Faced With Lawsuit on Abused and Neglected Foster Children, Michigan Agrees to Immediate Talks

DETROIT, MI — The advocacy group Children’s Rights filed suit today in federal court against Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Director of the Department of Human Services (DHS) Marianne Udow on behalf of the nearly 19,000 foster children who continue to be harmed in the state’s child welfare system.

The state immediately agreed to enter into settlement negotiations with plaintiffs to resolve the lawsuit.

“These problems are long-standing, and they need to be addressed with urgency,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, executive director and founder of Children’s Rights. “We commend Governor Granholm and Director Udow for their willingness to discuss a way to shape a legally enforceable reform plan but if that is unsuccessful, these children will have their day in court.”

The complaint charges that the Michigan foster care system has been plagued by fundamental services and resource shortcomings for years, and that abused and neglected children are suffering as a result:

  • Children are being hurt while in foster care;
  • Children are being denied basic physical and mental health care;
  • Children are being forced to move repeatedly from one temporary foster home to another;
  • 6300 children are legally free for adoption, but instead are growing up as permanent state wards;
  • Approximately 40% of Michigan children in state care are housed in unlicensed homes.

The complaint identifies the following systemic problems:

  • Poor monitoring of child safety;
  • Denial of services for needed physical and mental health care;
  • High caseloads and turnover among caseworkers;
  • A severe shortage of foster homes;
  • Grossly inadequate payments to foster care providers, including no payments for most placements in relative’s homes;
  • Failure to ensure that foster care is temporary and failure to quickly move children into permanent homes;
  • Failure to utilize available federal funding.

“Michigan has the seventh largest population of foster children in the country, but ranks in the nation’s bottom twelve states in the ratio of state and local dollars to federal dollars directed to help these children,” said Sara Bartosz, lead Children’s Rights attorney on the case. “The state is not making the investment of state resources necessary to protect children.”

“This lawsuit is about doing the right thing: speaking truth to power in defense of our most vulnerable children,” said Rick Landau, of Dykema Gossett, PLLC, a Michigan law firm headquartered in Detroit that is acting as co-counsel with Children’s Rights on the case.

Chris Iseli or Brooks Halliday // 212.683.2210