Tinsley v. Flanagan

Even as Arizona has taken steps to reduce the enormous backlog of reports that children have been maltreated in their own homes, it has disregarded other destructive practices that expose abused and neglected children to “further physical and emotional harm and unreasonable risk of harm while in the State’s care,” according to a federal class-action lawsuit that 10 plaintiff children filed on February 3, 2015 on behalf of the more than 16,000 children in state foster care.

The suit, which names Charles Flanagan, director of the Department of Child Safety (DCS), and William Humble, director of the Department of Health Services (DHS) as defendants, alleges a severe shortage of health care services, an acute lack of foster homes, a failure to preserve family ties once children are in foster care, and a failure to conduct timely investigations into reports that children have been maltreated while in state care.

The plaintiffs, who filed the suit in the Phoenix Division of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, are being represented by the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, Perkins Coie and national advocacy organization Children’s Rights.

On September 30, 2015, Judge Silver denied the defendants' Motion to Dismiss.  Her ruling is available below.  

Case Updates

Court Certifies Class in Foster Care Litigation

U. S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver granted class-action status in the litigation that the Center filed 2 ½ years ago against the state, on behalf of a number of foster children. The ruling (available here) was issued September 30, 2017. A trial is expected in spring 2018.  

According to Center attorney Anne Ronan, “it's no longer about one, two or three foster children; rather, it's about the thousands of children in Arizona's foster-care system, as well as any children who will enter the system in the future.” The Court certified three classes:  1) the General Class: All children who are or will be in the legal custody of DCS due to a report or suspicion of abuse or neglect; 2) the Non-Kinship Subclass: All members in the General Class who are not placed in the care of an adult relative or person who has a significant relationship with the child; and 3) the Medicaid Subclass: All members of the General Class who are entitled to early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment services under the federal Medicaid statute.

Arizona had nearly 17,000 children in foster care as of March 31, 2017, its latest report shows. In August, 900 children entered the system when they were removed from their homes due to allegations of abuse and neglect, according to the Department of Child Safety.