Senior U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, in the Southern District of Texas, issued a 255-page verdict finding widespread constitutional violations in the Texas foster care system in a class action lawsuit filed by Yetter Coleman and co-counsel on behalf of 12,000 children in long-term foster care.
The two-week trial included harrowing evidence of the State’s “forgotten children” – shuttled from home to home, frequently abused physically and sexually, and buried as a last priority in a broken system. With our respected co-counsel, Children’s Rights (a NY-based advocacy group) and Haynes and Boone (in Dallas), Yetter Coleman helped expose known, chronic under-reporting of abuse and neglect incidents involving these children, many of which the State refuses even to track or substantiate. As lead trial counsel, we presented report after report of damaging deficiencies in the system, known to top State executives, that remain because the State has not taken reasonable steps to fix them.
The Court found that pervasive failures in the State’s “broken” foster care system include grossly overloaded caseworkers, inadequate inspections and investigations, and an insufficient array of safe living conditions. The opinion calls for appointment of an independent special master to help craft targeted reforms and oversee their implementation.
“Texas’s foster care system is broken and it has been that way for decades,” Judge Jack wrote. “It is broken for all stakeholders, including DFPS employees who are tasked with impossible workloads. Most importantly, though, it is broken for Texas’s PMC children, who almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered.”
Lead trial counsel was Paul Yetter, assisted by Dori Kornfeld Goldman, Lonny Hoffman, Chris Porter, and Wynn McCloskey.