Court asks if DHS keeps kids in foster care safe
The state was back in court today so a federal judge could make sure the Department of Human Services is complying with a consent agreement having to do with Michigan's child welfare system. The agreement rose out of a 2008 lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Children's Rights over the number of children being abused or neglected while in foster care. In court, the judge relies in part on a report of how DHS is doing written by independent monitors. The report says the state has made significant improvements to its child welfare system, but that more improvements still need to made to keep children in the system safe from abuse and neglect in their foster homes or other placements. The state exceeded its goals in a couple of areas, like the number of kids being moved out of foster care to adoption. The report also says workers have smaller caseloads and are better trained. Still, a big concern for the monitors is the safety of kids in foster care or those living with relatives after being removed from their homes by DHS. The report says relative placements are very common but there isn't much oversight, and these families are often not well supported by the agency. The number of kids being hurt while in care is still much higher than monitors would like to see. About 1,500 kids were abused in care during the last monitoring period and monitors say DHS is still not getting to kids in danger quickly enough. The court is expected to continue monitoring DHS's progress in improving the child welfare system for the next few years.