89.1 WEMU

State Wants Out From Under Foster Care Settlement Agreement

Dec 2, 2014

MI asks federal judge to end oversight of child foster care

Credit wikimedia commons

Michigan wants out from under court-ordered oversight of the state's child foster care system. The state filed a motion Tuesday with the US District Court in Detroit to bring an end to the protracted litigation.

The class action lawsuit was filed in 2006 by the advocacy group Children's Rights. The court found high caseloads and too many kids who weren't finding permanent homes.

But Bob Wheaton of the Michigan Department of Human Services says now even the plaintiffs agree the state's made big strides in recent years.  He says Michigan spends $1.6 million dollars on compliance costs that could be used, instead, to directly improve services.

"We could do things like expand our family reunification program services, which are designed to avoid foster care placements. We could nearly double families served by our abuse and prevention programs. There are things like that."   

Children's Rights says the state has not fully complied with a settlement agreement, and, despite improvements, has an unacceptable safety record for children on foster care.

"Federal oversight must continue until the children of Michigan are safe," said Children's Rights attorney Sara Bartosz. "Anything short of this is unconscionable."

She says 152 children were abused or neglected in foster care during 2013 - which falls short of federal safety standards. She says Children's Rights will oppose the state's motion.

The state has asked the court to reduce its reporting obligations if it does not wrap up the case.