Michigan continues to make significant progress under child welfare settlement - Report submitted to federal court today

Contact: Maura Campbell 517-243-7437

Detroit, Mich. Sept. 29, 2014 – The latest report under the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) modified settlement agreement with Children’s Rights, Inc. demonstrates the dramatic improvement MDHHS continues to make in its effort to improve child welfare services, an accomplishment a federal judge said represents “great progress.”

Areas in which Michigan has made significant progress include rate and timeliness of adoptions, decreased caseloads and improved staff qualifications and training. Through its juvenile guardianship assistance program, Michigan has also exceeded expectations every reporting period in assisting youth in gaining permanent homes.

The monitoring report was presented today in a public hearing before Judge Nancy Edmunds in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. All parties acknowledged the tremendous progress that has been made under the outstanding leadership of MDHHS Director Maura Corrigan over the last four years.

“What you have accomplished over the last four years is truly, truly incredible,” said Edmunds. “I have the greatest respect for what Director Corrigan has accomplished and the brutal hard work she has put in the last four years. I can’t say enough positive things” about the department’s improvement.

Michigan’s child welfare system has been under federal oversight since 2008. This is the fifth monitoring report to be filed since the agreement was signed in 2011 and measures progress made from July 2013 through December 2013. It does not reflect the most recent improvements to Michigan’s child welfare system.

The court-appointed federal monitors noted in their most recent report that MDHHS finalized 2,361 adoptions during this time – 320 more than the targeted goal. The department also exceeded the federal standards for timeliness of adoptions in 2013 and surpassed the federal standards for achieving permanent homes for children in foster care for extended periods during 2013. During this time MDHHS has significantly lowered caseloads, exceeding interim caseload targets for supervisors, Children’s Protective Services investigators and ongoing workers and meeting the final target for licensing workers.

Finally, monitors noted that 99 percent of 2,243 MDHHS child welfare caseworkers completed requisite in-service training, 100 percent of the 143 new caseworkers hired had a bachelor’s degree in social work or a related field and virtually all new workers completed pre-service training within 16 weeks of hire.

MDHHS was represented in court by John Bursch, who highlighted the department’s continued efforts to increase licensing in relative foster homes and to improve safety for all children in the system. He noted the substantial depth and breadth of system progress under Corrigan's leadership of MDHHS.

“Protecting children is at the heart of what we do and their welfare must always be front and center,” Corrigan said.

Corrigan reiterated the department’s firm and ongoing commitment to work relentlessly to improve child welfare and regain state oversight of the system.

The monitors also expressed thanks for Corrigan’s leadership and noted the progress that has been made since she became director. The monitors acknowledged that Michigan’s recent launch of the Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (MiSACWIS) as its data reporting system is going to be a valuable asset in the long run and address some of the reporting challenges Michigan has had historically.

As the result of a lawsuit filed by New York-based Children’s Rights, Michigan’s child welfare system came under federal oversight in 2008. In early 2011, shortly after Corrigan took the helm at MDHHS, she and her team renegotiated the original consent decree to focus more on outcomes and less on bureaucracy and process. The resulting modified settlement agreement took effect on July 18, 2011.

Children’s Rights attorney Sara Bartosz said she had much gratitude for what Corrigan has accomplished. “It’s enormous what you’ve done,” Bartosz said. “You have laid the foundation.”

To view the full report, along with earlier reports and the original modified settlement agreement, please visit: www.michigan.gov/ChildWelfareAgreement.