John Wisely, February 12, 2008, Detroit
State record keeping is so shoddy and investigations are so
superficial that children in Michigan's foster care system face
continuing danger of physical abuse, according to a report
compiled as part of a class action against the Michigan
Department of Human Services.
The findings come in the latest in a series of reports compiled
for Children's Rights, a national child-welfare advocacy group
suing the state over the way it treats children in foster care.
The suit is aimed at forcing the state to improve the system.
The most recent report, by John Goad, a child welfare official
in Nevada who specializes in child abuse investigations,
compared Michigan's child welfare managers to blindfolded bus
drivers, oblivious to the dangers they pose.
"Children who are placed in the custody of" the Michigan DHS
"because they were not safe with their families are highly
likely to be in danger in the very foster care system intended
to protect them," Goad wrote in his report.
State officials called the reports one-sided, noting the experts
who compiled them have been hired to do similar reports in other
lawsuits in other states.
"These reports that were authored by third parties selected and
paid by Children's Rights lack balance, overstate and generalize
findings from a biased, nonrepresentative sample of cases to
support the Children's Rights agenda," DHS spokeswoman Maureen
Sorbet said in a written statement.
"Although Children's Rights continues to attempt to litigate
this case in the court of public opinion, DHS will appropriately
reserve specific comments for the appropriate forum -- the
The federal lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in June in
Sorbet said the state would consult its own experts to provide
the court with a more balanced look at the system. She added
that the state is hiring more caseworkers and making other
improvements to the system.
In his report, Goad reviewed five cases during the past four
years in which children died in foster care. The cases involve:
. A 2-year-old boy beaten and burned to death in a foster home
that had been cited for maltreatment nine times before he was
. A 14-year-old girl diagnosed with depression who hanged
herself in foster care after the state failed to address her
mental health problems.
. A 15-month-old girl beaten to death while staying with her
mother and grandparents in foster care after suffering previous
abuse that resulted in a fractured skull and a burned foot.
. A 7-week-old boy who appeared to have suffocated from a pillow
on an adult bed.
. A 3 1/2 -year-old boy who died of head injuries in the foster
home of a woman found to have abused her own daughter the
"The system in Michigan is in dire need of reform," said Sara
Bartosz, an attorney for Children's Rights.
"The holes have been known and outside experts have identified
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