Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cutting family preservation to fund foster care: Michigan children abandoned again?

    The group that so arrogantly calls itself Children's Rights was doing what it does best last week – promoting itself. They put out a press release and trumpeted the news all over Twitter. The message: Look how wonderful we are. There's a state that's cutting a vitally-important program to keep children out of foster care. But we have a consent decree in that state – so we're marching into court to stop them!

    The state was Connecticut.

    But CR also has a consent decree in Michigan. And under the "leadership" of Michigan Department of Human Services Director Ismael Ahmed, that state is cutting not one but a great many programs with proven track records for safely saving children from the anguish of needless foster care. As noted previously on this Blog, the independent court monitor for the consent decree says the cuts may violate the decree. Yet CR has not gone to court to stop these cuts. They've put out no press release. There hasn't even been a tweet.

    Why the difference?

    Perhaps it has something to do with which children are affected. The cut in Connecticut affected a program to help families who would have had to surrender their children to foster care in order to obtain mental health care for them. This is a huge problem nationwide, brought into stark relief by the Nebraska "safe haven" debacle. The proposed cut in Connecticut is, indeed, despicable. But these kinds of cases also are among the few times the long arm of child protective services reaches into the middle class.

    Or perhaps it has to do with where the money that is being cut is going. In Connecticut, it's just going to close a budget gap. In Michigan, some of the money is going to help fund CR's own settlement – in particular a foster care caseworker hiring binge. It's also going to help fund rate increases for agencies that institutionalize children.

    So perhaps it's just a matter of priorities.