On April 4, 1990, 16 youth in the custody of the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services (DHS) sued the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, among others, alleging that the City’s child welfare system suffered from a number of deficiencies and that these deficiencies led to a lack of services and care that violated the youths’ rights.
The plaintiffs sought to represent a class of “all children in Philadelphia who have been abused or neglected and are or should be known to the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.” In 1992, a district court denied the plaintiffs’ class certification motion. The plaintiffs appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.
Juvenile Law Center filed a brief in support of the youths’ motion for class certification, arguing that the rights of children who depend on public systems for service cannot be protected without class action litigation and that the defendants routinely violated basic elements of a complex legal framework designed to protect children in need of welfare services.
The Third Circuit allowed the suit to be certified as a class action in 1994 and a settlement was reached on the merits of the case in 1999.