The Katie A. v. Bonta lawsuits leveled California and Los Angeles County with the charge that every county in the state provide adequate mental health services for some of its most vulnerable children.
By John Kelly
In Katie A. v Bonta, a class-action lawsuit over mental health services for children involved in California’s child welfare system, Los Angeles County settled with plaintiffs in 2003; the state settled on behalf of the other 57 counties in 2011.
Like most lawsuits and the settlements that stem from them, Katie A. involves lots of technical requirements. Counties must demonstrate that they assess and treat mental health using a core practice model that involves specified coordination and service delivery strategies.
But what it comes down to is this: Prior to the settlements, child welfare agencies in California were failing on both ends of the mental health spectrum.
By John Kelly
In 2002, lawyers representing foster youth in Los Angeles sued the county and California over its failure to service the mental health needs of children in or at risk of entering foster care. For years the mental health issues that these vulnerable children face were often ignored. The children who did receive treatment were frequently hospitalized when outpatient services would have sufficed.
Twelve years later, the clock has nearly run out on the settlements that stemmed from Katie A. v Bonta. On December 1, 2014, separate court settlements with the state and Los Angeles County could end.
Following is our analysis of what has happened since the settlement and where the state and Los Angeles could go next with regard to providing quality mental health services to children in need.