PHOENIX — A judge granted class-action status to a lawsuit filed on behalf of several foster children that seeks improvements in Arizona’s foster-care system.

The ruling late last week means the federal lawsuit, which was filed more than two years ago, can proceed. A trial is expected in spring 2018.

“It’s no longer about one, two or three foster children,” said Anne Ronan, an attorney with the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, which brought the suit. Rather, it’s about the thousands of children in Arizona’s foster-care system, as well as any children who will enter the system in the future, she said.

Arizona’s latest report shows the state had nearly 17,000 children in foster care as of March 31, The Arizona Republic reported (http://bit.ly/2yWTzEq ).

The Department of Child Safety said the ruling does not reflect on the merits of the case. It says it looks forward to showing the court the improvements it has made over the last three years, which it says “have solidified an enduring commitment to ensuring children in state custody receive the care they need and deserve.”

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, the state’s Medicaid program, is also named in the suit. The agency declined to comment, citing the ongoing litigation.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System is charged with providing physical, mental and behavioral-health care to kids in the system. The suit seeks improvements to the system to ensure that children are well cared for and their physical and behavioral-health needs are met.

The state argued that many of the children named in the original complaint have since been adopted. Because of that, there is no legal standing for advocates to sue on the children’s behalf, the state said in court filings.


Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

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