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Preventing the need for foster care in D.C.

In the District of Columbia, when a child is removed from the custody of one parent, the child may go live with another parent after a quick investigation and approval by the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) -- usually within 72 hours. The child is only placed in foster care if the other parent is deemed unfit. However, if the other parent lives out of state, D.C. requires that parent to undergo a home study investigation by his or her state to determine fitness. If the other state, after investigations that sometimes last several months, deems the home study unsatisfactory, CFSA may deny custody to that parent. Unlike the rule for D.C. parents, that denial is not dependent on a finding that the other parent is unfit. Importantly, while these studies are being completed, the children are temporarily in foster care. Earlier this month, two Maryland fathers, represented by Arnold & Porter and with the help of the Children's Law Center, filed suit against the District of Columbia. The fathers are claiming violations of due process and equal protection rights. Essentially, their children were removed from custody of their D.C.-based mothers, and the Maryland fathers were not allowed to take custody until Maryland completed a home study.

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