City Desk

Judge Upholds Federal Oversight Of CFSA, Holds Fenty In Contempt

Peter Nickles

In a 46-page ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Thomas F. Hogan held today that D.C.'s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is not yet ready to come out from under its court oversight. This represents a significant setback for Attorney General Peter Nickles, who has pressed to end the court-appointed monitoring of the troubled agency.

Hogan had taken months to come to his decision. In July 2008, in the aftermath of the Banita Jacks tragedy, Children's Rights filed its contempt motion. Soon, Hogan ordered CFSA to come up with a plan to fix itself. The District had a difficult time actually completing this task. Instead, Nickles drafted a plan without the court monitor's approval. Bad idea.

Meanwhile, Nickles and Fenty selected Dr. Roque Gerald to run the agency. They did so without consulting Children's Rights–another bad idea, and a violation of a court order. Hogan did not like this move, and Nickles ended up having to play defense.

Imagine all that Hogan had to sift through before issuing today's ruling. But wait, there's more!

As the debate continued through 2009, even a CFSA official suggested court oversight was a good thing, and University Legal Services published another scathing report on the agency. The court monitor issued a report critical of CFSA's foster care. And teens testified before the D.C. Council on the difficulties of aging out of the system.

What's at stake here? A review of recent Child Fatality Review Board reports suggests that a lot of kids die under the city's watch. Within the past year, two newborns died at D.C. General's family shelter.

In his ruling, Hogan held Mayor Adrian Fenty in contempt for not consulting with plaintiffs or court monitor in hiring Gerald.

Hogan also held the city in contempt for failing to come up a plan approved by the court monitor. He ruled that the District showed a "blatant disregard" in failing to work with the court monitor. He writes: "Intransigence may be a nominal improvement from indifference, but it is still unacceptable in this context."

Hogan dismissed the District's motion to end federal court oversight. In a number of key areas—conducting timely investigations, adoptions, and training of CFSA employees—the judge expressed skepticism that CFSA had improved enough to show compliance with court-approved benchmarks. He writes: "Unfortunately, in light of the District's refusal to abide by the simplest provisions of the Stipulated Order, the Court cannot find that a period of good faith has persisted. Nor has the District achieved, let alone established a period of consistent compliance."

While Hogan agreed that the District has made progress in improving CFSA, it has not done so in a complete, real and sustained way. "Undoubtedly, CFSA has taken measures to buttress reforms," Hogan writes. "But the defendants have not illustrated any, at least not in a manner that inspires enough confidence to support a conclusion that the agency's progress is 'durable and self-sustaining.'"

In his conclusion, Hogan writes:

"Extensive litigation on these motions has changed little. Although the District's child welfare system has improved drastically from the dismal state it was once in, the defendants have yet to deliver a fully satisfactory child welfare system....Supervision must persist until the defendants demonstrate that the District reliably satisfies its responsibilities."

The result: All the parties must formulate a plan for CFSA.

"It's very much the right ruling," Children's Rights Executive Director Marcia Lowry tells City Desk.  "I'm hoping this is finally going to ensure the case moves forward to accomplish the purposes of the agreement which the District has really stalled on."

Lowry still sees the courts as the appropriate venue for monitoring the troubled child-welfare agency.

"It's a fight over doing what's necessary," Lowry says. "The problem was there had been an agreement a long time ago about what should be accomplished for a child. The District about a year ago decided it didn't want to do that anymore so it didn't make a plan....That seemed to be a real disregard for what children need."

The case is now more than 20 years old.

"I have a lot of patience," Lowry says. "I represent a group of children in the District and I am going to represent them as vigoriously as I can....I find it a real waste of resources. This is a small system. It could have been fixed a long time ago."

File photo by Darrow Montgomery

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  • proballdc

    Very telling, Mr. Fenty...

  • Miss Mary

    The same should go for the D.C. Department of Mental Health.

  • DC Hoodrat

    Wasn't Rogue Gerald de-licensed in VA for fucking his clients?

    Typical Nigga shit; Typical DC. I'm not fan of Adrain, but I'm still not voting for Vincent "I can pass, too bad you can't" Gray.

    I'm glad the Judge saw through cocksucking Peter Nickles act. That motherfucker acts like he's Fenty's personal counsel rather than the DA for the PEOPLE of the District of Columbia.

  • Jason Cherkis

    Gerald did lose his license for having sex with a patient.

  • concerned

    Jason check your facts, Gerald did not loose his license, he was sued but did not loose his license. A good reported would check their facts

  • DC Hoodrat

    Concerned, Check yours. He lost his license in the state of VA. Are you sucking Gerald's dick now?

  • http://deleted candycane1

    Way to go Judge Hogan. Give em a taste of shoe polish.

  • jules

    Seriously, they should make a new edition of "The Wire" about DC. Corrupt shit.

  • Mumsie

    Wow - the comments here are nearly as high brow as the journalism practiced. I'm impressed with the writers AND the readers of this publication. Thankfully, I didn't have to pay for this rag.

  • Bosslady

    Very interested comments, but most important is the fact the social workers are not being compensated for the long hours they work at CFSA. It has been reported that CFSA has strong arm its employees to flex out they time and not submit the overtime and/or compensatory time which is a violation of labor laws. In Dr. Gerald testimony before city council committe on Human Services, he pride on how he historically lower overtime spending. When will the employees of the CFSA get the respect they desire? CPS hotline PManager fudge backlog numbers and attorneys who are not license to pracitice social work closed cases during the Bonita Jack what kind of mess is these. Now, its would be to hard to recap the fudge cases. Judge Hogan is correct by holding Mayor Fenty in contempt. Warning, if CFSA moves forward with this RIF's the city's most vulnerable will be more at HIGH risk.

  • Bosslady

    It is strongly suggested that Ms. Lowery conduct her own investigation of CPS unethical practice. The fact the CPS administrator is not license to practice social work in the District is alarming considering that client information is confidential, but during the Jack case the city did not care how the achieve the backlog closure. It was "by any means necessary." Does anyone really care about the children and families of the District of Columbia? CFSA is laying off 54, but Dr. Gerald plans are to hire 25 nurse to create nurse case management, wtf. How can you fire 54 employees and then hire 25 more employees. The District is clearly laying off employees illegally. Where are the Union Leaders!!