U.S.C §1302.

We don't have the early parts of the docket sheet in this case, so do not know the ins and outs of the subsequent litigation. But in 1983, a settlement agreement was reached mandating top-to-bottom reform of the foster care system. In 1985, DFS sought a modification of the consent decree, which was countered by a contempt motion from the plaintiffs for state failure to implement court-ordered reforms. In 1992, a full trial was held in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (Judge Dean Whipple) resulting in a finding of contempt due to a "lack of commitment to make a good faith effort." The court order called for defendants to increase budgets through state lobbying and directed defendants to transfer caseworkers to Jackson County to ease caseloads. G.L. v. Stangler, 873 F. Supp. 252 (W.D. Mo. 1994)

In response, a new settlement agreement was reached in 1994, following the assessments of an expert panel. The settlement mandated such improvements as training for foster parents and mandatory criminal history and child abuse checks for prospective foster families. In 1995, a monitoring plan was developed in addition to semi-annual compliance reports thereafter.

Based on defendants' substantial compliance with components of the consent decree, in 2000, the parties renegotiated the decree, allowing the state to exit from some provisions. On January 30, 2001, the court approved an Amended Decree and Operational Guide. The amended decree created a permanent community quality assurance committee, which was to take over system monitoring once DFS reached substantial compliance and exited from the decree.

Over the next ten years, with court oversight, DFS successfully implemented all of the reforms required by prior court order. On February 1, 2006, the court conditionally dismissed the case, court oversight officially ended, and the state agreed to keep in place until 2009 the policies, practices and staff positions created as a result of the lawsuit.

Ariana Fink - 10/25/2012

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Benefit Source
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)
Crowding / caseload
Failure to train
Family abuse and neglect
Family reunification
Foster care (benefits, training)
Neglect by staff
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Timeliness of case assignment
Totality of conditions
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Mental health care, unspecified
Plaintiff Type
City/County Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) Missouri Division of Family Services
Plaintiff Description Children who have been placed in and continue to reside in Missouri foster care homes
Indexed Lawyer Organizations Children's Rights, Inc.
Legal Services/Legal Aid
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Granted
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 1983 - 2006
Filed 03/25/1977
Case Closing Year 2006
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Legal Accountability in the Service-Based Welfare State: Lessons from Child Welfare Reform
Date: Summer 2009
By: Kathleen G. Noonan, Charles F. Sabel, William H. Simon (Center for High Impact Philanthropy , Columbia Law School and Stanford Law School Faculty)
Citation: 34 Law & Soc. Inquiry 523 (Summer 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  MO - G.L. v. Sherman
Children's Rights
Date: Feb. 1, 2006
By: Children's Rights
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  G.L. v. Stangler: A Case Study in Court-Ordered Welfare Reform
Date: May/June 1997
By: Ellen Borgersen & Stephen Shapiro (Stanford Law School & University of Baltimore School of Law Faculty)
Citation: 1997 J. Disp. Resol. 189 (1997)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  G.L. v. Sherman
National Center for Youth Law
By: National Center for Youth Law
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Court Docket(s)
W.D. Mo.
CW-MO-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Mo.
Amended Complaint
CW-MO-0001-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
W.D. Mo.
Memorandum (Regarding Stipulation) (564 F.Supp. 1030)
CW-MO-0001-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
W.D. Mo.
Memorandum and Orders Directing Further Proceedings (734 F.Supp. 365)
CW-MO-0001-0006.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: Westlaw
W.D. Mo.
Order [ECF# 213] (873 F.Supp. 252)
CW-MO-0001-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Source: Westlaw
W.D. Mo.
Amended Modified Consent Decree
CW-MO-0001-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
W.D. Mo.
Order [ECF# 289]
CW-MO-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Mo.
Order of Dismissal upon Conditions without Prejudice [ECF# 313]
CW-MO-0001-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Clark, Russell Gentry (W.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
Oliver, John Watkins (W.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
Whipple, Dean (W.D. Mo.) show/hide docs
CW-MO-0001-0003 | CW-MO-0001-0004 | CW-MO-0001-0005 | CW-MO-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters Agniel, Sheila (Missouri) show/hide docs
Shapiro, Marilyn (Missouri) show/hide docs
Tharp, Donald R. (Missouri) show/hide docs
Plaintiff's Lawyers Dahlberg, Robin L. (New York) show/hide docs
Hansen, Christopher A. (New York) show/hide docs
Lambiase, Susan (New York) show/hide docs
Lowry, Marcia Robinson (New York) show/hide docs
O'Donnell, Thomas P. (Missouri) show/hide docs
Rich, Fred B. (Missouri) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Hawke, Nancie D. (Missouri) show/hide docs
Keller, Paul T. (Missouri) show/hide docs
Marmion, Angela S. (Missouri) show/hide docs
Presson, Robert L. (Missouri) show/hide docs
Other Lawyers Burns-Bucklew, Loretta E. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CW-MO-0001-9000 | CW-MO-0001-9000 | CW-MO-0001-9000
Lawrence, Harriet J. (Missouri) show/hide docs
CW-MO-0001-9000 | CW-MO-0001-9000
Wynes, Timothy Alan (Iowa) show/hide docs

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