The plan's cost
DHS plans to hire more child-welfare workers, recruit more foster homes and phase out using shelters to care for the youngest children. Officials initially estimated DHS will need almost $100 million more in state funds a year once all the reforms are in place.
The state already has paid more than $7.6 million in legal fees and expenses to attorneys hired to represent DHS officials in the lawsuit.
The bulk of that money — almost $6.9 million — went to the law firm hired to fight the lawsuit.
Almost $700,000 more went to the attorney who represented DHS officials in the settlement negotiations.
Children's Rights has filed similar class-action lawsuits across the country, including in Texas, Kansas and Missouri.
Children's Rights contends its bill would not be nearly as high if DHS had not engaged in what it contended were “overly aggressive tactics ... motivated by patently unjustified denial of the serious, systemic problems plaguing DHS.”
DHS is expected to ask the judge to pay Children's Rights much less than it is asking.
“I believe we'll definitely question the fees,” said Richard DeVaughn, one of three DHS commissioners who voted against the settlement.
“It's about the money. It wasn't about the children,” DeVaughn said of the group's lawsuit.
“The reason they were so willing to settle at the end was we had them on the ropes.”