Booraem v. Orange County, filed in August 1998, challenged the detention of abused and neglected infants and young children for extended periods of time under illegal and unconstitutional conditions in Orangewood Children’s Home, an unlicensed institution owned and operated by Orange County. The lawsuit targeted Orangewood’s failure to meet the mandated standards of care for housing foster children under six years of age and the County’s practice of routinely placing young children in the shelter in violation of state law designed to limit the use of institutional settings for young children. The complaint further alleged that the California Department of Social Services failed to adopt regulations for the licensing of Orangewood, monitor the care delivered to young children in Orangewood, and secure full compliance with the children welfare laws designed to protect young foster children from the harms of institutional care. State law limits the use of large institutions to care for children under six to very limited circumstances and requires staffing, training and specific practices designed to meet the developmental needs of infants and young children. Although the State is required to monitor the provision of child welfare services by every county, the State’s failure to require Orangewood to be licensed created an enforcement void.
As a result of the settlement, the County has modified its practices with respect to the placement and care of young children in Orangewood, and most foster children under the age of six in Orange County are placed in foster family homes instead of the shelter. In the spring of 2002, the case with respect to the State Defendants was dismissed after Orangewood was licensed and the State undertook enforcement of the regulations regarding the care of children under six in Orangewood through its licensing division.