Children at Risk: Reports Find Troubling Lack of Progress in Michigan Foster Care Reform

Contact: Daniel Kessel, 646-216-3343,

(DETROIT) – A new report finds that once again, critical safety concerns remain for children in Michigan’s child welfare system more than 10 years after the state entered a settlement agreement in Dwayne B. v. Snyder, a lawsuit filed by Children’s Rights and co-counsel. Not only do children face a severe risk of maltreatment while in foster care, they are subjected to inappropriate placement settings. At the same time, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) continues to lack an operating data system to properly track the more than 13,000 children in foster care.

Filed today by independent, court-appointed monitors, this report covers the period from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2017and is the third released in three years following a federal judge’s approval of an Implementation, Sustainability, and Exit Plan (ISEP). The state has been under court order to reform its system since 2008.

Among other disturbing trends, the report notes several key areas in which DHHS has failed to reach many standards established in the settlement agreement.

In a separate report, an independent analysis also found that the state continues to inadequately record the state’s child welfare data in its system, making it even more difficult to track and assess the status and needs of Michigan’s foster children. The evaluation noted “persistent and significant defects” that are likely to “inhibit effective casework, contribute to data-entry errors, [and] negatively affect outcomes for children and families,” ultimately undermining efforts to reform Michigan’s foster care system.

“We are exceedingly disappointed that after more than ten years, Michigan still finds itself failing the state’s most vulnerable children,” said Samantha Bartosz, Deputy Director of Litigation Strategy at Children’s Rights. “This long into reform, such grave safety concerns for children clearly suggest a lack of management focus.”

“It certainly does not help that DHHS continues to lack a functioning data system,” said Stephanie Persson, Staff Attorney at Children’s Rights. “This demands urgent attention. We hope that DHHS leadership will heed the warnings in this report and move the system in the right direction.”

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.

For more information about Dwayne B. v. Snyder, please visit


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Every day, children are harmed in America’s broken child welfare, juvenile justice, education, and healthcare systems. Through relentless strategic advocacy and legal action, we hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Children’s Rights, a national non-profit organization, has made a lasting impact for hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more information, please visit