Monday, December 13, 2010

Protecting Michigan's Children Without Addressing The Institute

Protecting kids: Child welfare efforts lag in Michigan

Left with a broken foster care system, Gov.-elect Snyder needs to fix it fast

Here's a priority Gov.-elect Rick Snyder likely didn't expect to be on the top of the stack when he takes over Jan. 1: The state's child welfare system is still failing, according to a federal monitor, and the new governor won't have a whole lot of time to fix it. Snyder's best approach would be to quickly build a working relationship with the monitor and the state judges and lawyers charged with protecting kids.

A Federal Court lawsuit by a New York-based child welfare watchdog organization, citing alarming deaths of children in Michigan's foster care system, resulted in a consent agreement with the Department of Human Services, which oversees foster care and adoption. The state agreed to fix what's wrong with the system.

It hasn't, and now Snyder must. The monitor recently issued a report saying the state is falling behind in meeting the consent decree's goals. The report cited overburdened child welfare caseworkers, too few foster homes and children remaining in foster care too long while they await adoption.

At one point, Children's Rights said it would seek a contempt order for the DHS, but Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds, who appointed the monitor, said she had received assurances from Snyder that he will deal with the issue promptly, and the contempt motion was shelved for now.

Attorneys in the case agreed to meet with DHS next month after Snyder takes office to work out plans to get the state back on track. The monitor said that while staffers in public and private child welfare agencies are working hard, "their best efforts are often undone by poor planning and a lack of coordination."

Of course, the state needs to do all it can to continue to repair the child welfare and foster care programs. One way it could do this is seeking more input from judges and lawyers who hear child welfare cases. That might be part of improving coordination.

For example, one provision of the 2008 consent decree is that grandparents, aunts and uncles who might care for children removed from their parents would have to receive a state license before they can serve as foster parents for their own relatives. Some local judges, who weren't named in the suit and weren't involved, privately noted that this might discourage the relatives from assuming the burdens of caring for the children, especially since they aren't paid.

The state Supreme Court, the Michigan Probate Court Judges Association, the Family Law Committee of the State Bar and others have been conducting numerous study groups on how to improve the handling of child welfare cases. They might have some useful advice for the DHS officials and the federal monitor on how to achieve the goals of the consent decree in a more cost-efficient and effective way.

No one involved in the system would argue that it can't be improved. The Snyder administration would do well to cast a wider net for help in making that happen.


Dismantle Michigan Children's Institute

Discussion and study groups only address one side of the issue and that is with delivery of service within the confines of the current structure of the child welfare system.
I will state, with the authority as an original source, that the ability of the State to come into compliance with the federal court agreement is tantamount to federal compliance in its administration.

The same individuals who are facilitating these discussions and studies are the ones who lack the knowledge to even admit that there is rampant fraud, waste and abuse in Michigan Child welfare.

Billions in Medicaid fraud, much in child welfare, is swept under the rug by these so-called groups who advocate for continuing the status quo of operations.

The New York group is pressing the court to rule on violations of the settlement agreement, not making improvements for children in foster care.

Not once has this New York group made the slightest of reference to one of the most powerful and pathetically operated foster care agencies within Department of Human Service, and that is Michigan Children's Institute and its all-powerful, omnipotent Superintendent Bill Johnson, a multi-billion dollar cover-up operation of all the horrors that goes on with children who are wards of the state.

Governor-elect Snyder needs to examine the powers of the Superintendent, as Bill Johnson will continue to wield more power than the Governor.

For decades, these interest groups have done nothing more that benefit at the expense of children and the taxpayers of Michigan.

The time has come to remove these pathetic administrators and directors who make pretty public statements that make the people feel all warm and fuzzy, whitewashing the festering hell-hole of a decrepit child welfare system philosophy.

Poverty is not child abuse and should not be considered as grounds for removal and placement in foster care, but it is in Michigan.

Contractually debar, revoke licenses, sanction, penalize with re-training, or even make them go to training, prosecute and recover. Do something to end this culture of fraud, waste and abuse in child welfare, otherwise the state will continue to pay enormous amounts in attorney fees at the expense of the freedom of children.

Start here: 

  • Dismantle Michigan Children's Institute;
  • Do not re-appoint Janet Olszewski, Verlie Ruffin or Ishmeal Ahmed;
  • Then terminate the upper echelon on DHS, including the entire Wayne County operations.

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