Poorly conducted interviews of children may result in implanted memories for a child, or adults failing to consider the child's disclosure of the actual abuse. The Department of Human Services (MDHHS) initiated development of the Forensic Interviewing Protocol, and the Task Force worked with the MDHHS and Debra Poole, Ph.D., of Central Michigan University, to develop the protocol. It is intended to be used in conjunction with the investigation protocol developed in 1993 by the Task Force. The goal of Michigan's Forensic Interviewing Protocol is to obtain a statement from a child in a developmentally-sensitive, unbiased, and truth-seeking manner, that will support accurate and fair decision-making in the criminal justice and child welfare systems.
Subsequent to the development of the protocol, the Michigan Child Protection Law (CPL) was amended to require its use when interviewing children during CPS investigations.
The Forensic Interviewing Protocol has been revised twice since it was created. The most recent revisions were completed in October of 2017. The Protocol is being trained statewide. MDHHS provides forensic interview training to new CPS workers. In addition to the training MDHHS provides, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) provides cross-professional training for CPS workers, law enforcement and prosecutors.
Click here to view the Forensic Interviewing Protocol.
There has been an annual Summit sponsored by the Task Force since 1995. There have been approximately 300 attendees including judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law enforcement, agency staff and other child welfare advocates each year. The themes have varied over the years on issues related to child welfare. The topic each year is chosen in response to needs and interests expressed by key professionals who attend the Summit, or may be reflective of concerns brought to the attention of the Task Force.
Under the Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the United States Congress mandated states receiving CAPTA funding establish a minimum of three Citizen Review Panels to assess and develop recommendations for the improvement of a state’s child protection system. This specific panel, the Citizen Review Panel for Children’s Protective Services, Foster Care, and Adoption (CRP), have held numerous panel discussions throughout the state of Michigan to facilitate discussion in regard to primary and secondary trauma. This panel has spoken to individuals involved in the child welfare system, including, but not limited to, foster care workers, child protective services worker, foster parents, children who have aged out of foster care, and law enforcement officers. Throughout the two-year project, this committee focused on how to improve child welfare services in Michigan for all those involved by addressing primary and secondary trauma.
Currently, this committee is focusing on identifying the gaps in ensuring safety for children of substance impaired parents/caregivers post birth. To do this, the committee is working to address systematic concerns regarding Plans of Safe Care.
To learn more about the activities of the Citizen Review Panels, view the 2014 Annual Report.
Training & Development for Child Welfare Professionals
The Task Force, through MDHHS, developed an interagency agreement with the State Court Administrative Office, Child Welfare Services Division (SCAO-CWS) to provide training to child welfare professionals through established, and to-be-developed curricula, training modules, conferences, interactive webinars and video presentations; and to write, print, distribute, and implement protocols, resource guides, practice manuals and other materials related to such training. The target audience for training opportunities includes Parent Attorneys, Lawyer Guardians Ad Litem (LGAL), Prosecutors, Jurists, Children’s Protective Services (CPS) Specialists, Foster Care Specialists, Private Agency Caseworkers, and Tribes. All activities provided by the interagency agreement are approved by the GTF Training Committee. In FY2015, SCAO-CWS provided 55 child welfare training programs with a total of 2,662 attendees. The information below presents details of the child welfare training opportunities offered by SCAO-CWS through the interagency agreement.
In FY2015, SCAO-CWS began implementation of the L-GAL “Boot Camp” curriculum. This training provides basic training specific to those attorneys representing children in child protective proceedings. L-GALs must fulfill certain statutory duties over the course of their representation. The training reviews the statutory requirements in detail and provides participants with practical strategies to fulfill their responsibilities. L-GALs also learn child development principles and MDHHS policy regarding issues of placement and parenting-child visitation. The L-GAL “Bootcamp” training is offered several times during the year at multiple locations throughout the state.
Parent Attorney Training
The Parent Attorney Training provides a comprehensive overview of the procedural rights given to parents by statutes, court rules, case law, and MDHHS policies. The training reviews the major decisions that must be made in a child protective case (e.g., removal, creation of a service plan, termination of parental rights) and discusses ways parents’ lawyers can use the law to protect their client’s rights. Attorneys also learn how to preserve issues for purposes of appeal.
Child Welfare Essentials and Reasonable Efforts Advocacy
SCAO-CWS provides this training at several locations throughout the state for caseworkers and attorneys. The training provides participants with an overview of the legal process and procedures for child protective proceedings, MDHHS policy requirements for case practice, and child development principles. In addition, the training allows for discussion amongst varying child welfare professionals to increase collaboration and knowledge building.
Testifying in Court for Non-Lawyers
This training is offered several times during the year in several locations throughout the state. The morning portion of this full-day training features the components of witness testimony and courtroom hearing procedures. Through group discussion and mock trial practice exercises, the afternoon portion helps caseworkers develop and expand their courtroom presentations and improve their ability to testify effectively. The training focuses on the roles and responsibilities of adoption, foster care, and protective services workers as they relate to child protective proceedings. The training explains the importance of being prepared and how preparedness improves courtroom performance. The dos and don’ts of testifying in court, including courtroom demeanor and the substantive elements of effective testimony, are presented during the training.
Handling the Indian Child Case
Cases involving identified Indian Children are subject to additional legal requirements under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA). This training provides participants with a nuts and bolts understanding of the legal requirements of the acts, as well as a detailed review of the role of a Qualified Expert Witness (QEW) in those cases. The training is typically offered twice a year.
New Jurist Training
SCAO-CWS provides training to jurists (i.e., judges and referees) who are newly assigned to handle a child welfare docket. This training provides an overview of state and federal laws, Title IV-E funding requirements, and includes a mock case scenario exercise utilizing judicial bench cards and model court orders.
Title IV-E Refresher Training
SCAO-CWS and the MDHHS Office of Federal Compliance (FCD) conduct joint training programs on Title IV-E requirements. The training includes an overview of state and federal Title IV-E laws and regulations, court rules, MDHHS policy, and required court findings. The training is conducted jointly to re-enforce the collaborative message and answer questions related to MDHHS. Counties may request this training by contacting SCAO. This format provides a unique opportunity for the Court and the County MDHHS Office to attend a local training together and hear a unified message from State level leadership. It is also a productive opportunity for the Court and County MDHHS Office to problem-solve on any barriers in their local processes, and establish new relationships. The participants of these trainings often include Judges, Referees, Court Administrators, Court Clerks, Registers, MDHHS Directors, MDHHS Supervisors, MDHHS Caseworkers, Child Welfare Funding Specialists, the Prosecutor, and the Tribes.
Multi-Disciplinary Training Opportunities
SCAO-CWS offers multi-disciplinary trainings to address the needs and commonly-occurring issues that must be addressed by all child welfare professionals. The following multi-disciplinary trainings were offered in FY 2015: Secondary Trauma and Self Care for Child Welfare Professionals, Educational Issues in Child Welfare, Engaging and Working with Incarcerated Parents, Trends in Child and Family Services Drug Testing, The Trauma of Disruption, Domestic Violence in Child Welfare, Mental Health Issues in Child Welfare, Child Development Issues, Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Issues, and Cultural Competency. The following programs will be offered throughout FY2016: Implicit Bias and Making Quality Decisions, Child Development, Mental Health Issues in Child Welfare, and Sexual Abuse. In addition, the GTF annual conference will focus on human trafficking issues. The trainings are offered in different locations throughout the state in an effort to provide accessible training to all child welfare professionals.
Provision of Social Worker Continuing Education Units (CEUs)
Michigan law requires licensure for bachelors and masters level social workers. Included in the licensure requirements are certain amounts and types of continuing education and training. To enhance the ability of child welfare workers to receive appropriate training hours as part of their work responsibilities, and to provide an incentive to attend trainings, SCAO-CWS provides CEUs at no cost to the participants for select trainings. SCAO-CWS has been accepted by the National Association of Social Workers, Michigan Chapter, as a provider of social work CEUs.
Michigan Child Welfare Training Clearinghouse
During 2015, SCAO-CWS developed the Michigan Child Welfare Training Clearinghouse. The Child Welfare Training Clearinghouse is designed to provide a central location for child welfare training opportunities across the State of Michigan from all of the primary training providers. The training clearinghouse will ensure coordination of training topics and collaboration among training providers. The current training providers include: Children’s Trust Fund, MDHHS Office of Workforce Development and Training, MDHHS University In-Service, Michigan Federation for Children and Families, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan Child Abuse Training Services, and State Court Administrative Office. Additional training providers are welcome to submit information for the clearinghouse.
Visit the Michigan Child Welfare Training Clearinghouse at courts.mi.gov/cwtraining.
The Task Force takes an active interest and position regarding the video recording of child forensic interviews as a means for reducing trauma and re-victimization of child victims. The Task Force organized a committee to explore the pros and cons of video recording. A successful child interview video recording pilot was conducted by the Task Force, determining that more cases resulted in a plea being entered to the original criminal charge if the interview was video recorded. It was also found that a higher percentage of criminal cases were disposed of with a plea being entered prior to trial when the child's interview was video recorded. In March 2003, Michigan laws were changed to ensure confidentiality of video recorded statements. In 2006, the Task Force passed a resolution stating, "The Governor's Task Force on Child Abuse and Neglect supports as a best practice the video recording of investigative forensic interviews of sexually abused children at child advocacy centers or similar program." The Task Force has continued to closely follow pending legislation related to video recording of child interviews.
In 2002, the "Munchausen By Proxy-A Collaborative Approach to Investigation, Assessment and Treatment" protocol was developed by the Governor's Task Force. It encompassed the responsibilities, and establishes guidelines for each discipline that would be involved in this type of investigation. The task force funds the development, distribution and training of this protocol.
In 2013, a committee of the task force completed updates to this protocol, newly titled "Medical Child Abuse: A Collaborative Approach to Identification, Investigation, Assessment and Intervention." The new protocol identifies an updated multidisciplinary approach to handling Medical Child Abuse investigations.
Professionals who may find this protocol useful include the court, law enforcement, medical staff, CPS workers, attorneys and psychologists.
Click here to view the Medical Child Abuse guide.
The Task Force has granted partial funding for the publication, printing, and quarterly distribution of the Child Welfare Law Journal for several years. The Journal focuses on an interdisciplinary approach to child welfare. The Journal's content revolves around practice issues and is distributed to professionals working in the field of child welfare including social workers, MDHHS county office staff, attorneys, psychologists, and medical professionals among others.
The Task Force has always made their publications available to the public, free of charge, in order to further their mission of improving the investigative, administrative and judicial handling of cases of child abuse and neglect in Michigan. In March 2010, the Task Force received a request from the State of Maine asking permission to use Michigan's Forensic Interviewing Protocol as a basis to create an interviewing protocol specific to their state. Maine was the first state to formally adopt Michigan's forensic interviewing model, although the Task Force is aware that the Federal Bureau of Investigations also uses Michigan's protocol during investigations involving children. In April of 2010, the Task Force, along with MDHHS, granted permission to Maine to use Michigan's protocol. Since that time, personnel from Michigan have continued to work with Maine to create and update their protocol and training curriculum.
In September of 2010, the State of Nevada requested that personnel from Michigan train forensic interviewing of children using Michigan's protocol as the training curriculum. The Task Force, along with MDHHS and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, helped to facilitate training to meet Nevada's needs and supplied Nevada with hard copies of the protocol. Nevada has previously used Michigan's Forensic Interviewing Protocol to train their children's protective services investigators, law enforcement personnel and prosecutors in child interviewing.