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Study on Child Welfare Court Consent Decrees Available

3/15/2006:   A new research paper from CWLA and the American Bar Association Center on Children and Law details state child welfare consent decrees from 1995 to 2005.

Over the past decade, an increasing number of state child welfare systems have operated under consent decrees that mandate what services must be offered. Child Welfare Consent Decrees: Analysis of Thirty-Five Court Actions from 1995 to 2005, examines child welfare class-action litigation in 32 states, with consent decrees or settlements in 30 of these states. The report is an attempt to examine decrees or settlements currently in effect or having expired in the last 10 years.

The analysis determined that 76% of the decrees and agreements addressed placement issues, 65% addressed protective services, 68% focused on providing services to children or families, and 63% addressed issues involving the child welfare workforce. The study includes a state-by-state summary, state-by-state description, and actions taken in various areas of concern.

Current legislation in both houses of Congress would time-limit consent decrees in all forms, including child welfare cases.

Consent decrees are legal agreements enforced by courts, entered into usually by state or local governments with parties that file the complaints. In most instances, a federal court oversees an agreement entered into by the parties. The basis for the action is frequently federal law or regulations. The targets of these decrees include a range of areas, such as child welfare, health care, environmental law, mental health, civil rights, and discrimination laws.

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