On August 8, 2006 Children’s Rights filed a class action lawsuit in federal court seeking to reform the failing foster care system in the state of Michigan. The complaint alleged that the state violated the constitutional, federal statutory, and federal common law rights of children in foster care by:
- Failing to move children quickly into safe, stable, permanent homes either through reunification with their birth families or adoption,
- Failing to provide children with adequate medical, dental and mental health services,
- Failing to provide safe and stable foster homes, and
- Failing to prepare children who will age out of the foster care system at the age of majority to live independently as adults.
The complaint further charged that Michigan’s child welfare system was poorly managed, underfunded, and dangerously understaffed, creating conditions that put the children in its custody at risk of serious harm.
Michigan operates among nation’s ten largest foster care systems, with approximately 17,000 abused and neglected children in its custody.
Following two failed attempts at reaching a deal to settle the case in early 2007 and May 2008, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm signed a sweeping settlement agreement on July 3, 2008. On October 24, 2008, the Court entered an order granting final approval of the settlement agreement and entered it as a court-enforceable Consent Decree.
In January 2011, the new administration of Governor Rick Snyder took office. The newly appointed DHS management thereafter conducted negotiations with Children’s Rights to refine and update the original Consent Decree. Following several months of discussions facilitated by a court-appointed monitor, the parties submitted a revised settlement agreement in the District Court on July 18, 2011. The Court approved the modified settlement agreement and entered it as a consent order that same day.
The state’s progress in complying with the agreement is being overseen by a monitor who reports to the federal court. Children’s Rights will remain involved as long as necessary to ensure that the required reforms are made and maintained.