foster care

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."  

For the next few days we're featuring stories of ordinary listeners who read or heard a story on State of Opportunity and decided to give some of their resources or time as a result. We know many of you have done the same. If you've got a story to share or an idea of how people could help let us know here. If you need ideas of what you could do, check out the resources page. We'll update it with  listener suggestions as they come in.

Amanda Eding can't remember the specific moment when she felt it was time to move beyond getting upset at the State of Opportunity stories she heard on her radio. The stories about kids in the child welfare system touched a nerve. "Some of the stories I would hear, I would think this is such an injustice!" she says, almost laughing at herself. "Sometimes I would get mad, and sometimes, I would cry."

Michigan League for Public Policy

The new Kids Count report is out, and things are not looking good for kids in Michigan. You would think with the recession now a few years behind us that economic trends would be on an upswing, but that doesn't appear to be the case. I'll break down the report into three sections: The Good, The Bad, and the Stagnant. 

Lynda Giddens / flickr

 Last week the ACLU sent out a press release about a case I was at first convinced was an urban legend. 

It gets referred to as the "Mike's Hard Lemonade case." If you haven't heard about it, the bare facts go something like this:

Five years ago, a university professor took his young son to a Detroit Tigers game and bought him an Mike's Hard Lemonade, not understanding it was an alcoholic beverage (according to his lawyer the guy doesn't watch TV). Somebody called the police and the kid was immediately removed from his father and placed into foster care.  The ACLU sued almost everyone involved, including the judge. The news last week was that a federal court agreed to hear the case against the judge, Judy Hartsfield. She is accused of pre-signing orders to remove kids from their parents without looking at the facts.

Can Michigan make aging out of foster care easier?

Jul 9, 2013
Young people at the Fostering Success conference, trying to prepare  to age out of the foster care system.
Maddy Day / Fostering Success Michigan

The roughly 14,000 young people in Michigan’s foster care system are expected to live on their own once they turn 18, if they're still in the system at that time. It is a transition that for many, does not go well.

In recognition of these bleak outcomes, there were about 200 young people ages 14 through 21 milling around a business school building at Ferris State University late last month, for the first day of a two day conference.

user Childrens Book Review / flickr

More than 400,000 children are currently in foster care in the U.S. Once a child has entered the system, they remain there on average for nearly two years, according to a federal report. As part of our State of Opportunity project, we looked into a unique program that’s working to prevent kids in Michigan from even entering foster care in the first place.

When all five of your children are placed in foster care, who do you call?

Michigan foster care rates by year
Kids Count Data Center / Annie E. Casey Foundation

We've already acknowledged the proliferation of different days and weeks, whether by official proclamation or organizational mandate, declared for raising awareness of various social issues. But let's talk about just one more: National Foster Care Month. While it's likely meant to raise awareness about kids who need foster care and people willing to serve as foster parents, kids who age out of the foster care system caught our attention. 

Guest blogger: Adoption and early childhood trauma

Apr 12, 2013

At 30, my husband and I became adoptive parents to a 5-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy. We began the adoption process through the Michigan foster care system in 2008.

Almost 14,000 kids in Michigan have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids then rely upon the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive. Most of those kids end up in foster care.

Six years ago the state was sued by the advocacy group Children's Rights over treatment of kids in its care.

The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Everyone agrees things have gotten better since the lawsuit started six years ago, but the court appointed monitor said too many kids are still unsafe.

In August, I reported on a pilot project in Michigan that reduced caseloads for Child Protective Services and helped families. Despite impressive results, the funding for that project ran out at the end of September.