Critic defends class-action status in Oklahoma Department of Human Services lawsuit

BY ROBERT BOCZKIEWICZ Modified: November 20, 2009 at 12:21 am •  Published: November 20, 2009
DENVER — A critic of Oklahoma’s foster child care system contends its reform will not be possible if an appeals court grants the state’s request to decertify a class-action lawsuit against top child welfare officials.

"You can’t get system-wide relief (unless a pending lawsuit applies to all 10,000 foster care children),” children’s advocate Marcia Lowry said Thursday after arguing the case at the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Lowry is an attorney for the national organization Children’s Rights, based in New York City, which is leading the lawsuit against officials of the Oklahoma Commission for Human Services.

The officials want the Denver-based court to remove class-action status for the lawsuit, which seeks an overhaul of the system, including increased staff.

Risk alleged
The lawsuit alleges the system operated by the Department of Human Services is so deficient it puts thousands of children at risk, including risk of death and injury.

State officials argue the lawsuit should be limited to the six children who are named as plaintiffs.