The Michigan newspaper The Time Herald reported this week that DHS Makes Progress. Foster care is and should be a last resort. It is an option used only after a child’s biological parents cannot properly care for him or her and adult relatives are unavailable.
In an ideal world, fewer children would require foster care. In the world we live in, children in substantial numbers rely on this basic safety net.
About 4,000 Michigan children are in foster care, according to the state Department of Human Services. The goal is to see all of them adopted into safe, nurturing home with loving parents. The least any child in the foster system should expect, however, is that his or her welfare is upheld at all times.
The DHS is struggling to meet that requirement. In 2006, Children’s Rights, a New York advocacy group, sued the state for failing the children in its care.
Foster children, the lawsuit charged, were victims of a dysfunctional bureaucracy that neither ensured they were nurtured nor even kept track of them.
A consent agreement reached two years later confirmed the DHS was falling short of its mission. Case-workers were saddled with far more children than they were able to effectively monitor.
The department had no reliable numbers to confirm how many children entered and left the foster system. Worse, it was slow to respond to allegations of abuse and neglect.
The failings were evident at the end of 2010, but there is evidence now that the foster system is showing improvement. When representatives of the DHS and Children’s Rights met this month before U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds, they congratulated each other on the progress achieved.
The most important change is the hiring of 800 new child welfare caseworkers after the DHS had been weakened by a flood of early retirements.
The department also will spend $29.8 million on a new computer system that’s supposed to more effectively manage information about foster children.
Maura Corrigan bears much of the responsibility for the changes. Appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in January to lead the DHS, the former Michigan Supreme Court justice seems determined to make the state’s foster care system something upon which children can rely.
The reforms she initiated won the approval of Judge Edmunds and Children’s Rights, but Corrigan has more changes in mind. She might seek to separate child welfare from department next year.
“I personally would favor it,” she told The Detroit News. “It’s a grave concern to me that it’s an extremely difficult task to supervise both sides of Human Services.”
The DHS still faces a long road to making the quality and effectiveness of Michigan’s foster care system what they should be. At least the department has begun to show some progress, a sign of hope for children who depend on it. http://www.thetimesherald.com/article/20110722/OPINION01/107220326/DHS-makes-progress-foster-care?odyssey=nav%7chead
I ask you, is this really change or something that should have already been happening for years? Change to me, is putting money towards treatment to help foster parents and foster/adoptive children learn how to make healthy attachments to one another and exist together peacefully! Change is not just about placement, it’s about connecting!