John Wisely, Detroit Free Press, February
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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