Class Action on Behalf of Michigan Foster Children to Move Forward

DETROIT, MI — Late yesterday in Detroit, federal Judge Nancy G. Edmunds rejected Michigan’s attempt to dismiss a class action lawsuit on behalf of 19,000 children in state foster care. The lawsuit, filed in August 2006 to reform the state’s foster care system, by national watchdog group Children’s Rights and Michigan-based law firm Dykema Gossett, asserts that the safety and wellbeing of children in state custody are being jeopardized by a lack of management and resources in the state’s child welfare system. Settlement negotiations between Michigan and Children’s Rights have broken down. Discovery in the lawsuit will proceed immediately.

“This ruling means that Michigan’s children will have their long-overdue day in court,” said Susan Lambiase, associate director of Children’s Rights.

“It is unfortunate that Michigan tried to cast aside the lawsuit, rather than fix a system that everyone knows to be seriously broken,” said Sara Bartosz, Children’s Rights staff attorney and lead attorney on the case. “It is time for the state to live up to its legal obligations to foster children.”

Michigan’s own DHS Director Marianne Udow was recently quoted as saying, “I truly believe we are putting children in jeopardy even with the current budget.”

Among the systemic problems that the class action lawsuit, known as Dwayne B. v. Granholm, seeks to correct:

  • Poor monitoring of child safety and denial of physical and mental health services for children.
  • Failure to quickly move children into permanent homes; 6,300 children in Michigan are legally free for adoption, but are growing up as permanent state wards.
  • A severe shortage of licensed foster homes; approximately 40% of Michigan children in state care live in unlicensed homes.
  • Failure to utilize available federal funding; Michigan loses millions of federal foster care dollars each year due to mismanagement.

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Chris Iseli or Brooks Halliday // 212.683.2210