On March 29, 2011, Children’s Rights, a national advocacy group from New York City, filed suit against the Governor of Texas, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, and DFPS in federal court alleging constitutional claims. The case is currently before Judge Janice Graham Jack of the Corpus Christi Division in the United States District Court, Southern District of Texas.
It is a class-action lawsuit concerning substantive due process claims for approximately 12,000 children in the Permanent Managing Conservatorship (PMC) of DFPS. After the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck two other sub-classes, there is one sub-class concerning oversight of licensed foster care placements.
There was a trial on the merits in December 2014. The court issued a memorandum opinion on December 17, 2015, finding for Children’s Rights on all counts except one sub-class. The court appointed two special masters who began their work on April 1, 2016 and filed their recommendations with the court on November 4, 2016. The Special Master’s Implementation Plan was filed with the court on December 4, 2017.
On January 19, 2018, the district court entered a Final Order including an injunction against Texas. Texas immediately appealed and was granted a temporary administrative stay by the United States Fifth Circuit of Appeals. The Fifth Circuit issued an opinion on October 18, 2018 upholding some provisions and modifying others. The District Court modified its final injunction on November 20, 2018. Upon appeal, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion on July 8, 2019 which upheld and overturned parts of the district court’s final injunction.
The final injunction went into effect when the stay was lifted in July 2019. A court-appointed monitoring team is assessing compliance with the provisions of the final injunction.
Texas continues to improve foster care, regardless of the lawsuit.
Court Orders & Opinions
- Dec. 17, 2015 – Memorandum Opinion and Verdict issued by the federal district court after December 2014 jury trial.
- Jan. 19, 2018 – Final Order rendered by the district court.
- October 18, 2018 – Opinion rendered by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the district court’s Final Order.
- November 20, 2018 – Modified Final Order rendered by the district court pursuant to the October 2018 Opinion of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.
- July 8, 2019 – Opinion of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the district court’s Modified Final Order.
- November 7, 2019 – Order of the District Court following the hearing held on November 5, 2019.
- March 18, 2020 – Order of the District Court relating to Heightened Monitoring.
- August 31, 2020 – Order of the District Court granting defendants motion to modify.
- October 16, 2020 – Opinion of the 5th Circuit regarding DFPS’ limited appeal.
- December 7, 2020 – Order of the District Court granted order to modify order regarding Heightened Monitoring.
- December 18, 2020 – Contempt Order of the District Court following the hearing held on September 3 and 4, 2020.