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Case Name D.S. v. Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families CW-WA-0002
Docket / Court 2:21-cv-00113 ( W.D. Wash. )
State/Territory Washington
Case Type(s) Child Welfare
Attorney Organization National Center for Youth Law
Case Summary
This is a case about the treatment of children in the care of the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (the Department) with behavioral health and/or developmental disabilities. On January 28th, 2021, three children under the care of the Department brought a class-action ... read more >
This is a case about the treatment of children in the care of the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (the Department) with behavioral health and/or developmental disabilities. On January 28th, 2021, three children under the care of the Department brought a class-action suit along with Disability Rights Washington against the Department in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. The case was assigned to Judge Barbara J. Rothstein. Disability Rights Washington argued that the consistent mistreatment of these children caused a significant drain on their resources and that the organization had previously requested the Department change these practices several times.

The three children and Disability Rights Washington alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Fourteenth Amendment for unwarranted government interference with family and substantive due process, and the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act. Represented by a mixture of private firm and organizational attorneys, the plaintiffs hoped to end the state’s policy of “exceptional placements” for children with behavioral health and/or developmental disabilities in their care. In addition, they hoped to move the Department to provide more stability for children with behavioral health or developmental disabilities.

The class-action complaint alleged misconduct by the Department in its treatment of children with behavioral health and/or developmental disabilities, especially in regards to the long term stability of those children. The complaint specifically alleged misconduct by the Department in regards to the three children plaintiffs, each of whom qualified, under the Department’s definition, as a child with behavioral health and/or developmental disabilities. The complaint noted the usage of “exceptional placements'' for such children and the common usage of “Behavioral Rehabilitation Services” in Congregate Care Facilities.

“Exceptional placements” is how the Department referred to the policy of one-night and short-term stay housing arrangements for youth in their care. Examples of “exceptional placements” included shuttling between motels, one-night foster care status, and overnight stays at Department offices. The complaint alleged that the only other option given to plaintiffs and other children in their situation was placement in “Congregate Care Programs,” where they were segregated with other youth who had behavioral health and developmental disabilities. These were not permanent placements, and were often far from their families, sometimes out of state.

In February 2021, the court granted the plaintiffs request to proceed using pseudonymous initials, likely to protect the identity of the children involved in the case. On April 12th, 2021, the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction, which was granted in part on June 29th, 2021 and ordered to last until June 30th, 2022.

The preliminary injunction set limits on where children under the care of the Department may sleep and laid out requirements for what the Department must provide children in its care. It also regulated the way in which the Department must respond should a child in its care deny placement and ordered regularly scheduled meetings for any child who lacked long-term placement until long-term placement was identified. The order also required the Department to maintain and keep healthy food and beverage options in their offices, provide transportation to school or provide a quiet study space for online school, and provide age-appropriate activities if school was not in session.

As of October 5, 2021, the case is ongoing, and the motion for class certification of children with behavioral health and/or developmental disabilities in the care of the Department must be filed on or by November 2, 2021.

Betsy Sheppard - 10/05/2021


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
Recordkeeping
Required disclosure
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
Disability
disability, unspecified
Mental impairment
Discrimination-basis
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Family discrimination
General
Classification / placement
Family reunification
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Juveniles
Neglect by staff
Parents (visitation, involvement)
Placement in mental health facilities
Placement in shelters
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Mental Disability
Autism
Depression
Developmental disability without intellectual disability
Intellectual/developmental disability, unspecified
Learning disability
Mental Illness, Unspecified
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA), 42 U.S.C. § 620 et seq.
Adoption Assistance Program, 42 U.S.C. § 670 et seq.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Ex parte Young (federal or state officials)
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families
Plaintiff Description Children with behavioral health and developmental disabilities in the care of Washington State's Department of Children, Youth, and Families, along with Disability Rights Washington
Indexed Lawyer Organizations National Center for Youth Law
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Order Duration 2021 - 2022
Filed 01/28/2021
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (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 ]

Court Docket(s)
W.D. Wash.
09/17/2021
2:21-cv-00113
CW-WA-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
W.D. Wash.
01/28/2021
Class Action Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 1]
CW-WA-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
W.D. Wash.
06/29/2021
Order Granting in Part Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 63]
CW-WA-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Rothstein, Barbara Jacobs (W.D. Wash.) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-0002 | CW-WA-0002-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Carney, Christopher Robert (Washington) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-0001 | CW-WA-0002-9000
Douglas, Elizabeth Suilin Pamela (California) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000
Juneja, Poonam (California) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000
Kas, Susan Linn (Washington) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-0001 | CW-WA-0002-9000
Lin, Laura Kimberly (California) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000
Pitts, Freya E. K. (California) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000
Strout, Jean (California) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000
Welch, Leecia (California) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-0001 | CW-WA-0002-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Judge, Daniel J. (Washington) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000
McGinty, William (Washington) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000
Richardson, James III (Washington) show/hide docs
CW-WA-0002-9000

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