A federal appeals court has refused to throw out an agreement to improve Baltimore’s foster care system. Last week, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s decisions in the 27-year-old case.
Baltimore foster children, at that time represented by Maryland Legal Aid, filed a class-action lawsuit in 1984 alleging abuse and neglect. A consent decree spelling out an improvement plan was entered in 1988 and modified in 2009 to address ongoing problems. (Due to Congressional restrictions banning class-action lawsuits by federally funded legal services programs, Legal Aid dropped out of the case.)
The Maryland attorney general’s office claimed a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an unrelated case eliminated the legal bases for the consent decrees, but U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz and the appeals court disagreed.
Mitchell Mirviss, a lawyer with the Baltimore law firm Venable LLP who represents the children pro bono, described the appeals court ruling as “a watershed decision” he hopes will focus resources required by federal law on foster children.