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D.C.'s Child Services Agency Shows Marked Improvement

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The District of Columbia's Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is making progress after a 20-year-long legal battle over the treatment of children in the system, according to a court monitor.

The agency, which handles social workers, adoptions and foster care, among other things, has been under court supervision now for about 20 years, stemming from a long running lawsuit over how the agency is run.  

The news means that Marcia Lowry, who runs the group that sued CFSA, has some rare praise for the agency.

"They've done better with regard to visiting children, with regard to training of workers, putting children in non-institutional placement," says Lowry, who heads up Children's Rights. Lowry is praising the agency for the progress made over the last six months, including "organizational efforts that we as plaintiffs counsel haven't seen for a long time." 

The woman Lowry credits for this is CFSA's new director, Brenda Donald.

"I do think we're in a good position," Donald says.

The agency has reduced the numbers of kids in foster care, keeping them within their families whenever possible, and is focusing on trauma and mental health services more, according to Donald. 

"We're completely overhauling our placement services so that we do a much better job identifying what a child's needs are and then matching that child's needs with the best placement services," Donald says.

The lawsuit is far from over, but this is the first time in many years that all parties involved can point to progress. 

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