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DANIEL H. EX REL. HARDAWAY H. v. CITY OF NEW YORK

September 27, 2000

DANIEL H., AN INFANT, BY HIS FATHER AND NATURAL GUARDIAN HARDAWAY H., AND HARDAWAY H., INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
V.
CITY OF NEW YORK; MONIQUE GIBBS, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS CASEWORKER CHILD WELFARE ADMINISTRATION; D. COLLINS, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS SUPERVISOR, CHILD WELFARE ADMINISTRATION; B. BATTLE, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS SUPERVISOR, CHILD WELFARE ADMINISTRATION; BARBARA SABOL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ADMINISTRATOR OF THE HUMAN RESOURCES ADMINISTRATION, AND AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES; ROBERT LITTLE, EXECUTIVE DEPUTY COMMISSIONER, CHILD WELFARE ADMINISTRATION; DIAHAN SCOTT, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS CASEWORKER, ST. DOMINIC'S HOME; CARLA ORTIZ, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS CASEWORKER, ST. DOMINIC'S HOME; MATTHEW SULLIVAN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS CASEWORKER, ST. DOMINIC'S HOME; NANCY BREEN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS SUPERVISOR, ST. DOMINIC'S HOME; BONNI RUCKER, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS DIRECTOR, ST. DOMINIC'S HOME; ST. DOMINIC'S HOME, MARVA LIVINGSTON HAMMONS, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE HUMAN RESOURCES ADMINISTRATION AND COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES; KATHRYN CROFT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN'S SERVICES; AND NICHOLAS SCOPPETTA, DIRECTOR OF THE NEW YORK CITY ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN'S SERVICES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marrero, District Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER

In this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiffs Daniel H. and Hardaway H. have named as defendants in three of their nine claims the St. Dominic's Home ("St.Dominic's"), a not-for-profit foster care placement agency, and five of its supervisors and caseworkers (the "St. Dominic Defendants"). The other claims are brought against the City of New York (the "City") and various officials of its children's services agencies. The St. Dominic Defendants' motion for summary judgment related to the three claims against them is presently before the Court. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

BACKGROUND

Hardaway H. is the biological father and now guardian of Daniel H., who was born on June 22, 1984. St. Dominic's is a private, not-for-profit social welfare agency administered by the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Blauvelt, New York, that is certified by the New York State Department of Social Services to provide, among other things, foster care placement in New York City. During the time period relevant to this action, St. Dominic's provided state-licensed foster care placement for children removed from their homes by the New York Family Court ("Family Court") and the Child Welfare Agency ("CWA"), a former department of the New York City Human Resources Administration; contracted with CWA to provide foster care for children in New York City; and was contractually obligated to report to CWA all of its services rendered.

In July 1991, Daniel H., then seven years old, was removed from his biological mother's home following Family Court findings of abuse and neglect. Hardaway H., having separated from his wife in December 1987 or in early 1988, was not living with Daniel H. or his son's mother at the time of Daniel H.'s removal. St. Dominic's, to which Daniel H. was referred by the City, placed the child in the care of a state-licensed foster home. Daniel H. remained in foster care until being reunited with Hardaway H. in February 1995. The allegations in the complaint relate to, among other things, the St. Dominic Defendants' alleged failure to notify Hardaway H. of his son's foster care placement so that Hardaway H. could obtain the return of Daniel H. and protect his son from injuries he allegedly sustained in foster care.

DISCUSSION

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

A motion for summary judgment may be granted only if there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. The role of the Court is to determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact to be tried, not to decide them (see Gallo v. Prudential Residential Servs., Ltd. Partnership, 22 F.3d 1219, 1224 (2d. Cir. 1994)), while resolving ambiguities and drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

The nonmoving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). Instead, the opposing party must present specific evidence supporting its contention that there is a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548. Rule 56(e) "requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by [his] own affidavits, or by the `depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate `specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). To show such a genuine dispute, the opposing party must proffer sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505.*fn1

II. REVIEW OF THE CLAIMS

A. The Fifth Claim

Plaintiffs argue that section 675 and three subsections of section 671 of the Adoption Assistance Act (the "Act") create an implied private right of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Compl. ¶¶ 98-113; Plaintiffs' Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, dated Dec. 15, 1999 ("Plaintiffs' Memo"), at 1921. The St. Dominic Defendants contend that plaintiffs have no private right of action for alleged violations of the Act. See Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, dated July 19, 1999 ("Defendants' Memo"), at 7-11; Defendants' Reply Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment, dated Jan. 20, 2000 ("Reply Memo"), at 2-4.

The Act establishes a federal reimbursement program for certain expenditures made by states in administering foster care and adoptive services. A state is required, pursuant to section 671(a) of the Act, to submit a plan for approval by the Secretary of Health and Human Services which contains seventeen features listed in section 671(a) and which, in relevant part,

(10) provides for the establishment or designation of a State authority or authorities which shall be responsible for establishing and maintaining standards for foster family homes and child care institutions which are reasonably in accord with recommended standards of national organizations concerned with standards for such institutions or homes, including standards related to admission policies, safety, sanitation, and protection of civil rights, and provides that the standards so established shall be applied by the State to any foster family home or child care institution receiving funds under this part or part B of this subchapter;
(11) provides for periodic review of the standards referred to in the preceding paragraph and amounts paid as foster care maintenance payments and adoption assistance to assure ...

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