Bills aim to expedite adoption process for foster kids

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly and state Department of Human Services Director Maura D. Corrigan are urging legislators to approve bills that they say will streamline the adoption process for children in foster care.

The passage of these bills could pave the way for expedited placement in qualified, permanent homes for more than 1,100 children, according to the two.

Currently, the only person authorized to approve adoptions for children in foster care is the Michigan Children’s Institute (MCI) superintendent.

Since April 2010, the MCI superintendent has received 1,100 such cases for approval.

Under the bills, the MCI superintendent — the legal guardian for children committed to MCI when parental rights have been terminated — may authorize a designee to provide written consent to the adoption, marriage, guardianship or emancipation of MCI wards.

The designee would be allowed to authorize adoption requests where the child is already living in the recommended adoption home and a review by a caseworker and supervisor has determined there are no concerns about the placement.

Kelly said her experience as a family court judge convinced her that the bills are needed.

“No matter how good a job the MCI superintendent does, he or she is only one person, and it is simply unrealistic to expect one person to perform in-depth reviews of hundreds of these cases each year,” Kelly told legislators last week.

While finding a permanent, loving home for children in foster care is a key mission for DHS, Corrigan said the expedited process will not sacrifice due diligence in the examination of potential adoptive families.

The department will be systematic, careful and considerate when determining who will be named as a designee, Corrigan told members of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services committee.

“The best place for a child is in a stable, permanent home,” she said. “That is our goal for each of the 4,150 children in foster care available for adoption. Joining a family should not be delayed because only one person in the entire state can authorize a child’s adoption or guardianship.”

Sen. Judy K. Emmons, chair of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services Committee, said the legislation “is about putting the best interests of children first.”

“Placing a child in a home can be a stabilizing and nurturing force in their life, setting up a foundation for growth into adulthood,” she said. “I look forward to working with the department and the judicial branch to achieve this reform.”

The proposal is part of the department’s strategic plan to reform the child welfare system, Corrigan said.

She said the DHS has made significant progress, along with its private agency providers and partners in the court system, including providing in-home services and support to foster care children with serious emotional needs.

Among the bills’ supporters is the Michigan Probate Judges Association, according to Corrigan.

In a letter sent recently to Emmons, Midland County Probate Court Chief Judge Dorene Allen, who is chair of the MPJA’s Juvenile and Adoption Issues Committee, said the legislation “will facilitate the permanency of children in the abuse and neglect system, certainly a goal we can all agree upon.”
 

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