Michigan Department of Human Services child abuse and neglect prevention pilot program benefits Metro Detroit families
Five local health and human service agencies help strengthen families

Contact: Edward Woods III, Office of Communications director, (517) 373-7394

Sept. 27, 2010

DETROIT - Michigan Department of Human Services Director Ismael Ahmed today announced five Metro Detroit health and human service agencies are recipients of a department contract to provide services under a more than $6 million child abuse and neglect prevention program piloted in five urban communities.

Lutheran Social Services of Michigan, Spaulding for Children, the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS), Spectrum Child and Family Services, and the Oakland County Health Department will provide services to Metro Detroit families that are designed to prevent abuse and neglect of children ages birth to 18, strengthen families and prevent them from entering the child welfare system.

"It is a top priority that children remain with their birth parents when they can provide safe, loving and stable homes," Ahmed said. "These agencies will provide services that will ultimately give parents the tools they need to parent children safely."

The pilot program will specifically include home visits where caseworkers will develop a treatment plan with families in Dearborn, Detroit, Pontiac, Flint and Grand Rapids. Additionally, the program will include parent education on budgeting, nutrition and child management; and in-home family counseling.

"Every family needs support at some time in their lives," said Addie D. Williams, president and chief executive officer of Spaulding for Children. "Often, the only difference between a parent that abuses or neglects a child and one that does not is the support provided at a strategic moment and the access to needed resources.

"We want to be that support and help facilitate access to those resources."

Skillman Foundation President and CEO Carol Goss echoed that sentiment.

"The Skillman Foundation's mission is to improve the lives of children by strengthening their schools and their neighborhoods," Goss said. "In order to be successful, we need lots of partners like the Department of Human Services, and families with children need lots of resources. Together, we believe we can make a difference for children."

The pilot program announcement was made as part of the department's "Helping Families 101: Get ready 2 learn" statewide campaign that focuses on the combined efforts of DHS and its partners to meet families' needs so children can focus on learning.

"We can - and do - provide many more resources and support to meet families' needs so children can concentrate on learning," Ahmed added.

For example, Ahmed also announced that a Family Resource Center will open soon at the John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy in Detroit. Family Resource Centers serve as a "one stop shop" for family services located within or near a neighborhood school. They are placed there to coordinate services according to the goals developed and shared by the family, community, school and other agencies involved.

Family Resource Centers provide all DHS services, including school-based parent involvement programs and access to mental health services, therapy and other services in agreement with local partners. The goal is to decrease student school behavior problems, absenteeism and truancy, and increase parental participation and academic performance.

There are currently 49 Family Resource Centers operating statewide.

The Helping Families 101 campaign also focuses on child safety in their dating relationships.

As many as one-third of high school and college-aged youth experience violence in an intimate relationship during their dating years. And, women between 16- and 24-years-old are the most vulnerable to intimate partner violence.

The YWCA/Interim House Metro Detroit is a resource for educators and the community, said Glenda Cook, the organization's victim advocate coordinator.

"It is important for youths, who are between 12- to 18-years-old, to receive information to help them recognize the warning signs of dating violence," Cook said. "That information equally helps others like educators and family members, who suspect a youth is in a violent relationship, understand the impact of being a teenager in a violent relationship."

Additionally, the campaign strives to educate families about another significant safety net: Child support. In fiscal year 2008, 567,000 children were entitled to receive child support. Of those, 70 percent received payments with an average monthly payment of $246, said Marilyn Stephen, director of the DHS Office of Child Support.

"Child support is an extremely important safety net that children deserve," Stephen said. "Child support is 30 percent of household income for poor families who receive child support. Although people are struggling in this economy, studies show that child support affects child well-being in many ways.

"Children who receive child support do better in school and experience less child poverty."

Follow DHS on Twitter @MichiganHHS or become a fan at www.facebook.com/MichiganHHS.