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Article of Interest - Michigan News

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Report Outlines Proposals for 'Aging' Foster Care Youth
Gongwer News Service, October 1, 2006

A plan to provide Medicaid health care coverage and immediate access to job training to young people who "age out" of the foster care system at age 18 was unveiled Monday by the Department of Human Services.

The 21-step proposal to the Legislature is aimed at helping fight the tendency that those young people have to become poor, homeless and unemployed. Included in the proposals is one that would allow those 18 or older to voluntarily remain in foster care after they have otherwise "aged out."

Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan said, in a release, that "many foster care youths face a bleak future after they age out, as both national and state statistics." An estimated 450 young people in foster care reach age 18 each year in the state, officials said.

The task force on the situation was convened in January by Ms. Corrigan and DHS Director Marianne Udow, and included a number of former foster-care youths. The 19-page report (PDF)  is available at the department's website.

The report says that most children are actually cared for by their parents for some years after they turn 18, but that youths in foster care often have to "make the transition into adulthood without parental support. Past experiences of trauma, neglect, abuse, and abandonment affect a foster youth's ability to face life's challenges without a loving family or an enduring connection."

And in a statement Ms. Udow said it is a "myth" to assume that a youth is ready for independence at 18.
The report recommends 21 different steps to help ease the transition those youths will face, including a website with information specifically geared towards those young people; automatic referrals to Michigan Works jobs centers; "seamless" Medicaid eligibility until age 21 and expanded dental care; easy access to critical documents like birth certificates; housing information and education; an easy way for schools to access records from different schools; and expanded financial support for secondary education.

Ms. Udow said the recommendations, if implemented, could help make a significant difference to the lives of foster care youth who age out of the system.

Dropout Numbers Not Always Verified
MIRS, September 28, 2006

Data used by state and federal policymakers to set education policy, and by parents in making location decisions, could very well be inaccurate, according to an audit released today.

A study done by the state's Auditor General of the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI) showed that the office has no power to ensure that the data it's receiving from school districts is accurate.

"As a result, federal agencies, the Legislature, the MDE, local school districts and parents that use this data to make education policy decisions and to evaluate individual schools' performance as well as the overall quality of education in Michigan cannot be assured that their decisions are based on accurate information," the report stated.

CEPI is the center that calculates annual graduation drop out rates for each high school, each district and the state in congruence with national standards.

After CEPI calculates the drop out rates, it reports the rates to the state Budget Director and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). The statistics are reported to the federal government and are then used in national statistics.

According to the Auditor General's report, the CEPI could not verify the accuracy of the data used in the calculations because it did not have the authority to review high schools' records and it also did not have the authority to withhold state aid payments for schools that failed to report the data or incorrectly reported the data.

The Auditor General went to 10 schools and reviewed the information the schools collected concerning drop out rates. The errors in CEPI's reporting rates ranged from a 0.6 percent overstatement (most accurate) to a 37.5 percent understatement (least accurate).

CEPI's reported dropout rates ranged from a 0.1 percent understatement (most accurate) to a 13.3 percent overstatement (least accurate) for the two school years reviewed, according to the report.

CEPI's inability to provide accurate drop out rates has also had an impact on schools' Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) reports, which is one indicator that schools use to see how a school is fairing on a national level.

In some cases, CEPI showed schools met AYP when a closer look at school records showed the schools had not made AYP. In other cases, CEPI showed schools hadn't met AYP when the schools actually had.

The Auditor General recommended that the CEPI seek out the authority to review high schools' records as well as the authority to withhold state aid from schools that don't turn in drop-out rates or turn in inaccurate rates. The idea is that this would allow the CEPI to really verify the process it uses to gather drop out information.

CEPI agreed with this recommendation and will seek legislation that will give it the authority to look at records and punish those that withhold the records.

CEPI also did not verify that schools claiming to have 100 percent graduation rates actually had 100 percent graduation rates, didn't perform analysis to see if schools increased or decreased graduation rates from year to year, did not perform searches to see if some of the kids who left one school went to another state school, and didn't check the systems that schools use to log their drop out data.

CEPI agreed to change these policies to make sure that the data collected is correct.

As a result of the "inaccurate" verifications of the information the drop out rates are based on, CEPI was moderately effective at calculating graduation rates, according to the Auditor General.

The Auditor General also released a financial audit of the Transition in the Office of State Treasurer. This audit can be viewed on the Auditor General's Web site.


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