Timothy B. Litigation

Learn about the case brought by DRNC, Children’s Rights, NC-NAACP, and Moore & Van Allen on behalf of children institutionalized in Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTFs) by the child welfare system, a disproportionate number of whom are children of color.

Information on the Case

Timothy B. et al. v. Kody Kinsley is a federal lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) for its pervasive, system-wide practice of unnecessarily warehousing children with disabilities in foster care in dangerous, locked psychiatric institutions—a harmful, unlawful practice that also falls most heavily on children of color.  

The lawsuit, filed in December 2022, was brought on behalf of a class of North Carolina youth in foster care with mental and behavioral health needs, together with Disability Rights North Carolina (DRNC) and the North Carolina Chapter NAACP State Conference (NC NAACP). The Plaintiffs are represented by lawyers at DRNC, NC NAACP, the national advocacy organization Children’s Rights, and the law firm Moore & Van Allen, PLLC.   

The federal complaint describes DHHS’s practice of discriminating against children with disabilities in foster care by locking up more than 500 of them every year in prison-like psychiatric residential treatment facilities, known as PRTFs, rather than providing them with integrated community-based housing and services that they are eligible for. The unnecessary use of these prison-like settings is both unlawful and widely recognized as harmful to youth, who fare far better when supported in family-like settings in communities with supportive services.   

In March 2024, the Middle District of North Carolina denied NC DHHS’s motion to dismiss Timothy B in its entirety allowing this critical case on behalf of North Carolina’s disabled foster children to proceed. 

North Carolina children confined to PRTFs routinely face traumas instead of treatment. They regularly suffer from broken bones, sprains, bruises, and dangerous physical and chemical restraints. They endure abuse, bullying, and hate speech by both youth and staff, and receive strong cocktails of psychotropic medications instead of therapeutic treatment and care. DHHS is aware of these harms yet continues to warehouse children in PRTFs instead of building community-based placements and services. DHHS further compounds the harm by shipping significant numbers of youth in its care to other states as far away as Utah, severely limiting ties to family and community, not to mention oversight by a child’s North Carolina-based caseworker.  

Children living in institutions suffer negative outcomes from their time in PRTFs, such as longer stays in state custody, lack of connection to family and community, and denial of opportunities for a permanent family home. Some experience grave outcomes when they leave the system, such as homelessness and incarceration. Black and Brown children in North Carolina are over-represented in the state’s child welfare system and are also over-represented in PRTFs. According to recent DHHS data, children of color make up over 40% of the children on Medicaid confined to PRTFs. 

Links for Information about Timothy B


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