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Judge sanctions District in child welfare case

(This post has been updated since it was first published.)

The federal judge overseeing the long-running class-action suit against the District's child welfare system sanctioned the District on Tuesday for disregarding court orders in the case.

Last year, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) selected a new Child and Family Services Agency director, Roque Gerald, without consulting with the plaintiffs in the case as the judge, Thomas F. Hogan, had ordered.

In April, Hogan found the city in contempt for that and other actions, and at a hearing last month, he said he could have forced out Gerald as director.

But neither the judge nor the plaintiffs sought such a dramatic penalty, which could have caused considerable disruption at the beleaguered agency. The plaintiffs proposed that the mayor be required to meet with them every six months. In his order Tuesday, Hogan stopped short of that idea, instead requiring a single meeting between the plaintiffs and the mayor or the mayor's designee.

In his April decision, the city was also found in contempt for failing to submit an adequate annual plan on time, and in particular for its failure to offer specific steps for improving services for older foster children aging out of the system.

As a sanction for that contempt, Hogan ordered the city to set aside $40,000 to supplement funding for programs for older foster children.

And the District will have to calculate the attorneys' fees incurred by the plaintiffs in litigating the contempt motion and set aside an amount equal to that, which will also be used to enhance programs for older foster children.

-- Henri Cauvin

By Henri Cauvin  | September 28, 2010; 4:24 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. Employees  
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Comments

Another example of Mr. Fenty's "accomplishments".

Posted by: ceebee2 | September 28, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

The case and this issue are far more nuanced and complex than merit the above comment ("another example of Mr. Fenty's accomplishments.") Regrettably, the Court's decision is not so much a reflection of accomplishments or lack thereof (since the Judge has been complimentary about the forward movement and advances of CFSA) as it is another example of living on the plantation called the District of Columbia, where judges, plaintiff attorneys (who neither live in DC or know any of the children they represent) and court monitors all believe that they know better and dictate from outside. Sadly, the legal professionals are running much of the day to day business in many of DC's agencies, without the professional credentials or administrative experience to do so. If the Post cared less about its "sound bites" and more about the kind of in depth reporting that made it famous, perhaps meaningful information about the reasons why CFSA has surged to among the top child welfare agencies nationally would be known and commenters like the one above would be able to make educated and informed comments. Sadly, as well, is the apparent naive belief by this Judge that compensation for one group of kids will NOT be at the expense of another group of kids -- all protected by the same agency. To paraphrase the above commenter, this is just another example of the Court's "accomplishments."

Posted by: ConcernedMumsie | September 28, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Mayor Fenty chair DHS (CFSA) when he was city council, his knowledge of this agency should have been priority being Rhee and he was working on DCPS the schools these kids attend; all agencies have a connection. The judges are very familiar with these families in our Child Welfare system they consult and hear cases which touches every facet of these kids’ lives the juvenile system that involves them or there siblings, mental health, absent parents, and the extended family members. This is an unfortunate blow for CFSA and DC politics stay tune there is more to come before Councilmen Gray takes office. Let put everything on the table so District residents know what is in store!

Posted by: drfields | September 28, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Mayor Fenty chair DHS (CFSA) when he was city council, his knowledge of this agency should have been priority being Rhee and he was working on DCPS the schools these kids attend; all agencies have a connection. The judges are very familiar with these families in our Child Welfare system they consult and hear cases which touches every facet of these kids’ lives the juvenile system that involves them or there siblings, mental health, absent parents, and the extended family members. This is an unfortunate blow for CFSA and DC politics stay tune there is more to come before Councilmen Gray takes office. Let's put everything on the table so District residents know whats in store!

Posted by: drfields | September 28, 2010 10:36 PM | Report abuse

Concernedmumsie:

No doubt issues of child welfare are complex and difficult, which is why fenty's indiscriminate staff firings in the wake of the jenks case was a gross overreaction and made the problem worse. Hmm, sounds like his management of public schools. Nevertheless fenty's supporters endorsed a narrative that the city had progressed by "every measure.". Folks who were involved on the grass roots and not overly impressed with dog parks and rec centers knew otherwise. The proverty stats that came out today, which fenty seemed utterly oblivious to, is just one more reminder of why Adrian fenty will no longer be the mayor of this town.

Posted by: orbitcv | September 29, 2010 7:35 AM | Report abuse

Orbitcv:

Do not interpret my comments as an endorsement of the Mayor as much as it is an endorsement of the work of the agency, which the previous comment carelessly wrapped up in a "bravo Fenty and his accomplishment" package. My disappointment with Judge Hogan's ruling is several-fold, and includes the ridiculous inequity of holding the agency in contempt for a less than 30 day delay in filing a report (ignore, for the moment, the adequacy of the report) which will now cost the taxpayers of DC more than $80,000 in penalties. The inequity is not the magnitude of the penalty, per se, although the analysis behind its imposition leaves a great deal to be desired but this chronology: Report filed late in February, 2009. Plaintiffs move in contempt shortly thereafter. Judge takes 14 months (yes 14 MONTHS!) to find CFSA in contempt for CFSA's 30 day delay (talk about pots and kettles), which finding was in April 2010. The District and Court system then take the next 6 months (yes, another 6 MONTHS) trying to resolve 2 issues identified in the Court's April order which then resulted in the Court's Order yesterday.
Why is it only the District the only party ever held to time lines when the Courts, the plaintiffs, the monitors and others are permitted, and indeed take, whatever time is necessary for the deliberateness an issue deserves?
And why is it always non-minorities who decide what is best for the District? There's something potentially paternalistic and racist that strikes this on-looker . . .

Posted by: ConcernedMumsie | September 29, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough, concernedmumsie.

Posted by: orbitcv | September 29, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

FYI - It was the Jacks case. Banita Jacks.

Posted by: gah1 | September 30, 2010 5:40 PM | Report abuse

It was the Jacks case. Banita Jacks.

Posted by: gah1 | September 30, 2010 5:41 PM | Report abuse

Judge Sattlefield lives in DC and he is a foster parent who also adopted CFSA kids.

Posted by: drfields | October 1, 2010 9:43 PM | Report abuse

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