Michigan Child Welfare System Update

June 4, 2015 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

Michigan Child Welfare System Widely Criticized

After years under court oversight, Michigan’s child welfare system has come a long way on the road toward improved functionality. But not far enough, it seems. According to court-appointed monitors, the state’s child welfare programs have not made sufficient progress to be removed from the care of the court.

In 2006, the state of Michigan was sued by the New York based group, Children’s Rights, and at the time, the state promised to make major changes. In 2008 the state’s child welfare system was placed under the watchful eye of the court, and three years later the agreement for major change was once again rewritten. And yet…

One of their major issues is the current computer system. The program is a critical part of how the system’s successes are measured and progress is documented. According to the New Jersey-based Public Catalyst, one of the organizations tasked with monitoring DHS, the system is full of bugs. As a result, it is difficult to collect accurate data for analysis.

In their follow-up on the computer software issues, Public Catalyst noted that users who had been trained before the software rollout had forgotten how to use the system by the time it was implemented.

The system itself also needed considerable updating and adjusting in order to be accurate. One of the largest areas of concern regarding the lack of data is the fact that for those monitoring the system, it is exceptionally hard to know whether goals are being met.

In the most recent report issued to the Honorable Nancy Edmunds of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, “DHS continues to expose hundreds more foster children to abuse and neglect in care than permitted by the Modified Settlement Agreement, and continues to lag far behind the majority of the states in protecting children from harm. DHS agreed in the MSA to perform at or above two national child safety standards established by the federal government, which DHS has not met.”

So while it is encouraging that changes are underway, it is disheartening to know that we are still not, all these years later, where we should be. Children are our greatest resource. We should treat them as such.