The impact and implementation of public law litigation on child welfare: A case study of Kansas
Despite federal funding and legislation designed to protect children, state and local child welfare systems have failed to safeguard our most vulnerable children. The child welfare system, which was designed to protect children, is plagued with high caseloads, high turnover, poor training, and inadequate resources. As a result, some children who are rescued from abusive parents/caregivers are placed into a foster care or adoptive environment that perpetuates abuse. Consequently, numerous lawsuits have been filed against state and local governments across the country for violating the constitutional and statutory rights of children in governmental custody. But have any of these lawsuits been effective in reforming public child welfare agencies?; This research evaluates the impact and implementation of public law litigation in a single state. Utilizing a single case study and relying on compliance data, government documents, and interviews, this research evaluates the implementation of the Kansas Foster Care Settlement Agreement, which was implemented over a period of seven and half years, 1993--2001. This research reveals that although the state agency exited from court supervision, the agency failed to "faithfully" implement the agreement. The research identifies a group of variables that contributed to implementation failure, it compares and contrasts implementation of judicial policy between the private and public sector, and it reveals that the substantive area of child welfare is distinctly different than other previous researched substantive areas, such as prisons, mental health institutions, and education. Based on the study, it is recommended that the field develop a conceptual framework that combines policy implementation with public law litigation to account for the distinct characteristics of judicial policy.