Ricky Holland Reports Underscore Need to Reform Michigan’s Child Welfare System

Two separate reports released today on the death of 7-year-old Ricky Holland reveal alarming failures at the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS), which allowed warnings about the boy’s abuse to go ignored. The reports, issued by Children’s Ombudsman Verlie Ruffin and DHS, show DHS workers did not follow the appropriate procedures to ensure Holland’s safety while he was living with the foster parents who later adopted him and were eventually convicted of his murder.

“Today’s reports, which demonstrate error upon error within every layer of the Michigan child welfare system, are a window into severe, ongoing problems that continue to put thousands of Michigan children in danger,” said Susan Lambiase, associate director of national watchdog organization Children’s Rights.

According to the Ombudsman’s report, a Child Protective Services investigator failed to properly investigate a therapist’s report that Holland revealed his foster parents were tying him to his bed at night. Additionally, the report cites a two-year lapse in caseworker visits with the boy at the same time he reported the maltreatment, as well as a failure to properly assess whether Holland’s adoptive parents were able to care for multiple children with psychological problems and inadequate licensing reviews that did not detect the foster parents’ abuse.

In August, Children’s Rights filed a lawsuit against Governor Jennifer Granholm and DHS Director Marianne Udow on behalf of the nearly 19,000 foster children in Michigan’s failing child welfare system. Children’s Rights’ complaint cites many of the systemic problems outlined in the reports released today, including poor monitoring of child safety and overburdened caseworkers failing to make in-home visits with foster children.

“The failures covered in today’s reports show a broken system, and our investigation has shown that it is still broken now,” said Lambiase. “It is time for the state to commit to significant reform so that the system designed to protect children will do just that.”

Children’s Rights is currently in settlement negotiations with the state of Michigan.

Chris Iseli or Brooks Halliday // 212.683.2210