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State Supreme Court changes child welfare practice, says "one-parent" rule unconstitutional

Jun 3, 2014

Credit Matt Katzenberger / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a practice by the state's child welfare system is unconstitutional. 

Yesterday the State Supreme Court struck down a 12-year-old rule they said violated the constitution because it allowed the state to punish both parents for abuse or neglect of a child for whom only one parent was responsible, even when parents were not living together.

A person's right to raise their child without interference from the state – their "parental rights –" is constitutionally protected.

"Before, the state could put a child in foster care for what just one parent did," says Vivek Sankaran, who argued the case against the state. "Now the state has to make findings against both parents before it can take a child away and put them in foster care."

Sankaran hopes having a hearing for each parent will give courts better information about the issues in each family so they can make a decision most likely to keep a child safe.

That place might be with a parent, even a less-than-perfect one, because the state's foster care system still has systemic problems including lack of support for kids and abusive placements.

Michigan's foster care system is under a court-appointed monitor for these issues and is said to be improving. There are about 13,000 kids in the system right now.