Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Michigan explained

From the alternative weekly in Detroit, Metro Times: an excellent story about one case that typifies the failures of child welfare in Michigan and nationwide.

This is the kind of case that workers see all the time; one of those "in-between cases," where there are real problems, but nothing that couldn't be fixed without resorting to foster care, let alone termination of parental rights.

And there is plenty of context about Michigan child welfare in general. I have to admit, I particularly like this part:

"Our position is that Mr. Wexler's reports [on Michigan child welfare] contain inaccurate, inflammatory information about Michigan's efforts to protect children while ignoring the strides taken to protect their safety," contends Colleen Steinman, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Human Services.

However, the department, when asked specifically about budget numbers reported by Wexler, didn't directly dispute any of his reporting.

What DHS did do, of course, as always, was to blame its budget cuts on the economy. But DHS never explains why it was slashing funding for family preservation long before the current budget crisis. DHS never explains why it turned down the waiver Florida got, a waiver that would have cushioned the blow of the recession on funding available for child welfare. Nor does DHS explain why, in spite of the economy and the budget deficit, the savings from these cuts are being plowed right into increases in rates for residential treatment centers and other institutions and a foster care worker hiring binge that is not, in fact, required by the state's class-action lawsuit settlement.

Meanwhile, the group that brought the lawsuit leading to that settlement, the group that so arrogantly calls itself "Children's Rights" continues to sit on its hands, taking no action to prevent the cuts.

NCCPR's reports on Michigan child welfare are available here.