foster care

Pothole in a road.
Wikimedia Commons

This week, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss a plan to help Michigan roads by cutting truck weight limits, whether any road fix plans will survive the lame duck session, and a possible end to federal oversight of the state’s foster care system.


iRon leSs / flickr

Michigan says it wants out from under court-ordered oversight of the state’s child foster care system. The Michigan Department of Human Services filed a motion today with the U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Wrapping up a lot of coverage from State of Opportunity on foster care is a story about adoption from that system. It can be a bumpy road for families and kids, and if an adoption doesn't work out it can be a tragedy for a child. But now more than ever there are people and programs out there to help families make those adoptions truly permanent.

The Kley Family

 

More than 13,000 children in Michigan are in foster care in a given year. State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra will look into their lives in a special documentary, "Finding Home," which airs Thursday at 3 p.m. on Michigan Radio.

Homeless man
SamPac / creative commons

This week we aired a special State of Opportunity call-in program focused on disconnected youth. These are young people between the ages of 16 and 25, they're not in school and they're not working either.

Dustin Dwyer profiles the Goodson family in this weeks State of Opportunity feature. Stacy Goodson says, "If a child showed up at your doorstep, hungry, needing somewhere to live, you would let them come stay with you. ... we sign up to be the doorstep that they show up on."

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a practice by the state's child welfare system is unconstitutional. 

Yesterday the State Supreme Court struck down a 12-year-old rule they said violated the constitution because it allowed the state to punish both parents for abuse or neglect of a child for whom only one parent was responsible, even when parents were not living together.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A new report is raising questions about how Michigan's child welfare system treats minorities.

The report finds African-Americans, Latinos, and Native American children are more likely than white children to be removed from their homes.  

Minorities are also twice as likely to age out of the foster care system as whites.

Former State Rep. Lynn Jondahl is one of the co-chairs of the Michigan Race Equity Coalition.  

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor announces plan to help foster care system

"Gov. Rick Snyder says the state could do a better job protecting foster children if it changed the way it paid for the service. The governor unveiled a report yesterday that says the state should pay foster care agencies based on their performance," Jake Neher reports.

Schools in better financial shape

"There are fewer school districts in Michigan that have budget deficits than there were at the end of 2013, and more districts are pulling themselves out of debt. That’s according to the state Department of Education," Rick Pluta reports.

Debbie Dingell to officially run for U.S. House

"Debbie Dingell is officially launching her campaign today for the U.S. House seat held by her husband," the Associated Press reports.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Gov. Rick Snyder says the state could do a better job protecting foster children if it changed the way it paid for the service.

The governor unveiled a report Thursday that says the state should pay foster care agencies based on their performance. Right now, those agencies all get paid the same regardless of their track records or the needs of individual foster children.

The culture and ideas that surround issues of kids and well-being are just as important to the public discussion as the daily realities. Head over to State of Opportunity for a review of Short Term 12, a feature film about at-risk kids in a care home and the adults that try to teach them how to cope. It's just out on DVD, at your public library, Netflix, etc.

There's one attorney for every 21,000 low-income Michigan citizens. That's according to the Michigan Bar Association. And that lack of representation hits hard for relatives of children in the foster care system. State of Opportunity's Sarah Alvarez has been following the case of Vanessa Moss, a grandmother struggling financially to take care of four children. Faced with their removal from her home, where do people without resources turn for legal representation?

Kent County is a part of a new pilot program for children in the foster care system.

Michigan has been working to overhaul its child welfare system for years, after it was sued over problems in the system.

“(That case) tells us that we don’t have a perfect system. So we have to continually improve,” Kent County Assistant Administrator Wayman Britt said.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Detroit Police Department prepares for big changes

Detroit Police Chief James Craig intends to introduce a large departmental reorganization, reports Michigan Radio’s Sara Cwiek.  Craig announced last week that he will restore a version of the department’s gang squad.  Many administrative jobs will be filled by civilians so that more officers can return to field work.

CDC says obesity down among Michigan children

According to a new Center for Disease Control study fewer Michigan children qualify as obese.  Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that the obesity rate among low-income preschool children dropped from 13.9% in 2008 to 13.2% in 2011.  Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for obesity rates.

Michigan Supreme Court returns custody to foster family

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered that four children be returned to their foster family, reports Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta.  Custody was awarded to their grandmother last year by the Michigan Court of Appeals because state law gives automatic preference to relatives when parental rights are terminated.  The Supreme Court said that the children should be returned to the foster family until it makes a decision whether to hear the appeal.

user Childrens Book Review / flickr

More than 400,000 children are currently in foster care in the U.S. Once a child has entered the system, they remain there on average for nearly two years, according to a federal report. Our State of Opportunity team looked into a unique program that’s working to prevent kids in Michigan from even entering foster care in the first place.



Almost 14,000 kids in Michigan have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids then rely upon the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive. Most of those kids end up in foster care.

Six years ago the state was sued by the advocacy group Children's Rights over treatment of kids in its care.

The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Everyone agrees things have gotten better since the lawsuit started six years ago, but the court appointed monitor said too many kids are still unsafe.

Today on the show, the city of Flint recently hired seven new police officers, but some say that might not be enough to make a noticeable difference on the streets.

We explore public safety in the one of the nation's most violent cities.

And, new data show women in the U.S. prefer foreign-made cars to domestics. We find out why and talk about what it will take for the Detroit Three to win over those women.

And there are almost fourteen thousand children in Michigan who have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids rely upon the state to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive.

Six years ago, the state was sued over treatment of kids in its care. The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Michigan Radio's Sarah Alvarez brought us a report.

Seita Scholars Program Helps Foster Care Alumni

Jan 22, 2013
Seita Scholars Program / Western Michigan University

There are lots of scholarship programs that help pay for school.  One scholarship at Western Michigan University goes farther to help students tackling college on their own. 

John Seita's an alumni of WMU.  Against long odds he earned three degrees from the school, after he aged out of the foster care system.  His story inspired a program bearing his name.

Now the Seita Scholars Program helps students facing similar challenges.  It’s a full tuition scholarship for people who've aged out of the foster care system.

Baker College of Flint / Facebook.com

When a child grows up in the foster care system, they face some unique challenges as college students.  They may lack the financial and emotional support their classmates get from families.

The Michigan Department of Human Services is trying help them out.

They awarded seven universities in Michigan shares of an $800,000 grant.

The money will pay on-campus coaches at Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Baker College of Flint, Ferris State University, Saginaw Valley University, Eastern Michigan University and the University of Michigan-Flint who will work with former foster youth.

User: vastateparksstaff / flickr

This week on Seeking Change, Christina Shockley talks with Angelique Day about the foster care system.

Day grew up in foster care. She now focuses her work on researching and helping children in foster care in the state.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

No citizenship box on ballot

"Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says there will be no citizenship box for voters to check on ballot applications this November. Johnson says the election is getting close, so she won’t challenge a federal judge’s ruling that the citizenship question is unconstitutional. But she says there could be further legal action after the election. Johnson says she also intends to press the federal government for naturalization records to help clear voter rolls of non-citizens. She ordered the check box even after Governor Rick Snyder vetoed a bill to require it. No one could be denied a ballot for refusing to check the box, but Johnson says it's useful to remind people that only U.S. citizens can vote," Rick Pluta reports.

DHS says foster care is getting better in Michigan

"Child welfare officials say Michigan’s foster care system is getting better. Steve Yager is the director of Children’s Services for the state Department of Human Services. He told a legislative committee the state is doing a much better job of recruiting and keeping foster parents. Yager also says child welfare workers have more manageable caseloads. The state has been working to overhaul its child welfare system since 2008, after the group Children’s Rights sued the state over problems in the system," Steve Carmody reports.

Michigan foreclosure rate at a five year low

"Michigan’s home foreclosure rate could soon reach a milestone. A few years ago the state's foreclosure rate was near the top of the 50 state list. But Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says the latest data shows Michigan is poised to drop out of the top 10 possibly by the end of the year. He says Michigan’s home foreclosure rate is near a five year low," Steve Carmody reports.

Michigan Secretary of State in court today over citizenship checkbox

"Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson will be in federal court today to defend a citizenship checkbox she ordered onto November ballot applications. Election officials would ask voters to confirm their U.S. citizenship, but would not deny them a ballot if they decline to answer. A number of county clerks say it’ll cause confusion and could scare off eligible voters. Johnson says the citizenship question will help cut down on voter fraud and the number of non-citizens who receive ballots," Jake Neher reports.

Ambassador bridge owners say new bridge not economically feasible

"Opponents of a new bridge between the U.S. and Canada say Michigan would lose about $325 million in taxes if the project goes ahead. The owners of the Ambassador bridge commissioned a study they say shows there's no need for a new bridge. Canada would pay for construction of the bridge and recoup its investment from future tolls," Rina Miller reports.

Pilot program to keep kids at home, not in foster care

"The state of Michigan is going to try a new approach to keep at-risk children out of the state’s foster care system. A federal waiver will allow the state to use grant dollars to start a pilot program that will try to keep children under five years old with their families rather than place them in foster homes. Steve Yager is the director of the Department of Human Services’ Children Services Administration. He says they want to avoid putting very young children through the ‘trauma’ of  being placed in foster homes. The pilot program will start next year in Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Macomb counties. There are currently 13,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system," Steve Carmody reports.

iRon leSs / flickr

Michigan's Department of Human Services (DHS) is piloting a new program designed to keep "at risk" kids in their homes instead of handing them over to foster care.

The program will target families with children younger than five years of age.

From DHS:

Michigan’s foster care system is huge, the sixth biggest in the country. So many kids in the system were being abused, neglected or just forgotten about under the state’s care that a group called Children’s Rights sued the state to force it to change in 2006. Two years ago, the state entered into a court settlement and is now being monitored as it makes changes to its child welfare system.

Toni Williams grew up in foster care. She spent almost her whole life in the system, from the time she was a baby until a year ago when the state says she became too old for the system. Williams was 20. Under recent legislation some young people in Michigan can now receive transitional services until 21.

Williams just graduated from high school and is going to community college in the fall where she’s going to study to be a childcare provider and maybe work with the foster system.

“The reason why is because I know what it feels like, you know, to not have your family," says Williams. "You know what I’m saying? So it’s actually a good feeling to know that there’s someone out here who is willing to take a place for being a mother, or a father.”

Williams knows somebody needs to step up and be there for kids who need love, and guidance. The state for too long, was not stepping up.

Recently, I served as the master of ceremonies at the Council on American Islamic Relations annual banquet in Dearborn.

There, I met a family that had suffered an injustice at the hands of our state so terrible it was hard to believe it wasn’t a movie. Ahmed and Rehab Amer were Arab-Americans living a quiet life in suburban Detroit. But in nineteen eighty-five, their two-year-old son died after falling in the bathtub. The state immediately took their other kids away and charged Rehab, their mom, with negligence.

Governor Rick Snyder signed a law today to extend benefits for children who grew up in foster care after they turn 18 years old. The new law will allow foster kids to continue to receive a housing subsidy and health coverage until the age of 21, and to continue to work with foster care caseworkers.

The extended benefits will be available to young adults who are enrolled in college or job training, or working at least 80 hours a month.

The governor says Michigan owes it to children who would otherwise lose their support system when they become legal adults.

Foster kids who used to “age out” of the system at 18 years old will continue to get state financial support under legislation Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign tomorrow.

The measure is designed to help more college bound foster children maintain a support system after they become legal adults.

Jack Kresnak directs the advocacy group Michigan’s Children.

“The state is taking an important step forward to help the young people that we as a society have taken out of their parents’ care and placed in the state’s care succeed – this will help many, many more young people succeed,” Kresnak said.

The new law means young adults who grew up in foster care will continue to qualify for a housing subsidy and Medicaid health coverage. 

Kresnak said he would like to see the law amended in the future to give former foster kids who opt out of going to college a chance to change their minds and reenter the system. He said colleges and universities can also do more to help former foster kids succeed.

User Sagitariuss / Flickr

Children’s advocates and a federal judge have given Michigan another shot at fixing its foster care system. The plan was given the go-ahead today by a federal judge in Detroit.

The new agreement gives the state more time to hire and train caseworkers and  to get more children in foster care placed with permanent families.

The state also promised to pay more attention to older children in the system – especially those about to “age out” as they reach adulthood.

The state was out of compliance with an earlier agreement and this new decree represents a fresh start in an effort to resolve the five-year-old lawsuit. 

The consent agreement with the New York-based organization Children’s Rights was signed by Governor Rick Snyder and Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan – putting their credibility with the court on the line if the state fails to comply.

The first real test will come at the end of the year, when a court-appointed monitor files a report on the state’s progress in fixing its system for children in foster care.

Michigan will have to focus more of its efforts on finding homes for older children, and services for 18-year-olds who are about to age out of the child foster care system as part of a new court judgment. The new agreement is part of a five-year-old lawsuit against the state for its failures to place children in foster care with permanent families.

The Associated Press reports:

The state of Michigan and lawyers representing needy children have reached a new agreement on how to improve foster care and protective services.

A federal judge in Detroit approved the deal Monday. The state says it now gets more flexibility in complying with a 2008 consent decree. At that time, then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm pledged to spend millions to help children in foster care and protective services, but her administration repeatedly got poor marks.

The new agreement extends certain deadlines to reduce the number of caseloads per worker. About 1,300 child-welfare workers retired last year, forcing the state to go on a hiring and training blitz.

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A story by Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller about foster care expenditures went viral over the weekend, thanks to a post on Gawker. Gawker, it seems, caught wind of the story after the Michigan Messenger posted it.

The story deals with money that the state allocates to families to buy clothes for foster children.  

State Senator Bruce Caswell wanted to require foster families to purchase clothes at thrift stores like the Salvation Army and Goodwill.

From the original article:

Foster children in Michigan would use their state-funded clothing allowance only in thrift stores under a plan suggested by State Senator Bruce Caswell.

Caswell says he wants to make sure that state money set aside to buy clothes for foster children and kids of the working poor  is actually used for that purpose.

He says they should get "gift cards" to be used only at Salvation Army, Goodwill or other thrift stores.

"I never had anything new," Caswell says. "I got all the hand-me-downs. And my dad, he did a lot of shopping at the Salvation Army, and his comment was -- and quite frankly it's true -- once you're out of the store and you walk down the street, nobody knows where you bought your clothes."

The story originally aired on Friday, April 15. Since that time, we have received more than 270 comments - most people expressing their outrage over Caswell's proposal.

We received this comment from Sonja S. who says she was in foster care from ages 11-17:

Unfortunately, by demanding the money be spent in thrift stores, Mr. Caswell is doing emotional harm to the children. It doesn't matter what his motives are, the fact is that they're ill thought-out.

Senator Caswell said he received a lot calls after the story aired from people asking him to change his proposal.

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