An advocacy group for kids says a court-ordered report shows Michigan has a long way to go before it can guarantee the safety and welfare of children in foster care.
The monitors report says problems include the state not doing background checks on many relatives who take in foster kids, and not investigating credible allegations of abuse or neglect.
“That’s just unacceptable this many years in and can open real safety problems for kids,” says Sara Bartosz, an attorney with the group Children’s Rights, which initiated the lawsuit 11 years ago.
“The court monitors looked at some of these homes, and found homes with guns that were not stored and ammunition nearby,” she says. “They found homes where parents were smoking marijuana in the presence of the kids. Just bad stuff.”
Bartosz says reports over a telephone tipline of children being beaten also went uninvestigated by the state.
She says compliance with an earlier agreement has been hard to track in some areas because the state is not collecting and reporting necessary data.
A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services acknowledged continue problems with data collection, but says improvements are being made.
DHHS released a statement that the report shows greats strides in improving the foster care system and is on a path to be released from supervision by the US District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds.
“When Judge Edmunds approved the exit plan 16 months ago, we were pleased because this demonstrated the great progress Michigan had made for our children and because it gave us the opportunity to devote even more resources to prioritize the most important child safety and well-being outcomes,” said MDHHS Director Nick Lyon. “The latest monitoring report shows that we made significant strides in the early months under the new agreement. We have made further improvements since June 2016 that don’t show up in this report.”
Representatives of Children’s Rights and the state will meet later this month to work out details of how the state will continue to improve services for foster kids.