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Kids to Love fighting state DHR over children referrals

MADISON – Forgive Lee Marshall, founder and CEO of the foster champion nonprofit Kids to Love, if the latest round in a fight with the state’s Department of Human Resources went in her corner’s favor.

Lee Marshall, left, and attorney Isabel Montoya-Minisee (256 Today)

The Alabama Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that DHR is subject to a restraining order filed by Kids to Love to keep the agency from removing children from foster homes placed by Kids to Love. DHR, following a review of the Madison nonprofit, suspended Kids to Love’s foster home referrals in June based on a review claiming operational violations were found.

That referral suspension is blocked for now. The licenses Kids to Love have to provide foster care and private adoptions were never affected, allowing the nonprofit to continue finding homes for children in its care. 

“This will not stop our organization whatsoever,” Marshall, who was born into foster care and eventually adopted, said Thursday at a news conference of the referral ban that is temporarily blocked. “We still place kids at Davidson Farms, we still have babies placed in foster homes, there are other ways (than referrals) to have our babies placed.”

Davidson Farms provides shelter for female tweens and teenagers in Tennessee and Alabama. According to Marshall, Kids to Love, which recently received licensing to operate in Tennessee, is the only agency of its kind that does not receive money from DHR.

DHR oversees Alabama’s child protection services, including the foster care system.

“The tragedy here today is there are over 6,000 kids in foster care and just 2,300 licensed foster homes,” Marshall said. “DHR consistently recruits for more foster families. We have amazing foster families that have empty bedrooms that are just waiting to stand up and say ‘we’ll welcome these children home’.”

DHR alleges Kids to Love violated policy by publishing photos of kids in foster care, representing itself improperly and not keeping accurate records. Lawyers for Kids to Love claim the organization repeatedly approached DHR to solve any perceived problems, only to be met with silence.

A lawsuit was filed by Kids to Love, and in the wake of the recent ruling expressed a desire for “public apology” for “untrue” claims by DHR.

“Nothing in the allegations violates law or policy,” attorney Isabel Montoya-Minisee told reporters.

DHR told WHNT News 19, “There is ongoing litigation and another side of the story to tell.”

Marshall was blunt about the ongoing battle.

“This is 100 percent children being tokens in this,” she said. “It’s the children suffering. They shouldn’t be used as pawns, and the Alabama Supreme Court sent a strong message to DHR.”

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