‘Reform Is Possible When the State Makes it a Priority,’ Says Children’s Rights
(Detroit, MI) – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and national advocacy organization Children’s Rights have reached a modified settlement agreement that acknowledges progress in reforming Michigan foster care and focuses attention on improving critical areas to assure child safety and well-being.
The new agreement, filed today in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, is pared back from the 2011 agreement, due to DHHS’s success during the past five years in improving various areas of agency performance. For example, the state has cut the number of kids waiting to be adopted, is safely reunifying more children with their birth families, and has implemented an effective training program for caseworkers.
“The state deserves kudos for its considerable efforts to give kids permanent, loving families,” said Sara Bartosz, senior attorney for Children’s Rights. “These accomplishments show that reform is possible when the state makes it a priority. There is good cause for optimism as the hard work continues.”
The modified agreement focuses on vital areas in which DHHS still must improve performance. These areas include reducing caseworker caseloads, increasing visits between caseworkers and children, maintaining sibling relationships, recruiting foster homes, licensing kinship homes, improving access to medical care and overseeing the use of psychotropic medications.
“Both parties know that more work is needed, and we view it as a positive that we’ve come to terms on how to get it done,” said Bartosz. “There is an energy and focus coming out of the negotiations that should propel future reform and, in turn, keep Michigan’s children safe in foster care.”
Children’s Rights filed the child welfare reform class action, now known as Dwayne B. v. Snyder, in August 2006, with Edward Leibensperger of the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery and Michigan-based law firm Keinbaum Opperwall Hardy & Pelton. The case settled in 2008 and the first modified settlement agreement was reached in 2011.