Michigan meets, exceeds federal goals for child welfare system

Vulnerable Michigan children are safer and are finding permanent homes more quickly through improvements to the state’s child welfare system, according to the U.S. Administration for Children and Families (ACF).

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has received a letter from the administration saying the state has now achieved all goals under a program improvement plan required by the federal government.

A wide range of improvements made by Michigan’s Children’s Services Agency are recognized in the letter from ACF Commissioner Rafael Lopez. The state’s Children’s Services Agency oversees protective services, foster care, adoption and juvenile justice systems.

“The successful completion of this program improvement plan is a milestone for both Michigan and ACF,” Lopez wrote. “It represents dedication and commitment from staff at every level.”

Michigan has been working on improving its child welfare and foster care programs since 2009, when federal officials said the state was not in compliance. When Snyder took office in 2011, he made improving the state’s child welfare system one of his top goals. Now that the state has succeeded in meeting the federal goals,
potential federal penalties of at least $2.8 million have been rescinded.

“I am proud of the progress that Michigan has made in taking care of children who have been abused and neglected,” Snyder said. “It is gratifying to know that the U.S. Administration for Children & Families has recognized the reforms we have implemented. We have more work to do, but there is no doubt that Michigan’s vulnerable children receive better services today than they did five years ago.”

The letter demonstrates that Michigan is succeeding in providing coordinated services to vulnerable children and families, said Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Children’s Services Agency.

“We want kids in the state’s child welfare system to  safely return to their homes or find a loving, permanent home through adoption if it’s determined it is not safe for them to be reunited with their parents,” Lyon said. “There are about 13,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system at any given time who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect.”

“Completion of the program improvement plan is a testament to the dedication and hard work of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency and its many partners,” said Steve Yager, executive director of the Children’s Services Agency.

“The Michigan child welfare community – which includes our staff, private child-placing agencies and the courts – has brought about major reforms. They work tirelessly to meet the unique needs of children and families all across Michigan.”