Broken Promises, Broken Lives: Louisiana Foster Children Sue State for Failing to Protect Them

Louisiana Foster Children Sue State

Can Louisiana Prioritize the Well-Being of Foster Children?

Nine Louisiana children have slammed the Louisiana governor and state child welfare system with a proposed class action lawsuit, alleging the agency is deeply dysfunctional and putting kids in unnecessary danger. 

On April 10, with the help of national nonprofit A Better Childhood, the children filed the lawsuit against the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, its secretary and the Louisiana governor, Jeffrey Landry, in a Louisiana federal court.

The children – aged seven through 17 – are all in the foster system and have their own examples of how the agency allegedly harmed them. They’re looking to represent more than 4,000 children in the Louisiana system who they say are also in danger.

The lawsuit alleges the state department and governor have shown “deliberate indifference to the ongoing harm faced by children who depend on the state for protection and care.”

Two tragedies, countless others: A look at specific cases

The lawsuit comes less than two months after the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, David Matlock, told a Louisiana radio station that his agency was in a “death spiral” and is “hemorrhaging” employees, the lawsuit states.

The complaint includes multiple stories about children who were injured, sick, abused or died. 

In 2022, two-year-old Mitchell Robinson III died from a fentanyl overdose in Baton Rouge, the lawsuit states. Before Mitchell’s death, the agency had allegedly received three reports from his healthcare providers, warning that he had been hospitalized from overdosing on fentanyl and asking the agency to intervene. Caseworkers never made contact with the family or made any effort to remove him from their care, the lawsuit states.

Less than three weeks later, the remains of two-year-old Ezekiel Harry were found in a trash can, the lawsuit says. The coroner determined that he died from blunt force trauma to the head as a result of abuse by his mother and her boyfriend. Before his death, the agency had allegedly received, but did not act on, several reports from a neighbor worried about the screams she kept hearing from Ezekiel and his siblings. 

The department and its leaders allegedly said they were not able to stay on top of all cases due to having a limited number of employees and resources.

Kids aren’t getting medical treatment, education, lawsuit says

The danger has only become more imminent since 2022, the lawsuit alleges.

According to the agency’s 2024 Annual Progress and Services Report, in its most recent reporting period, Louisiana received its lowest rate of achieving permanency and stability in children’s living situations since the 2019-2020 reporting period, the lawsuit states.

The agency’s secretary, Matlock, reportedly said caseworkers should have a caseload of 10 children, but each has up to 100 children on their books. He said he has a shortage of 300 staff members.

“Louisiana has consistently failed to adequately address the myriad deficiencies of its child welfare system,” the lawsuit alleges. 

Louisiana’s foster children are not provided appropriate mental health or medical assessments or educational services, the lawsuit says, and kids spend weeks to months without any education. “This only compounds the difficulties that these already traumatized children face while in DCFS custody,” the lawsuit states.

Lawsuit demands urgent change to protect kids

The plaintiffs are asking a judge to force the agency to improve its practices to remedy the harm and risk of harm to thousands of foster children in Louisiana. “This lawsuit seeks to have Louisiana’s child welfare system brought into compliance with applicable federal law and constitutional standards,” it says.  

The children are asking for urgent changes, including that the state:

  • Decrease the caseload for each employee.
  • Keep children safe while in foster care.
  • Ensure children are placed in homes that meet national standards of care
  • Improve recruitment and retention of trained employees.
  • Ensure children with disabilities are receiving proper services.
  • Develop a process to match children with safe foster homes.
  • Provide children in foster care with education.

The plaintiffs and proposed class are represented by Simon, Peragine, Smith & Redfearn LLP, Wheeler Trigg O’Donnell LLP and A Better Childhood.

The DCFS class action lawsuit is Jacob B. and Amelia L. et al., v. Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, et al., Case No. 3:24-cv-00289-BAJ-SDJ  in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana.



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