Child Protective Services

Nancy Sims / Flickr

Michigan’s foster care system is the sixth-biggest in the country, with more than 13,000 kids around the state. The system has been plagued by problems over the last several years. 

Court monitors, appointed after the state was sued over the treatment of children in its foster care system, say the system has improved over the past few years, but it still falls short when it comes to keeping kids safe.

The court has also said the state needs to reduce the time children are in the system while they wait to be adopted or reunited with their families.

For every one of these 13,000 kids, there is a specific story behind what landed them in foster care in the first place or how their life unfolded afterward. The same can be said of their parents or the adults who stand in for parents. Many of these adults can feel just as trapped in the system as the children.

Vanessa Moss is one of those adults.  She had guardianship of some of her grandchildren for years. In all, she took care of four of her grandchildren. She stepped in because the children’s mother, Moss' daughter, has had serious mental and physical health issues.

When Moss began caring for her grandchildren, she didn't know much about, or want much to do with the child welfare system.  

"I don’t want my grandkids in the system." Moss says tearfully. "The only thing I wanted to do for my daughter was keep her kids all together."  

Michigan League for Public Policy

Child abuse and neglect appear to be increasing in Michigan. A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy says more than 33,000 children in Michigan were victims of abuse or neglect in 2011. That’s an 18 percent increase compared to 2005.

There is a dispute over the exact size of the increase. 

"We’re not saying that there isn’t an uptick," says Dave Akerly, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Human Services. "We’re saying that from our standpoint, we believe that the uptick isn’t as dramatic as it would appear to be."

He says the numbers in the Michigan League report are a little misleading because a lot changed at DHS between 2005 and 2011. One of the things that changed is how cases get reported.

So, Akerly says instead of there being a huge increase in abuse and neglect, we may just be seeing a more accurate picture of abuse and neglect.

And no matter how you look at that, it’s an ugly picture.