MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Support family homes to get kids out of shelters and group settings

Added May 19th, 2015 by Stacey Range Messina | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Stacey Range Messina

An alarming number of foster kids in Michigan live in group homes and emergency shelters. Nearly half of whom have no clinical need to be there, and far too many are staying well beyond what is legally acceptable, according to today’s Kids Count policy report Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The reasons? A lack of community services to allow children to stay safely in their homes and an inadequate supply of kin or foster homes. Agencies should be encouraged to provide more services in home and community settings. Family supports shield children from the further trauma of being placed in out-of-home care.

Kin and foster parents also too often lack the necessary support to succeed at making a good home for a traumatized child.

While most foster parents would happily welcome a boost in the $17.23 daily rate, what they really need is support in other ways: better training, respite care, support groups, mentors, timely payments, streamlined application processes for child care subsidies and other assistance programs that are supposed to be automatic for children in foster care.

Recruiting more foster parents won’t help unless there are supports to keep them. Surveys show 40% of families who quit fostering cite lack of support as the primary reason.

My husband and I currently foster an almost 2-year-old boy. We waited 10 weeks for the child care subsidy to kick in for him. In that time we spent $2,250 out of pocket. We will be reimbursed about two-thirds of it but the point is that while my family could afford that, many could not. Last summer, we waited three months to get our first payment from the state. We don’t complain about the cost, we will happily share what we have but we worry about what this means for other foster families or potential foster families.

Families like Mr. and Mrs. G (who asked to remain anonymous to protect her children) took in a sibling group last summer, ages 1, 2, and 3. They were first-time foster parents. The kids were dropped off with few belongings, no diapers, bottles or food, no paperwork, and no Medicaid cards even though all three were sick, the youngest with double pneumonia. The couple had to take the baby to the ER and received the full bill. It took months to get any reimbursement and another six months to receive the $100 clothing allowance per child. The child care subsidy was yet another struggle in a long battle to get support. The G family adopted the three children on Dec. 31 and promptly closed their license.

Another foster parent, Veda Thompkins, has spent the past 30 years fostering youths in Detroit. She knows the system inside and out, yet she still has to fight for every support her kids need. Right now, she’s trying to get help with behavior issues presented by the two 15-year-old boys in her home. One spent five years in residential care; the other was in for seven years.

“They finally just stopped asking me permission to go to the bathroom.”

There are success stories of foster parents who find great support from their agency. But the level of support varies by agency, county and caseworker. Tricia and Eric Bouma have one of those experiences. The Hudsonville couple with four biological children took in a teenage girl last summer. The girl, who was removed from her home in 2011 at age 11 due to neglect, already had been in three foster homes with the longest stay only two months before she spent a year and a half in a group home.

The girl exhibited some behavioral challenges but with support and resources offered through their caseworker and others at Bethany Christian Services in Holland, the Boumas learned to manage the behaviors. The family also accessed a local support group of other foster parents and made use of a clothing closet offering free shoes, clothes and other items to children in foster care. The Boumas, who are adopting the girl, credit their success to the support they received from their agency.

As Veda says: “If you treat foster parents right, they will do great work for these kids.”

– Stacey Range Messina


Children’s Health Insurance Program in jeopardy

Added March 25th, 2015 by Jan Hudson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jan Hudson

More than 40,000 Michigan children could be at risk of losing their healthcare coverage if Congress doesn’t act and approve funding to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program. A compromise was reached last Friday between House Democratic and Republican leaders to extend funding for two years with the current policies. While this is not perfect (a four-year funding extension under current policies would have been preferable), it is better than the proposal developed by the House and Senate chairs of the committees responsible for CHIP. The House committee chair is Michigan’s Representative Fred Upton who now will have the opportunity to support the compromise and be a champion for 40,000 Michigan children. If the compromise passes the House, efforts are expected in the Senate to strengthen the funding extension to four years under current policies. (more…)

Michigan needs a comprehensive approach to third grade reading

Added March 24th, 2015 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a critical benchmark for future academic success, so Michigan policymakers have been seriously considering strategies to improve the chances that more children will reach this goal. After third grade, children read to learn, and half the curriculum materials in fourth-grade require grade-level reading skills. Three of four third-graders who struggle to master reading will continue to struggle as high school students. A comprehensive approach is needed to improve early literacy for children in Michigan.


Making kids count in the state budget

Added March 5th, 2015 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
From the First Tuesday newsletter
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Conditions for Michigan’s kids are progressing in some areas of child well-being but in others…. well, let’s just say we’ve got some major work ahead of us, particularly when it comes to economic security. That’s the upshot of the newly released Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.

Fortunately, the budget plan spelled out by Gov. Rick Snyder last month does a good job in a tight budget year of addressing inequities by making some investments that will drive improvements for Michigan’s kids.

Most welcome is a $49 million initiative, including $24 million for child care quality improvements, to increase the chances of more children reading proficiently by the end of third grade.


Child poverty in the 21st century

Added February 27th, 2015 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

The number of Michigan children living in families with income below the poverty level drops by half when tax and non-cash benefits are included as income, according to the latest analysis from the national KIDS COUNT project at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The percentage of the state’s children who would be living in poverty if no government program benefits and tax credits were available, however, stood at 30 percent, as calculated by the Supplemental Poverty Measure. (more…)

Why kids count

Added February 19th, 2015 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Recent news reports celebrate the decline in the unemployment rate and the quickened tempo of the recovery. But four years into the recovery, Michigan’s child poverty rates remain consistently high.

In 2013, one of every four children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level (roughly $18,800 for a single-parent family of three and $23,600 for a two-parent family of four), according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, released today. (more…)

More child care oversight needed

Added January 8th, 2015 by Pat Sorenson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

Every day in Michigan, parents head out to work with their young children in tow, dropping them off at local child care centers or homes. Child care is a necessity for many working families because they rely on two incomes to make ends meet or because they are raising children as single parents.

Yet oversight of health and safety requirements is stretched far too thin in Michigan, a new policy brief from the League concludes. (more…)

Children thrive when parents succeed

Added November 12th, 2014 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Roughly half of Michigan’s young children ages 0-8 live in low-income families where meeting basic needs is a daily challenge.

Living in a financially stressed family during childhood has a long-term impact on education and employment. A child who spends the critical early years in poverty is less likely to graduate from high school and remain employed as an adult. To be more effective in assisting these families, public and private programs need to address the needs of both parents and children. (more…)

High-quality, affordable child care elusive

Added October 28th, 2014 by Pat Sorenson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Pat Sorenson

Although Michigan has started to address its long-neglected child care system, the state has a long way to go to make high-quality child care affordable and easily accessible, especially for low- and moderate-income working parents.

That is the conclusion of a new report on child care assistance policies. (more…)

Americans want Congress to invest in kids

Added October 22nd, 2014 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

A national public opinion poll just released by the Children’s Leadership Council found strong support for increased funding for effective programs that improve the lives of children and youth across the age spectrum, from birth to adulthood.

“Elected officials have an obligation to support, protect and defend programs that invest in and assist children, youth and their families. Americans are asking for no less,” says Randi Carmen Schmidt, executive director of the Children’s Leadership Council, which commissioned the poll. (more…)

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