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Last Updated: 10/31/2017
 

Foster Care Falls Short on Basics

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John Wisely, Detroit Free Press, February 6, 2008

The Michigan Department of Human Services failed to follow its own policies and to meet basic standards for care of foster children, according to court-appointed experts who reviewed hundreds of case files.

The report released Tuesday by the Children's Research Center said the state:

. Failed to run required checks on the homes of relatives where children were placed.

. Missed required visits to children.

. Bounced children from one foster home to another.

. Failed to keep adequate medical records for children.

The findings are in a study of 460 foster care case files; the study was conducted last fall as part of a lawsuit filed by Children's Rights, a national group. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmonds ordered the study to gauge the effectiveness of a system that handles more than 19,000 children.

"This report confirms problems that have been known to management of the Department of Human Services for some time," said Sara Bartosz, the lead lawyer in case. "Unfortunately, it took a lawsuit to get a report of this depth."

Bartosz said she expects the report to figure prominently in the group's lawsuit against the state. The group hopes to convince the judge to order the state to make changes to the system.

State officials said they don't typically comment on pending lawsuits, but they questioned the methodology of the report. This year's state budget funds 300 additional child-case workers, spokeswoman Maureen Sorbet said Tuesday in a statement.

The 2005 death of 7-year-old Ricky Holland in a foster-adoptive home near Williamston prompted changes in how the department monitors foster homes. Free Press reports after his death, and stories following the deaths of 2-year-old Isaac Lethbridge and 2-year-old Allison Newman in 2006, found some of the problems noted in the report.

"These new staff will provide additional opportunities to focus on efforts to improve outcomes for children and families and reduce caseloads," Sorbet's statement said. She was unavailable to answer questions Tuesday.

 

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