A nonprofit’s effort to improve Massachusetts' struggling child welfare system hit another roadblock this week with an appeals court decision that closed the door on an effort to get the federal court to oversee reform.

The court on Dec. 15 upheld a lower court decision dismissing a lawsuit filed against the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families. Chief Judge Sandra Lynch of the US First Circuit Court of Appeals wrote in the 40-page decision that a district court judge – while pointing out major deficiencies in the child welfare system – was correct in dismissing the suit filed by the New York-based national advocacy organization, Children’s Rights.

“The plaintiffs have articulated convincing moral arguments that Massachusetts should do better. But they have not established, based on the facts, that there have been constitutional violations as to the class of foster children, so they are not entitled to an injunction or federal court oversight,’’ Lynch wrote in the ruling. “Improvements in the system must come through the normal state political processes. The problems are now for the Governor and legislature of Massachusetts to resolve.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, who defended DCF in the suit, agreed with the ruling, saying the "one size-fits-all approach pushed in this lawsuit is not right for Massachusetts.”

However, she said, much more work is needed to improve the troubled system. “Now it is up to the next administration to put in place the needed reforms and resources to better protect kids in our foster system and throughout DCF,’’ she said. “There is no more important task facing our next Governor.”

The Children’s Right class action lawsuit – which alleged that the state’s about 8,500 foster care children faced added harm -- became a heated issue in the latest gubernatorial race between Coakley, the former Democratic candidate, and Gov.-elect Charlie Baker.

Problems in the system also were highlighted by a New England Center for Investigative Reporting story -- debated in the campaign -- that focused on dozens of Massachusetts children whose deaths were linked to abuse or neglect and whose cases were overseen by state social workers.

Indeed, Baker now sits in the hot seat to figure out how to make it safer for children under state care. Sara Bartosz, lead counsel for Children's Rights said she was “obviously disappointed’’ with the court ruling – and also pointed to the Baker administration to initiate reforms.

"The Massachusetts foster care system is putting children at risk day in and day out," she said. “The time is ripe for change." For a copy of the appeals court ruling, see below or click here.