My family and I live in Michigan where our kids were once in the foster care system. Our governor recently signed a bill that extends benefits for kids in the foster care system. After they turn 18, Michigan foster children will now be able to continue receive housing subsidies and health coverage until they’re 21. They’ll also be able to continue to work with foster care caseworkers. The benefits will be available to those who are enrolled in college or job training, or working at least 80 hours per month. The program still has to be approved by the federal government.
I wish I could say that this program was created proactively, but it’s the result of a class action lawsuit. Children’s Rights filed the lawsuit in 2006 on behalf of 19,000 foster children, with the goal of reforming the state’s foster care system. Some of the group’s complaints were:
- Failing to move children quickly into safe, stable, permanent homes either through reunification with their birth families or adoption
- Failing to provide children with adequate medical, dental and mental health services
- Failing to provide safe and stable foster homes, and
- Failing to prepare children who will age out of the foster care system at the age of majority to live independently as adults
According to the group, “Michigan operates among the nation’s 10 largest foster care systems, with approximately 17,000 abused and neglected children in its custody.”
Hopefully we’ll see more reforms as a result of the lawsuit, but it would be great to see additional fixes that are more proactive.