New Jersey Youth and Family Services – Sued by Children’s Rights Inc

New Jersey Youth and Family Services – Sued by Children’s Rights Inc By OVETTA WIGGINS Bergen Record Corp Trenton Bureau Calling the state’s child welfare system poorly managed, overburdened, and underfunded, a New York-based child advocacy group plans to file a civil rights lawsuit against New Jersey officials in federal court today.

Children’s Rights Inc. charges in its 155-page complaint that the state’s Division of Youth and Family Services has failed in the past year to implement recommendations by a governor-appointed panel to improve the system, and as a result has left thousands of children in danger.

“The state has had its chance,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director of Children’s Rights, a nonprofit group that litigates on behalf of children nationwide. “They have been long on notice about the problems. I think this is the only course left for people who want to protect children.”

The lawsuit says that DYFS’ “systemic failure” to protect children and provide for their welfare is in violation of the U.S. Constitution. It names Governor Whitman, Department of Human Services Commissioner Michele K. Guhl, and DYFS Director Charles Venti as defendants.

“New Jersey’s child welfare system is rife with systemic deficiencies that prevent it from meeting constitutional and statutory requirements,” the complaint reads. “Defendants have not provided the leadership, resources, and support necessary to ensure that the child welfare system complies with the law.”

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