June 29, 2009

Mitch Mirviss featured in Baltimore Sun and Daily Record stories on 25-year Baltimore foster care lawsuit

2 min

The Baltimore Sun and Daily Record featured recent stories on the 25-year Baltimore City foster care lawsuit and included quotes by Venable partner Mitch Mirviss.

A suit was filed in 1984 challenging the adequacy of the city's foster care. In 1988, the two sides reached a consent decree, but that did not end the case. For the past 21 years, the state and the children's advocates have argued over the extent of Maryland's compliance with the decree, culminating in the advocates' 2007 motion asking a judge to find the state in contempt and enforce compliance.

According to the Daily Record article, the parties in the lawsuit (called L.J. v. Massinga) say they have created a new consent decree that contemplates an end to the litigation and to court oversight of Baltimore's foster care system. They jointly filed the proposal in U.S. District Court Tuesday before Judge J. Frederick Motz.

"While the old decree dealt in very broad generalities, as it was the first of its generation in [foster care-related] consent decrees, really a pioneer, this consent decree is very specific and follows the type of approach that's been used successfully in other jurisdictions that have seen dramatic progress in the child-welfare system," said Mirviss, who represents the children.

Mirviss is one of several Baltimore attorneys who represented foster children when the class-action lawsuit was filed in 1984. He has been involved in child welfare and foster care issues for nearly thirty years.

According to the Daily Record article, the state, promises a host of specific changes, including keeping children under 13 out of group homes in most cases, giving children health services when they enter the foster-care system, and keeping caseworker client loads at 15 children or fewer.

The Baltimore Sun ran two articles on the new decree, also featuring Mirviss, who has largely worked pro bono on the case. Mirviss and co-counsel Rhonda B. Lipkin of the Public Justice Center, say the system is on the road to recovery. That 2007 contempt motion eventually prompted the mediation that led to Monday's filing of the exit strategy.