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Michigan to keep kids safer by embedding family resource specialists with child protection staff to connect Michiganders to resources

Risk of maltreatment drops as families have greater access to food, childcare aid

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will keep children at risk of neglect safer by making sure their parents are connected to department programs that can meet their basic needs.

MDHHS is announcing the Family Impact Teams project, which embeds family resource specialists with child protection and foster care staff to so they can support families in applying for benefits such as food assistance and Medicaid and connect them to other economic supports. The first phase of the project begins this month.

“Many families that come to the attention of the child protection system need help with providing their children with housing, food, health care coverage, quality childcare and other necessities so that they can be safe and healthy,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “Our family resource specialists can immediately connect them to the resources they need so their families can stay together safely. We must help families who love their children but struggle to meet their needs due to economic instability.”

Family Impact Teams are part of MDHHS’s Keep Kids Safe Action Agenda, the department’s ongoing efforts to improve the safety and well-being of Michigan children.

Family resource specialists will engage with families face-to-face, determine their eligibility for assistance programs offered by MDHHS, and refer them to other local agencies that can provide them with resources to meet the families’ needs.

“One of MDHHS’s top priorities is to remove barriers to family success,” said Lewis Roubal, chief deputy director for opportunity. “Providing additional supports to the families of at-risk children will keep them safer.”

The first phase of the project is in the following counties: Allegan, Barry, Chippewa, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Luce, Mackinac, Oakland, Sanilac, St. Clair and Wayne. The second phase of the project will roll out statewide throughout 2024.

There are 19 Family Impact Teams family resource specialists who are currently being trained.

“When family resources specialists visit parents along with Children’s Protective Services or foster care staff, we will provide positive support to families in need by ensuring they have access to economic resources which will help to remove financial barriers. Working with Children’s Services staff, we can provide families the support they need to remain together or the support they need for reunification,” said Amethia Sellers, who will be one of the new embedded specialists in Wayne County. “Having been a part of the foster care system as a child, I had an amazing social work team who made a difference in my life and I too want to have that same impact in the lives of others who are experiencing barriers within their lives.”

Sellers has worked for the department as an eligibility specialist for more than three years. She applied for the new position because she is excited to work with families in children services and has a background servicing children in foster care.

The Family Impact Teams approach strengthens collaboration between MDHHS’s Economic Stability Administration – which provides public benefits such as food assistance and Medicaid – and its Children’s Services Administration, which protects children and provides services to their families.

Providing childcare subsidies decreases child neglect by 31%, according to a study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, while referring homeless families to permanent housing decreases foster care placement by 50% and connecting families to food assistance decreases child maltreatment by 11%.

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