Foster Care: Lawsuit must be decided on the merits
Observant West Virginians concerned about children taken into the foster care system have been aware of its shortcomings for some time. So have state officials, who seem to be making a sincere effort to improve the situation. And, not just incidentally, so does the U.S. Department of Justice.
But earlier this fall, officials of an advocacy group based in New York, A Better Childhood, decided our state needs a kick in the pants regarding foster care efforts. ABC filed a lawsuit against the state, on behalf of 12 children within the system. Various complaints, including housing some foster care children out of state, are cited in the suit.
Last week, state officials filed a response to the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Charleston. It seeks to have the suit dismissed, on grounds that ABC’s complaints do not take into account actions by the state to improve the foster care system.
Action has been taken to make improvements, and the U.S. Department of Justice seems inclined to give West Virginia time to make progress. A memorandum of understanding along those lines was signed this year.
Also this year, just weeks ago, as a matter of fact, the state contracted for a managed care program to handle physical and mental health for foster children. The price tag is $200 million.
Predicting how the judge will rule on the ABC lawsuit would be foolish. Too many factors, including legal technicalities, are involved.
It all comes down to whether, in the judge’s opinion, ABC is ignoring state officials’ efforts to improve foster care. If so, the lawsuit should be dismissed.
However, it most certainly should proceed if there is any reason to believe West Virginia is not doing the very best we can for foster children.