Posted on April 27th, 2009 No comments
I just found this article on the Detroit News website. I will post more details as they become available.
UPDATE: I found a copy of the Child Welfare Task Force’s report online. I am posting it on this site at the link below. The entire report is over 180 pages long, so I doubt I will read it all. The task force was made up of some parents, children in the child welfare system, purchase of service contractors, legislators, DHS representatives, etc. Curiously, attorneys for parents and L-GALs were unrepresented.
Click here to download or view a copy of the report: Child Welfare Task Force Report
Report calls for sweeping changes to child welfare system
Catherine Jun / The Detroit News
Detroit — A state-appointed task force today called for sweeping reforms in Michigan’s child welfare system with the goal of cutting the number of children placed outside the home by half.
The 143-page report makes detailed recommendations on how to improve children’s chances at permanent placement, garner more funding for preventative programs, and reduce worker caseloads and increase their training.
Pat Babcock, co-chair of the Michigan Child Welfare Improvement Task Force, said the goal was to reduce the number of children in out-of-home placements, particularly in foster care, by 50 percent by next year. The report also calls for dramatically reducing the ratio of case workers to children by hiring more employees. It also calls for expanding training for case workers to include cultural sensitivity training toward various ethnic groups, such as Native American families.
“We want to implement the overwhelming majority of this,” said Ismael Ahmed, director of the state Department of Human Services, at a press conference at the Skillman Foundation in Detroit. Ahmed said progress was under way on many of the recommendations.
But implementation of several of the recommendations will depend on increased state funding, specifically for prevention and early-intervention programs. Such requests could be met with resistance, however, especially at a time when state officials are sifting through possible emergency spending cuts in the face of a nearly $800 million deficit.
Still, task force members said that they will push Gov. Jennifer Granholm to prioritize spending on such programs. They will also continue to press for a proposed 5-cent-a-bottle increase in the tax on beer to raise revenue that could be used to combat child abuse and neglect. Legislators have so far been lukewarm to the idea.
“It’s going to save a lot of families and a lot of kids from falling through the cracks,” said Babcock, who is also former director of the Michigan Department of Human Services.
The report, titled “Improving Michigan’s Child Welfare System: Our Children. Our Future. Our Responsibility,” is the culmination of a year-long investigation by the task force, which included 85 lawmakers, child welfare advocates, university officials and families who had gone through the system.
Many of the changes, such as reducing case worker loads and increasing training, are mandated by a court order. They are terms to which the state agreed in a class action lawsuit settlement late last fall, filed by the New York-based advocacy group Children’s Rights. The group charged that the state’s welfare system was endangering the well-being of children too often. To meet the settlement’s conditions, the department is undergoing a five-year overhaul of its operations.
The report detailed many systemic problems, including the state’s over-reliance on out-of-home placement of children, a lack of uniform screening of children and families for treatment, and a lack of collaboration among agencies that often results in an interruption of help to families.