Two legal interns at UM Law's Children and Youth Law Clinic (CYLC) recently won a lawsuit against the state's Agency for Health Care Administration, which had terminated specialized therapeutic care for a cognitively impaired, severely emotionally disturbed foster child. The news came after several months of intense preparation, and a half-day evidentiary hearing in early March, at which UM law students, Marissa Gray and Renee Darville, appealed for Specialized Therapeutic Foster Care Services.
The CYLC's lawsuit claimed the Agency for Health Care Administration had terminated these services without any notice to the child or his foster parent in violation of Florida and federal law. On May 11, the CYLC received a Final Order from a state hearing officer affirming that the client was in need of therapeutic foster care and was entitled to remain in the program.
"Our interns worked countless hours preparing for this hearing and submitted a first-rate post-hearing memorandum," said CYLC Director Professor Bernard Perlmutter. "Their dedication to enforcing their client's legal rights was vindicated by a Final Order that adopted all of the proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law in their hearing memo. Most importantly, they helped a child receive important therapeutic services that the state was cutting off in violation of his due process rights."
Therapeutic foster care is an intensive one-on-one home setting that provides emotionally disturbed children with a specially trained foster parent, weekly behavioral therapy, and counseling to help them overcome the trauma they have experienced in the past. This client had been abandoned by his biological mother, lost his father to Lou Gehrig's disease, and been turned over to the state by his adoptive mother. He had lived in multiple foster homes in his short life and had been the victim of sexual assault while in foster care.
Under the supervision of Perlmutter, Gray and Darville extensively relied on the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment provisions of state and federal Medicaid law in advocating for ongoing therapeutic foster care for this child. In addition to this litigation against the Agency for Health Care Administration, the legal interns have worked on an appeal on behalf of the same client against the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, which denied him developmental services for his cognitive impairment. That appeal is scheduled to be heard in July.
The Children & Youth Law Clinic is an in-house, live-client clinic established in 1995 by the Law School. The CYLC represents children in foster care and former foster youth in dependency, health care, mental health, disability, independent living, education, immigration and other general civil legal matters, ensuring that they have a voice in court proceedings.