Foster Care Class Actions

  State Action - Sheehey v. State of Hawaii, Civ. No. 14-1-1709-08 VLC


  Federal Action - Sheehey v. Bhanot, Civ. No. CV13-00663 LEK-KSC

Media Coverage

Relevant documents



Foster Care Class Actions - Overview

What are these lawsuits about?


Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit claiming that the State of Hawaii did not pay enough for monthly foster care maintenance payments, permanency assistance, adoption assistance, and higher education payments. They claimed that the payments were too low under federal law, under state law, under the Department of Human Services’ administrative rules, and under the terms of agreements between resource caregivers and DHS. Plaintiffs believe they are entitled to payment for damages they suffered, equal to the shortfall between the amounts DHS should have paid, and the amounts DHS actually paid.

The State denies that its payments were inadequate or that it owes Plaintiffs any compensation.



Why is this a class action?


In a class action lawsuit, one or more people called Class Representatives sue on behalf of people who have similar claims. All the people with similar claims are called the Class and are referred to individually as Class Members. The Court resolves the issues for everyone in the Class, except for those people who exclude themselves from the Class. There are two Classes in this case. They are described below. The Classes are represented by court-appointed lawyers called Class Counsel.

Because DHS’ foster care maintenance payment rates affect a large group of people (foster parents, permanent custodians/legal guardians, parents who adopted children from foster care, young adults receiving higher education payments, and children in DHS’ child welfare system), Raynette Ah Chong, Sherry Campagna, Michael Holm and Tiare Holm, Patrick Sheehey and Patricia Sheehey, Brittany Sakai, and T.B., a minor (collectively, the Named Plaintiffs) filed this case as a proposed class action.


Why is there a Settlement?


In any litigation, the outcome is uncertain. The Court did not decide the case in favor of Plaintiffs or DHS. However, there is a separate lawsuit in federal court that is related to this state court lawsuit. The federal lawsuit is also a class action, but it focuses on how much DHS should pay for foster care maintenance payments in the future, while the state lawsuit focuses on how much DHS has paid in the past for foster care and other care. Although the two lawsuits focus on different time periods, there were overlapping issues such as, DHS’ process for setting payments and making payments, and the different types of payments DHS makes. Because of the overlap, this state lawsuit was put on hold while the federal lawsuit was vigorously litigated by both sides.

The federal judge made some intermediate rulings that potentially impacted the state case. The federal court ruled that federal law did not prohibit DHS’ system of providing foster care maintenance payments through a series of separate payments (the basic board rate, plus a clothing allowance, plus certain other payments and benefits). The federal court also ruled that the alleged requirement under federal law that DHS cover the cost of (and cost of providing) shelter does not mean that DHS must pay for mortgage payments, rent, property taxes, or other similar fixed costs that a resource family incurs even when they don’t have a foster child in their home. Because rent and mortgage payments in Hawaii can be higher than other areas in the United States, this ruling was not favorable for Plaintiffs’ argument that DHS should have been paying increased basic board rates.

Plaintiffs in both cases believe their claims are valid, that DHS does not pay adequate foster board rates, that DHS has not increased the basic board rate even as the cost of living in Hawai`i has increased, and that the federal judge’s ruling is wrong and would be reversed on appeal. The State believes strongly in its position that the federal judge was correct and the rulings would be upheld on appeal, and that none of the Plaintiffs would have won anything from a trial.

Because of the substantial risks and delays of continued litigation—including the possibility that the Lawsuits, if not settled now, might result in an outcome that is less favorable or that a fair and final judgment may not occur for several years—Plaintiffs and Class Counsel have determined that the Settlement is in the best interests of all Class Members. Information about the claims, the federal court’s rulings, and the impact of those rulings on this case are described in a document titled State Lawsuit Class Action Settlement Agreement, which can be obtained from this website. maintained by Class Counsel. Other documents from the State Lawsuit and Federal Lawsuit and updates about the Settlement are also available.



Who are the Members of the Settlement Classes?


Judge Crandall has decided that the people who fit these descriptions are Members of Settlement Class 1 and 2, respectively:

Settlement Class 1 – Parent Settlement Class: (a) all licensed resource caregivers in Hawaii (foster parents) who received monthly foster care maintenance payments from DHS from August 7, 2012 through February 28, 2017; and (b) all legal guardians and permanent custodians who received monthly permanency assistance from DHS from August 7, 2012 through February 28, 2017; and (c) all adoptive parents of children with special needs who received monthly adoption assistance payments from DHS from August 7, 2012 through February 28, 2017.

The Class Representatives of the Parent Settlement Class are Patrick Sheehey, Patricia Sheehey, Raynette Nalani Ah Chong, Sheryl Campagna, Michael Holm, and Tiare Holm.

Settlement Class 2 – Higher Education Settlement Class: all individuals who received monthly higher education payments from DHS from August 7, 2012 through February 28, 2017.

The Class Representative of the Higher Education Settlement Class is Brittany Sakai.

All Class Members will be bound by the settlement unless they exclude themselves. The process for excluding yourself from the settlement and the lawsuit, also called “opting out,” is described at this page. Not all Class Members will receive payments under this settlement.



What Class or Classes am I a member of?


If you were a resource caregiver (foster parent), an adoptive parent of a former foster child, or a legal guardian/permanent custodian, who received payments from DHS between August 7, 2012, and February 28, 2017, then you are a member of Settlement Class 1 – the Parent Settlement Class.

If you are a former foster youth who received higher education program benefits between August 7, 2012, and February 28, 2017, then you are a member of Settlement Class 2 – the Higher Education Settlement Class.

You received a notice if DHS’ records show that you are a member of at least one of these classes. Therefore, if you received this notice, you will be part of the Settlement unless you opt out.

The Class Members who are also entitled to a payment are called Payment Recipients. To determine if you are a Payment Recipient, see below.



Who is entitled to payments under the settlement?


To be entitled to a monetary payment, a Class Member must be in Settlement Classes 1 or 2, and must have received one or more of these types of payments from DHS for the time period July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014:

  • monthly foster board payments for foster children in your care
  • monthly adoption assistance for your adoptive children with special needs
  • monthly permanency assistance for children in your legal guardianships/permanent custody
  • monthly higher education board allowance (must have been an eligible former foster youth)

Settlement Class Members who are entitled to monetary benefits under the proposed settlement are referred to in the settlement as Payment Recipients.

IF you do not meet the criteria listed above, then you are NOT a Payment Recipient and you will NOT be receiving a payment under this Settlement.

Continue on to Settlement Benefits


By Phone:
Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing – (808) 524-1800
            (ask to speak with Claire Black or Iris Takane)

By Email:
Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing

By Mail:

  Alston Hunt Floyd & Ing
ATTN: FosterCare Class Action
1001 Bishop St., Suite 1800
Honolulu, HI 96813