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letters | Mass. fights back against foster-care lawsuit

State has a sorry history of court fights over its care of kids

RE “MASS. should defend itself against foster-care lawsuit” (Editorial, Jan. 28): You supported the Commonwealth’s decision to vigorously defend its foster care system in the pending federal court suit brought by Children’s Rights. The state has every right to spend taxpayer dollars to defend a defensible system. But is this system defensible?

Thirty years ago, Massachusetts made a similar decision, hiring a major Boston law firm to defend the case of Lynch v. King, in which a class of abused and neglected children, including those abused and neglected in foster care, sued to reform the foster care system. Sound familiar?

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The Commonwealth’s defense was essentially that it was doing better and that the lawsuit was getting in the way of improvement. Sound familiar?

I was one of a team of three lawyers who brought that case. After 100 days of trial and countless delays that dragged the process along further, these were Judge Robert A. Keeton’s words: “Simply and candidly stated, the facts are that children have suffered unspeakable injuries to body and spirit . . . because state officials charged with protecting them have fallen short of what they undertook to do.” The judge entered an extensive order of reforms, including caseload limits, deadlines for investigation of abuse and neglect allegations, and service plans for each child.

The Commonwealth never fully implemented the order, and here we are today, 30 years later. Can there be any doubt that the protection of children is not now, and never has been, a real priority?

Paula Mackin

West Newton

The writer is former director of the Juvenile Law Reform Project.

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