Michigan Department of Human Services receives $3.5 million for increasing adoptions from foster care
Federal award is a testament to commitment from DHS staff and partners

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

Sept. 23, 2010

EAST LANSING - The Michigan Department of Human Services will receive $3.5 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for increasing the number of children adopted from foster care in 2009 - the largest award of this kind in the department's history, DHS Director Ismael Ahmed said today.

"All children deserve a safe, loving and stable home. And, in the past year, 3,030 children - more than ever before - found that home when they were adopted from the foster care system," Ahmed said. "This really is a perfect example of what we can accomplish when we work with our partners in the courts, private providers and others in the child welfare system to ensure children reach permanency."

Michigan was among 37 other states and Puerto Rico that received the incentive award; Michigan received more money than any other state, with the exception of Texas and Florida. The 2009 incentive will be used to increase support services for adoptive parents; train adoption workers and supervisors on national best practices in recruitment and retention of adoptive parents; and other system improvements identified in collaboration with DHS' private partners and adoptive families.

States receive $4,000 for every child adopted beyond their best year's total, plus a payment of $8,000 for every child 9 and older, and $4,000 for every child with special needs adopted above the respective baselines. The year 2007 is the baseline.

"This federal award signifies that Michigan has made great strides toward moving children out of foster care and into permanent homes," Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura D. Corrigan said. "Without this effort, many more Michigan children would languish in foster care until age 18 or 19, then would be on their own without the love and support of a family. These young people who 'age out' of foster care are at tremendous risk: they are far more likely to be unemployed, poor, and homeless than those who grow up in a family. They are also far more likely to be either perpetrators or victims of crime. So each permanent placement is a tremendous victory for the child, the family and the community."

Corrigan added: "This significant increase in permanent placements would not have been possible without the hard work and cooperation of all the counties involved in the Adoption and Permanency Forum, which Director Ahmed and I started in 2008. This is truly a team effort by the courts, DHS offices, private agencies and others."

The Adoption and Permanency Forum is comprised of 23 counties with the largest adoption dockets; the goal is expediting permanent adoptive family placements for those children waiting the longest. Each county has a team that includes court members, children and public and private child welfare workers who review cases awaiting adoption and make recommendations to improve timeliness.

Additionally, DHS joined a year-long national campaign to recruit foster and adoptive parents. The theme of this year's campaign is "Answering the call: You don't have to be perfect to be a perfect parent." It is designed to appeal to families willing to provide safe, loving and stable homes for children in need.

Kathryne O'Grady, DHS Children's Services Administration director, said DHS and its partners have made significant progress in reforming the state's child welfare system, including lowering worker caseloads, reuniting children with their families, finding permanent homes when that's not possible, and expanding and enhancing services to children and families.

"Our children's services team truly cares about the lives of the children in the child welfare system, and we couldn't have achieved these outcomes without their extraordinary efforts," O'Grady said. "Our goal is that the children who come to us can exit the foster care system better off than when they entered.

"We have made great progress and continue our strong commitment to make the system even better so we can improve the lives of children in Michigan's foster care system."

Ahmed reiterated that DHS' strong partnership with private child welfare agencies was instrumental in this success.

"This is great news for DHS, its partners but, most importantly, Michigan's children," he said.

Orchard's Children's Services, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Williams agreed.

"During these difficult times we often forget what is important and why we are here. This is not the case in Michigan," Williams said. "The greatest gift to a child is a happy family. Each day in partnership with DHS, we work to have children reunited with family or find a home for a child who has no parent."

Of the 15,369 children currently in foster care, almost 3,700 are available for adoption because they are state or court wards after their parents' rights were terminated by a court due to abuse or neglect.

For more information about foster care and adoption, please visit DHS' website at www.michigan.gov/fostercare, and www.michigan.gov/adoption. Follow DHS on Twitter@MichiganDHS or become a fan at http://www.facebook.com/michiganhhs.