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House approves Rep. Wakeman’s plan to fix problems in Michigan’s child welfare system
RELEASE|May 24, 2022

The Michigan House today approved Rep. Rodney Wakeman’s plan to improve Michigan’s adoption and foster care system.

Wakeman, of Frankenmuth, said the plan makes critical changes to fix problems identified by families and professionals who work in the state’s adoption and foster care system.

“After speaking extensively with experts – the people who work directly in the system each and every day – I am struck by how broadly they all agreed that things needed to change,” said Wakeman, chair of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee.

Wakeman’s measure, House Bill 5978, will help place more foster children with qualified family members or friends whenever possible.

“Most kids entering the foster system have already experienced a tremendous amount of trauma,” Wakeman said. “It makes sense that our first choice should be to place them with people they already feel a connection.”

House Bill 5978 will require the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to work with entities that perform “family finding and engagement” services, which help connect foster youth who lack permanency to qualified family members and friends who are able and willing to step in and care for them.

Other parts of the plan would:

  • Further expand kinship care options by allowing a non-parent adult to meet the definition of “family” for the purposes of youth placement. This will lessen the trauma associated with removal, provide better outcomes for children, and help alleviate the foster parent shortage.
  • Coordinate trauma-informed training for attorneys involved in the child welfare proceedings to ensure they understand the complexities involved with representing children who have been abused or neglected.
  • Better requirements to ensure that as the state safely reduces the number of young people in the child welfare system, those savings are reinvested to improve the system.
  • Conduct an annual comprehensive needs assessment to better understand where service gaps exist and ensure residential treatment options meet the needs of youth who require clinical intervention.
  • Establish a business tax credit for Michigan job providers that opt to provide paid leave while parents care for and bond with their newly adopted children.
  • Increase access to high-quality residential treatment programs in Michigan by updating state zoning laws to reflect new federal standards.
  • Address the intersection between housing instability and child welfare by urging Congress to increase flexibility so that federal Title IV-E foster care funds can help children remain safely in their homes and prevent foster care placements.

Wakeman served on the House’s bipartisan Adoption and Foster Care Task Force last year, meeting frequently with Michigan families, experts in the field, and DHHS to determine areas where the state could improve the system. This plan makes the changes recommended by the task force.

The plan now advances to the Senate for further consideration.

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