Haynes and Boone and Yetter Coleman Win Ruling on Behalf of Texas Children in Long-Term Foster Care


Lawyers with Haynes and Boone, LLP and Yetter Coleman LLP Thursday won a sweeping victory in a federal civil rights class action on behalf of 12,000 Texas children in long-term foster care.

U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack of Corpus Christi ruled the state violated the Constitution by running a system “where rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability are the norm.” The court ordered an injunction requiring the state to establish policies to ensure that children in long-term foster care are free from an unreasonable risk of harm.

The judge said she will appoint an independent special master to help the state implement reforms including developing a plan for hiring and maintaining enough caseworkers to ensure manageable caseloads. She also ordered that all children in long-term care shall be entitled to an attorney ad litem as well as a court-appointed special advocate.

Dallas Senior Counsel Barry McNeil and Counsel David Dodds led the Haynes and Boone trial team alongside lawyers from Yetter Coleman and from the New York-based Children’s Rights advocacy group. They were assisted by Associate Amelia Cardenas, Counsel Sakina Foster and Paralegal Angela Josephs, all of Dallas.

The class action was filed in 2011 on behalf of nine children representing all Texas children in long-term foster care. In trial last year in Jack’s court, the lawyers argued that the state’s foster care system forces thousands of youngsters to languish in a defective system with little hope of finding a permanent home..

The judge agreed, saying Texas routinely violates the children’s Fourteenth Amendment right to be free from harm while in state custody. “Texas’ foster care system is broken, and it has been that way for decades,” Jack wrote in her 260-page opinion. 

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