The judge, in a civil case against the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) director and other leadership, ruled against DHR this week.
Attorneys for DHR applied with the Alabama Supreme Court for a Writ of Mandamus, stating the court did not have jurisdiction over the matter. However, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Madison Circuit Court Judge Donna Pate did, in fact, have jurisdiction. The Court denied the request from DHR.
Lee Marshall, who filed the lawsuit against DHR on behalf of her non-profit, Kids to Love, said the ruling was a victory in the case. Attorney Isabel Montoya-Minisee, representing Marshall and Kids to Love, held a press conference Thursday to give an update.
"At this point, we look forward to moving forward with our case at the trial court level and seeking relief there," said Montoya-Minisee. "There are a few clarifications that I would like to make. First, while we can't address many of the allegations lodged against Marshall and Kids to Love by [inaudible], I can tell you after having reviewed all of the documentation — and let me tell you, this organization keeps meticulous documentation and has throughout the years — after reviewing hundreds of pages of documentation I can tell you that nothing in the allegations violates the law or policy."
Kids to Love serves children in foster care and offers placement services. However, Marshall claims DHR has refused to allow the organization to place children because they refuse to view them as a partner agency. She said with full knowledge that Kids to Love offers quality services, DHR leadership feels threatened.
According to court documents, complaints from DHR include photos and information of foster children posted online. Marshall said the organization was given that information by DHR so that potential adoptive parents could access information about children up to adoption.
Montoya-Minisee said DHR terminated a decades-long agreement with Kids to Love without giving a reason. Kids to Love continues to fight to partner with DHR to place children in safe homes. Montoya-Minisee also said the only thing Kids to Love is guilty of is being passionate about caring for foster children. She also pointed out that the organization's grievances are only at the state level.
"None of this situation involves the local county directors, supervisors or social workers who are in the trenches every day to serve our children, to protect our children and to serve the families," she added.
During a review of Kids to Love, DHR found no deficiencies in service or quality of care of children.
"I've witnessed the tears, the anguish and the prayers of Lee and her team these past several months and there have been many," Montoya-Minisee said.
Kids to Love plans to continue asking DHR to work with them and open homes to those in need. Marshall also sent a letter to Gov. Kay Ivey and started a petition.
Marshall said she had done all she could to avoid involving the news media. As a former TV news journalist, Marshall said she understands the power of the media and felt it was necessary.
"To me, it's unfortunately about egos at the state office and control and none of it is focused on serving children and that is a crisis," said Marshall.
Ivey's office has not responded to a media inquiry regarding the lawsuit but has voiced support for DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner.
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