For almost twenty years the Alabama Department of Human Resource’s child welfare system has been under the close watch of the federal government. The oversight came about because of a lawsuit filed on behalf of a child known only as R.C. In 1988 the 16-year-old boy, who had behavioral problems, sued the state over his treatment while in DHR’s care — saying he was never provided the services he needed while in foster homes. The suit was eventually settled and what became known as the “R.C. Consent Decree” was signed; the state agreeing to allow a federal monitor in to make sure Alabama fixed its broken child welfare system.
Since the consent decree’s signing in 1991 Alabama has become a national model for reforming children’s services. When Page Walley took over as commissioner in 2004 getting the state out from under R.C. was one of his primary goals and he’s done it. Walley announced to his staff on January 16 that a federal judge had agreed to lift R.C. WBHM’s Rosemary Pennington talked with Walley about the decision.