A Class-Action lawsuit was filed against Alaska’s foster care system.

Benjamin Dahl-Rouzan shares his story of living in foster care before the House’s Health and Social Services Committee on Tuesday. Dahl-Rouzan is a member of the Alaska Youth Policy Summit, a group that advocate changes to the state’s social services. (Photo by Kevin Reagan/ KTOO)

A class-action lawsuit calling to “reform Alaska’s ‘failing, dangerous’ foster care system has been filed, reports Michelle Theriault Boots at Anchorage Daily News.

The 90-page lawsuit alleges systemic issues that “dangerously and routinely violate the rights of children,” and calls for immediate changes. The complaint asserts a first-of-its-kind class-action lawsuit filed against the state Office of Children’s Services in federal court Thursday,” said Boots.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of 13 child plaintiffs by a partnership of attorneys, including the Northern Justice Project, the Disability Law Center of Alaska, Perkins Coie and A Better Childhood, a national nonprofit headquartered in New York. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Office of Children’s Services are named as defendants.

Boots reports that problems addressed in the lawsuit include:

  • OCS worker caseloads are too high, sometimes three times the national average,
  • Turnover is at a crisis level, topping nearly 60% annually,
  • and leading “mission critical tasks to go unmet,” according to a legislative report cited.
  • Children are shuffled between foster homes too much,
  • Alaska Native children, who make up nearly 2/3 of the youths in foster care, are not provided
  • with Alaska Native foster homes or other services, violating the Indian Child Welfare Act and
  • “often inflicting deep wounds of cultural loss in the process.”,
  • unnecessary institutionalizations,
  • inappropriate placements with non-relative foster families,
  • delays in receiving timely health screenings and interventions,
  • children being overmedicated and sexually abused.

“The lawsuit seeks a court order that would force major reforms, including ordering the state to reduce OCS worker caseloads; meet federally required time limits for children’s case plans; provide licensing and financial support to extended family foster placements so more kids can live with relatives; and ensure that care recommended for kids in their case plans actually happens. Children with disabilities would need to get services in their home communities. And kids couldn’t be put into hospitals like North Star simply because other foster care placements weren’t available,” reports Boots.

This story, Class-action lawsuit calls for major reform in Alaska’s ‘failing, dangerous’ foster care system originally appeared in Anchorage Daily News by Michelle Theriault Boots who is a reporter that covers news and features about life in Alaska, and has been focusing on corrections and psychiatric care issues in the state. Contact her at mtheriault@adn.com.

Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state.  The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support.

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