MDHHS names Demetrius Starling to head Children's Services Agency that oversees child welfare system; Long-time Michigan advocate for children and families will continue state's successful reform efforts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 22, 2021 

CONTACT: Bob Wheaton, 517-241-2112,  

LANSING, Mich. - Demetrius Starling, who has more than 20 years of experience protecting children and assisting their families, has been named the new executive director of the Children's Services Agency, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel announced today.

Beginning May 2, Starling will lead the agency that oversees the state's child welfare system, including Children's Protective Services, the foster care system that serves approximately 11,500 children, adoption services and juvenile justice programs.

"Demetrius Starling knows what it takes to protect the well-being of children by helping them stay with their families when it is safe and finding the most family-like settings for them when it's unsafe for them to return home," Hertel said. "He has a proven track record of success working in the child welfare system in both urban and rural communities. He is committed to diversity and equity and has the skills to continue the ongoing transformation of Michigan's child protection system."

Starling began working for what is now MDHHS in 2000, staring his career as a Children's Protective Services specialist in Wayne County. Currently he is the Children's Services Agency in-home services bureau administrator over prevention, preservation and protection programs.

Before that he was MDHHS county director for Sanilac and St Clair counties, local services division administrator in Genesee County, and a manager in Macomb, Wayne, Monroe and Lenawee counties.

As executive director, Starling will lead an agency that has reformed the state's child welfare system in the last two years by:

  • Investing in early intervention and prevention so that families can be assisted before children are at risk of imminent harm or need to be removed from their families.
  • Ensuring children are placed in family-like settings whenever possible and increasing monitoring of child-caring institutions where some children in foster care are placed so they are safe from harm.
  • Making great progress in better protecting children, resulting in praise from the federal judge overseeing the state's child welfare system and Children's Rights, the advocacy group that sued the state seeking improvements.

JooYeun Chang led the agency from May 2019 to February 2021 before leaving to work for the federal government. Stacie Bladen has been serving as interim executive director and will be retiring May 7 after more than 30 years in child welfare.

Starling also serves on the statewide Children's Services Agency Anti-Racism Transformation Team and Court Improvement Process Team and as its representative for the Michigan Action Plan for Father Involvement Advisory Group.

He has been an important part of putting together initiatives to promote diversity, equity and inclusion and to address human trafficking and in the Handle With Care program that alerts school officials when children have experienced trauma.

He earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Ferris State University and lives in West Bloomfield with his spouse and two teenage daughters.

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