DETROIT, MI — New recommendations by the independent national experts monitoring sweeping court-ordered child welfare reforms in Michigan call for the state to devote $4 million in new funding to programs aimed at keeping vulnerable families together, moving children out of foster care institutions and into permanent families, and providing transitional services and housing for young people aging out of the child welfare system.
The new funding is required under the July 2008 settlement of a federal class action brought by Children’s Rights, which set a wide-ranging series of benchmarks for reforming Michigan’s child welfare system throughout and ensuring significantly better protection, care, and long-term results for the approximately 19,000 children dependent on the system.
The new recommendations (PDF) come two months after the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) completed a comprehensive assessment (PDF), also required by the settlement, of what will be needed to implement the reforms, including new or expanded family preservation services, foster and adoptive homes, reunification services, and health care services for children in foster care.
Issued publicly today by Kevin M. Ryan of the Public Catalyst Group, the national child welfare expert appointed by the court to track the Michigan reforms, the recommendations focus on areas of greatest immediate need, including:
- $1.5 million in FY 2010 for transitional services and housing for children aging out of foster care.
- $1.5 million for services aimed at moving children out of foster care institutions and into permanent families, through either safe reunification with their parents or adoption.
- $1 million for abuse and neglect prevention and family preservation services designed to support vulnerable families and reduce the need to remove children from their homes.
“Although this is a relatively small investment in comparison to what will ultimately be needed to fix the problems that keep too many Michigan children trapped in foster care and in danger of serious harm, it’s an important initial step toward addressing the most pressing needs and quickly improving DHS’s treatment of the kids and families who depend on it,” said Susan Lambiase, associate director of Children’s Rights.
“This infusion of new funds will help not only speed and ease children’s transition out of foster care, but also keep more children out of the child welfare system in the first place by providing vital services to families in need,” Lambiase said. “Both are critical to the long-term well-being of children and families alike.”
Children’s Rights filed the child welfare reform class action, known as Dwayne B. v. Granholm, in August 2006, with Edward Leibensperger of the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery and Michigan-based law firm Kienbaum Opperwall Hardy & Pelton. Following two failed attempts at reaching a deal to settle the case in 2007 and 2008, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed a sweeping settlement agreement on July 3, 2008, and it was approved by the court that October.
For more information about Children’s Rights’ ongoing campaign to reform the Michigan child welfare system, including the full text of the recommendations issued by the Public Catalyst Group and DHS’s assessment of its needs, please visit www.childrenrights.org/michigan.