Michigan discusses child welfare system improvements and state's plans to address remaining challenges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2018                                                     

CONTACT: Bob Wheaton, 517-241-2112

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan today discussed its continuing progress in reforming its child welfare system, including the state’s successful compliance with federal requirements to reduce caseload sizes and improve education outcomes for children in foster care.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan today to update Judge Nancy G. Edmunds and listen to a report from federal court monitors on the period from July 2016 to December 2016.

“During this reporting period MDHHS and our private agency partners continued the positive momentum that earlier resulted in a 2016 court agreement that sets the state on the path to exiting federal court oversight of its child welfare system,” said Dr. Herman McCall, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency. “We fully realize there is more work to do to address remaining challenges noted by the federal court monitors. We can and must make further progress for the sake of Michigan children and families.”

In February 2016, the judge approved the Implementation, Sustainability and Exit Plan that scaled down the requirements for exiting federal court oversight from nearly 240 to 71. That new plan reflected the state’s significant progress.

The court monitor report released today showed that Michigan had met an additional seven performance standards in the exit plan. Among those were commitments to reduce child welfare caseloads. That included one standard that requires MDHHS to reduce caseloads for at least 95 percent of child abuse and neglect investigators to no more than 12 open investigations.

Other standards the department met required 95 percent of staff who provide ongoing Children’s Protective Services to families to have caseloads of no more than 17 and for MDHHS to take steps to ensure school-aged children in foster care receive an education appropriate to their needs.

The report also said that Michigan met two other standards for at least two consecutive reporting periods, making them eligible to exit continuing court oversight. Those requirements were related to helping youth who were in foster care make the transition to adulthood.

Another standard – prohibiting the use of psychotropic medicine as discipline for children in care – has been maintained for two consecutive reporting periods but will remain in the agreement for the remainder of federal court jurisdiction.

The exit plan took the place of the Modified Settlement Agreement approved in 2011 that came after a lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Children’s Rights in 2006.

Through years of successful reform efforts by Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, Michigan has improved services to the approximately 13,000 children in the state’s foster care system who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.

The state hired 700 additional Children’s Protective caseworkers and 400 additional foster care workers in 2011 and 2012. MDHHS has maintained higher staffing levels since then.

To view the latest federal court monitor report, the full Implementation, Sustainability and Exit Plan, earlier reports and the original Modified Settlement Agreement, visit www.michigan.gov/ChildWelfareAgreement.

# # #