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Despite Expected Reforms, RI DCYF Faces Federal Lawsuit

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A children’s advocacy organization has updated its legal complaint against Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families. The group...

A children’s advocacy organization has updated its legal complaint against Rhode Island’s Department of Children, Youth, and Families. The group Children’s Rights says things are not getting better, and in fact, they’re getting worse.

The advocacy nonprofit alleges Rhode Island’s child welfare agency has failed to protect children in foster care and forced front line social workers to manage too many cases, among other complaints. Now the organization has updated its class action lawsuit to reflect new statistics and changes at the agency. But lead attorney Sara Bartosz said the issues are still the same.

“There have been any number of task forces and committees that have looked at these issues and acknowledged we’ve got a problem here that’s got to be fixed, and yet, year after year, has gone by without those fixes,” said Bartosz. “That’s the reason we brought the suit back in 2007. The same sorry truth is present here now eight years later.”

Bartosz said legal action is necessary to make reform stick.

“What the suit is about is getting a commitment that’s enforceable to finally get these fixes done for the kids,” said Bartosz. “There’s a long history of promises made and promises broken. In our judgment, an enforceable court order is required to make sure promises are made and kept this time.”

Bartosz hopes the court will order DCYF to make changes and appoint a neutral third party to oversee that reform. Neither DCYF officials nor the state’s attorney general would comment on the lawsuit.

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Rhode Island DCYF building
Rhode Island DCYF building