Three Georgia agencies that provide social services are being sued in federal court by families who say their children's mental health disorders worsened from being institutionalized for prolonged periods as the state failed to provide adequate at-home services.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court says the state's shortcomings violate federal law including provisions of the Medicaid Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It asks a judge to order the agencies to make improvements to its mental health care system.

"Georgia's children belong at home with their families," said Ruby Moore, executive director of the nonprofit Georgia Advocacy Office, which represents the families suing the state. "Due to Georgia's failings, children are unnecessarily thrust into institutions and child welfare."

The lawsuit names as defendants the leaders of three Georgia agencies — the Department of Community Health, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Each of the agencies declined comment, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The lawsuit says the child plaintiffs have spent long periods institutionalized, leading to worsening symptoms and more frequent trips to hospital emergency rooms and psychiatric care facilities. It says one of the children has been institutionalized 16 times and admitted to emergency rooms 18 times, in part because the state failed to provide sufficient home care.

Attorneys for the families want the court to require the state to perform assessments for children who have been institutionalized multiple times and to provide better remedial care, among other improvements.