Michigan DHS gets positive review

LANSING, June 25, 2012 – As the Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) continues implementing its vision for child welfare in the state, the department received welcome news in the form of a positive report from the monitors measuring DHS compliance with the federal child welfare modified settlement agreement (MSA). The MSA reflects many of the department’s key initiatives. Substantial compliance with its measurements will eventually allow DHS to move to state – rather than federal – oversight.

After hearing from DHS, the plaintiffs’ attorney and the federal monitors, presiding Judge Nancy Edmunds said: “I can’t say enough good things about Gov. Snyder and the team he put together. It is a different day – a different mindset.”

The monitors highlighted several significant DHS accomplishments in their report:

The extension of foster care to age 21.
Health insurance for foster youth transitioning to adulthood.
Post-secondary education support for foster youth transitioning into adulthood.
Establishment of a statewide centralized phone number for reporting child abuse and neglect.
The hiring of more than 700 child welfare workers.
University in-service, graduate-level courses for children’s protective services workers and adoption workers.
Immediate action for children with a goal of guardianship.
Resolution of issues surrounding the licensure of relative foster care homes.

“We are fully focused on implementing our vision for child welfare in Michigan, including returning our system to state oversight,” said DHS Director Maura D. Corrigan. “We realize that there will be challenges going forward as the metrics become increasingly aggressive. Our commitment to the children of Michigan, however, is unwavering.”

As part of Michigan’s Child Welfare Reform initiative, DHS had already put measures in place for improvement on items cited as not having reached full compliance long before the report was submitted. Among the areas cited, along with DHS’s improvement measures:

Safety outcomes/absence of maltreatment recurrence: DHS launched an eight-county pilot in April 2012 requiring frontline child welfare supervisors to accompany their assigned workers at least once per quarter to ensure the needed skill level and rapport with families. Mentoring programs and enhanced training have also been established.
Safety outcomes/absence of child abuse or neglect in foster care: In addition to a key statutory amendment protecting children from individuals listed on the central registry, DHS has also instituted statewide Maltreatment in Care (MIC) units that house children’s protective services workers who specialize in the investigation and prevention of maltreatment in foster care.
Foster home visits: DHS has worked with its private agency partners in the development of new compliance review processes. These processes will be implemented by July 2012.
Several of the noncompliant areas were data-driven. The limitations of the current Services Worker Support System (SWSS) data program will be eliminated with the 2013 launch of the new Web-based State Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS).

Michigan’s child welfare system came under federal oversight on Oct. 24, 2008 as a result of a lawsuit filed by New York-based Children’s Rights. Shortly after taking the DHS helm in January 2011, Corrigan began renegotiating the consent decree to focus less on bureaucracy and more on outcomes. The MSA took effect on July 18, 2011. The report filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan today is the first monitoring report of the MSA.

To view the full report and the MSA, visit www.michigan.gov/ChildWelfareAgreement.

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