Vindicating the Right to Safe, Stable Housing and Supportive Services for Young People in Los Angeles County’s Foster Care System
A primary goal of California’s extended foster care program is to prevent young people from falling off a metaphorical cliff when they turn eighteen. Common sense and scientific research confirm that young people entering adulthood require ongoing support, and it’s widely understood that parents don’t stop caring for their children at age 18. And many young people in foster care have experienced the trauma of being separated from their families and losing social ties, and have often experienced additional trauma while in foster care. These young people require significant support and services to address this complex trauma. That is why foster care services were extended to young people up to age 21 – and the State of California and Los Angeles County are required to ensure that all youth in foster care have safe, stable, and appropriate housing, necessary supportive services, and legally compliant case and transition planning tailored to meet their individual needs.
Yet, there is an acute incongruity between the stated goals of extended foster care and the reality experienced by the young people in Los Angeles County’s care, who are struggling to navigate the transition to adulthood without the benefit of a caring, reliable support system. Despite the clear mandates by Congress and the California Legislature to develop an extended foster care program with homelessness prevention at its core, homelessness remains a significant problem for youth in California’s extended foster care. And despite clear mandates designed to ensure access to mental health services and transition planning, youth in extended foster care continue to be denied these crucial services and supports.
To address these legal violations, seven young people in foster care have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the California Department of Social Services, California Health and Human Services Agency, California Department of Health Care Services, Los Angeles County, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health. The complaint challenges these Defendants’ persistent failure to provide transition age youth (ages 16-21) in foster care with the safe, stable, and appropriate housing and necessary supportive services to which they are legally entitled.
Plaintiffs are pursuing declaratory and injunctive relief necessary for young people in foster care to thrive – including improved case planning services, trauma-responsive supports to help young people maintain placement, and a more robust portfolio of housing placements and placement types.
The plaintiffs are represented by three nonprofit law firms – Alliance for Children’s Rights, Public Counsel, and Children’s Rights – and pro bono law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP. The seven courageous young people who brought this suit, alongside their coalition of legal advocates, are committed to upholding the right of transition age youth in foster care to receive safe, stable, and appropriate housing, necessary supportive services, and case and transition planning tailored to meet their individual needs.
U.S. District Court Central District Of California, Western Division
Case Developments and Key Developments
Seven young people in foster care filed a class action lawsuit against the State of California and Los Angeles County, challenging their persistent failure to provide transition age youth (ages 16-21) in the Los Angeles County foster care system with the essential housing and services to which they are legally entitled.
Seven courageous young adults in foster care have filed a lawsuit to uphold the right of young adults in L.A.’s foster care system to receive safe, stable, and appropriate housing, necessary supportive services, and case and transition planning tailored to meet their individual needs.
- Plaintiff Erykah B. is a nineteen-year-old Black young person who lives in Los Angeles County, California. She is a nonminor dependent and she is in extended foster care in Los Angeles County.
- Plaintiff Onyx G. is a seventeen-year-old, Black and Latina young person currently in foster care in Los Angeles County, California. Because she is currently a minor, Onyx G. is now appearing through her next friend, Craig Schultz, who is familiar with Onyx G.’s history and is dedicated to her best interests. Onyx G. turns eighteen imminently, when she will become a nonminor dependent by operation of law. She intends to enter extended foster care in Los Angeles County.
- Plaintiff Rosie S. is a twenty-year-old Latina young person and an expecting mother from Los Angeles County, California. She is a nonminor dependent and she is in extended foster care in Los Angeles County. She has been temporarily living in Las Vegas, Nevada for the last nine months because the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (“DCFS”) has not yet moved her to a safe, stable and appropriate placement in Los Angeles.
- Plaintiff Jackson K. is a nineteen-year-old Latino young person currently living in Riverside County, California in this judicial district. He is a nonminor dependent and he is in extended foster care in Los Angeles County.
- Plaintiff Ocean S. is a twenty-year-old Black young mother who lives in Los Angeles County, California. She is a nonminor dependent and she is in extended foster care in Los Angeles County.
- Plaintiff Junior R. is a twenty-year-old mixed race young person who lives in Los Angeles County, California. He is a nonminor dependent and he is in extended foster care in Los Angeles County.
- Plaintiff Monaie T. is a twenty-year-old Black young person and parent in foster care. She lives in Los Angeles, California. Despite the trauma she has experienced in foster care, Monaie T. is determined to finish high school, and she plans to graduate this fall. She dreams of becoming an oncology nurse and wants to secure safe and stable placement for her young family.
The Alliance for Children’s Rights protects the rights of children and young adults impacted by foster care. By providing free legal representation and social services, and by advocating for broad solutions through ground-breaking child welfare policy reform, the Alliance clears barriers to stability and opportunity so that young people and families can access the support and services they need to thrive. For more information, visit allianceforchildrensrights.org.
Children’s Rights is a national advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children living in or impacted by America’s child welfare, immigration, juvenile legal, education, and healthcare systems. We use civil rights impact litigation, advocacy and policy expertise, and public education to hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Our work centers on creating lasting systemic change that will advance the rights of children for generations. For more information, please visit www.childrensrights.org.
Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP is a law firm with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. MTO maintains a national and international practice, with principal areas of focus including litigation, corporate, labor and employment, environmental, financial restructuring and tax.
Public Counsel is a nonprofit public interest law firm dedicated to advancing civil rights and racial and economic justice, as well as to amplifying the power of our clients through comprehensive legal advocacy. Founded on and strengthened by a pro bono legal service model, our staff and volunteers seek justice through direct legal services, promote healthy and resilient communities through education and outreach, and support community-led efforts to transform unjust systems through litigation and policy advocacy in and beyond Los Angeles.
- Young People in Foster Care System File Lawsuit Against State of California and LA County For Their Systemic Failure to Provide Safe, Stable Housing and Necessary Supportive Services, 8/23/2023
- La Opinión, Demanda civil contra autoridades de servicios para niños y jóvenes en hogares de crianza, 8/28/23
- KNX, L.A. foster care system is ‘pipeline to homelessness,’ lawsuit alleges, 8/25/23
- City News Service, Youth Rights Groups: L.A. County Foster Care is `Pipeline to Homelessness,’ 8/25/23
- The Imprint, Los Angeles County Sued Over ‘Foster Care to Homelessness Pipeline,’ 8/23/23
- LA Times, L.A. County fails to place older foster kids, leaving them homeless, lawsuit alleges, 8/23/23