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Children's Rights Litigation

September 11, 2012

Henry A. v. Willden, (9th Cir. 2012)


In Henry A. v. Willden (9th Cir. 2012), the plaintiffs are foster children in Las Vegas suing county and state officials regarding the condition of their care. The complaint includes four federal statutory claims: Children are not provided case plans, officials do not maintain appropriate case records, children are not appointed guardians ad litem (GALs), and children under age three are not provided early intervention screens. The district court dismissed these claims, concluding that the statutory provisions at issue do not create federal rights and, thus, there is no valid cause of action for private plaintiffs.

Applying the Blessing/Gonazaga test for each relevant statutory provision, the Ninth Circuit reversed on the items regarding case plans and case records, holding that the statute confers an unambiguous right on individuals to case plans and case records. The court affirmed on the remaining items because the GAL and early intervention (EI) provisions provide little specific guidance other than the requirement for the state to have a law or program designed to accomplish a very broad goal.

Keywords: litigation, children’s rights, foster children, Ninth Circuit, guardians ad litem, early intervention

Bruce A. Boyer, clinical professor, director, Civitas ChildLaw Clinic, Chicago, Illinois

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