Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Foster care in Michigan: CR shows it still doesn’t get it

The group that so arrogantly calls itself Children's Rights made clear it still doesn't understand that children's most fundamental right is the right NOT to be taken needlessly from everyone they know and love, when there are better, safer alternatives.

Their press release yesterday in response to the report of the independent monitor overseeing the group's consent decree with the Michigan Department of Human Services focuses almost exclusively on the "back end" failings of DHS. They condemn DHS for failing to get more kids adopted – which is the only form of permanence CR really cares about – and for letting too many children "age out" of foster care with no permanence at all. And they condemn high caseloads.

Those are real failings. But those are the only failings CR highlights. There is only vague, mushy rhetoric about the budget cuts that further crippled the state's already weak efforts at prevention and family preservation. Indeed, the words "prevention" and "family preservation" don't appear in the press release at all. And there is no mention of what the report itself makes clear: The cuts violate the consent decree - which makes them illegal. Contrast this with Connecticut, where CR went into court to try to save one, and only one, kind of prevention program – a program that deals with one of the few instances in which the long arm of child protective services reaches into the middle-class.

And, of course, there is no mention at all of the mass expulsion of children from kinship care homes – presumably because it was CR's licensing obsession that caused it in the first place.

Check out the generally smart take on the monitor's report from the trade journal Youth Today (though I disagree with their view that the cuts are only due to the recession – in fact, the cuts are being used to fund a foster care caseworker hiring binge to meet terms of this very settlement, and to give rate increases to residential treatment centers.) Also, in Youth Today: A story about how Florida is succeeding by using the same waiver from federal funding rules that Michigan turned down.