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Kansas to pay $2.2M in legal costs in child welfare lawsuit

August 19, 2021 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge ruled on Thursday that Kansas must pay more than $2.2 million in attorney fees to the groups that filed a lawsuit over problems in the child welfare system.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree also ordered the state to pay more than $72,000 in expenses.

The Kansas Department for Children and Families said in an emailed statement after the decision that it “continues to focus on improving services for youth in foster care. This has been our priority even before the settlement.” The agency said it was reviewing Thursday’s ruling and would have no further comment at this time.

Crabtree approved a settlement to the lawsuit in January, saying at the time that it provided a real value to the more than 7,000 children in the foster care system and addressed the need to end extreme housing disruption and inadequate mental health care.

But the parties had continued to wrangle over attorney fees and other legal expenses.

The judge wrote in a 58-page opinion that the plaintiffs prevailed and were entitled to recover those costs. However, he substantially pared down the more than $3.7 million that the plaintiffs had initially requested for attorney’s fees and the almost $115,000 they wanted for expenses.

The class-action lawsuit was filed in 2018 by Kansas Appleseed, Lori Burns-Bucklew, Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law against the Kansas Department for Children and Families and others.