Widespread Failures Plague Michigan Child Welfare System, New Independent Report Shows

DETROIT, MI — A court-ordered analysis of the cases of 460 abused and neglected children in the custody of Michigan’s Department of Human Services (DHS), released today, confirms allegations made by Children’s Rights in a federal class action accusing DHS of systemwide failure to provide children with stable foster care placements, vital services, and adequate protection from further maltreatment.

Issued by the independent nonprofit Children’s Research Center, the report cites serious problems with the agency’s planning for the needs of the children in its care, resulting in significant numbers of children being bounced from one unstable foster placement to another and languishing for unacceptably long periods in the child welfare system. According to the report, DHS also fails to ensure the safety of children placed with relatives, does not provide adequate health services to children in state custody, and exceeds the national norm for maltreatment of children in custody by 150 percent.

The Children’s Research Center was appointed by U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds to conduct the case record review in the federal class action, brought against Michigan by the national child welfare watchdog group Children’s Rights, the international firm McDermott Will & Emery, and local counsel Kienbaum Opperwall Hardy & Pelton. Known as Dwayne B. v. Granholm, the lawsuit charges the state with violating the constitutional rights of the approximately 19,000 children in its custody by failing to protect their safety and well-being and find them permanent homes.

“This report gives us a comprehensive, objective view of a system that has utterly failed to protect the children in its custody,” said Sara Bartosz, senior staff attorney for Children’s Rights. “We hope that it serves as a wake-up call toDHS that it is time to stop trying to paper over its problems and start making real improvements for the children whose constitutional rights it is trampling every day.”

Today’s report detailed major problems in several areas of DHS case practice:

“Today’s report provides persuasive evidence of the systemic failures that we intend to remedy for vulnerable children with this lawsuit,” said Edward P. Leibensperger, partner in McDermott Will & Emery.

The full report is available online at www.childrensrights.org.

Chris Iseli or Brooks Halliday // 212.683.2210