352 E. Camelback Road, Suite 200, Phoenix, AZ 85012 602-258-8850

Ninth Circuit Allows Foster Care Case to Go Forward as Class Action

On April 26, 2019, the Center and our co-counsel won a significant victory in our battle to improve foster care when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a class action lawsuit on behalf of all Arizona foster children can go forward. The lawsuit is based on repeated and systemic failures by the State and its Department of Child Safety to fulfill their legal duties with respect to foster children. You can read the court’s opinion here.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling is a key step forward in the Center’s efforts to get foster children (and all those involved in caring for them) the help they so desperately need. The court rejected the State’s arguments that each child must sue separately rather than allowing the plaintiffs to represent Arizona foster children as a “class.”

In its opinion, the Ninth Circuit identified the numerous statewide practices alleged by plaintiffs that adversely affect foster children, including: “(1) failure to provide timely access to health care, including comprehensive evaluations, timely annual visits, semi-annual preventative dental health care, adequate health assessments, and immunizations; (2) failure to coordinate physical and dental care service delivery; (3) ineffective coordination and monitoring of DCS physical and dental services; (4) overuse of congregate care for children with unmet mental needs; (5) excessive caseworker caseloads; (6) failure to investigate reports of abuse timely; (7) failure to document ‘safety assessments’; (8) failure to close investigations timely; and (9) investigation delays.”

The Ninth Circuit ruled that these claims can go forward on behalf of all of Arizona’s foster children as a class. The court also affirmed the lower court’s certification of a subclass of foster children who are placed in “non-kinship” settings. The court vacated the lower court’s certification of a Medicaid subclass but remanded for a finding about whether that class should be recertified under what it said was the proper legal standard.

The case, B.K. v. Snyder, was originally filed in February 2015 in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. The plaintiffs are represented by the Center, the law firm of Perkins Coie LLP, and national advocacy organization Children’s Rights.