Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Indiana Child Welfare Agency

(INDIANAPOLIS) — A child advocacy group is praising a federal judge’s decision that allows most of a lawsuit to move forward accusing Indiana’s child welfare agency of inadequately protecting thousands of children in its care.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Young’s Wednesday ruling allows two of three counts to go forward in the lawsuit, which was filed last July against the Indiana Department of Child Services, The Journal Gazette reported. The suit alleges that DCS doesn’t protect 22,000 children with open child welfare cases, including more than 14,000 in out-of-home care.

“This is a great victory for the children of Indiana,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, the attorney for A Better Childhood, one of two child advocacy groups that joined the law firm Kirkland & Ellis in suing the state agency on behalf of nine foster children.

DCS spokeswoman Noelle Russell said Friday that the state agency would have no immediate comment on the judge’s ruling.

The list of allegations include many of the children “unnecessarily” languishing in foster care for years before they are reunified with their primary caretakers, are adopted, or age out of the system. The delays caused by DCS inflict further emotional trauma,” it added.

The case can now proceed to the discovery phase and a potential trial if a settlement is not reached.

“Federal courts have a duty to decide cases before them. Sometimes they refrain from exercising jurisdiction when doing so would interfere with ongoing state proceedings or would upset state-court judgments. But those exceptions are just that: exceptions,” Young wrote. “Federal courts cannot refuse to entertain cases, even when the subject matter involves parallel state-court proceedings. This case tests the limits.”