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Children of color are less likely to be reunified with their birth families.

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Michigan Family Law Flawed

Updated: March 15, 2005
by: Annette M. Hall

Angered by new state Supreme Court rules requiring attorneys who represent juveniles to visit their clients every three months in their placements, some veteran juvenile court attorneys say they will no longer represent children.

A recent article which ran on Mlive.com reported that "attorneys argue they are neither qualified to assess foster care environments in the way a social worker would, nor would they be compensated for such trips. Individual safety was also a key concern as many of the children are placed in foster homes in dangerous neighborhoods and many of the lawyers representing them are women."

Granted, attorneys are not social workers, trained in the methods of handling juvenile victims but what we should all be concerned about it the last portion of their statement.

Why on earth would children be placed in foster homes that are considered dangerous, too dangerous in fact for an adult to visit.

When children are placed in foster care, the state, in doing so, is saying that, "these children are not in a safe environment, we are going to protect them."

If we are indeed subjecting innocent children to dangerous living conditions, perhaps the children are better off staying in their own homes in the first place.

More must be done to protect children caught in a system that neither protects them, nor has their best interest at heart.

Parents Concerned

Michigan parents have every right to be concerned. We are seeing more and more cases surface of parents being railroaded by overburdened judges and caseworkers who, for many reasons, are not qualified to do their jobs or simply have an axe to grind.

Fostercare is a billion dollar business ran by every state in the country. Children are the pawns in a high stakes crap shoot, that states willingly participate in, in their clamor for federal dollars.

Studies show that children in fostercare are ten times more likely to face serious abuse, particularly sexual abuse, than they were in their own homes.

What is wrong with this picture?

Children are the losers

The state has looked to adoption to solve its self-created problem of having too large of case loads. In attempts to unload these children, the state has begun to vigorously promote adoption.

Several cases from 2003 tell the tale of the failure of the adoption solution.

Detroit

Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan filed neglect charges in May against social workers in the unrelated beating deaths of two 4-year-old Detroit boys.

A foster mother who was set to adopt two boys was charged with using her fist and a hair brush to beat one of them to death in March. Social workers were charged with failure to report child abuse or neglect that likely occurred before the deaths. The charges were designed to shake the system out of apathy.

Rufus Young, 4, a foster child, died of a beating by his foster father, Roderick Hall of Detroit, after the boy had soiled himself. "I lost it," Hall told a homicide detective. "I grabbed him, and I hit him in his face and jaw." Hall pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving 20-40 years in prison.

Two doctors at Children's Hospital of Michigan who had seen bruises on Rufus on an earlier occasion were later charged with failing to report suspected child abuse, a misdemeanor.

Northville

Scott Francis, a 41-year-old Northville man, lived with his two adopted children despite a plea agreement that was supposed to stop him from having unsupervised contact with any child, after his previous conviction on two offenses of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The registered sex offender was convicted of violating probation, and also was charged with new counts of sexual assault involving an adopted son, in September. A judge's written order had failed to mention the plea agreement that forbade contact with any child, and a probation officer also admitted to failing to enforce the deal.

Monroe County

Monroe County's branch of the Family Independence Agency was held in contempt of court for failing to stop two teens from having sex in a foster home. A 14-year-old girl who had been sexually abused by her father was placed in a foster home, where she had consensual sex with a 15-year-old boy. A Monroe County judge criticized FIA for not informing the court about what happened, and for failing to protect the teens from their own poor judgment. FIA demoted or transferred workers involved in the case.

South Lyon

Three South Lyon foster children stayed in the same house as a teenage sex offender for two years. It was allowed by a loophole in the law that will be closed in January with new Family Independence Agency regulations. Under the former policy, kids could wind up staying with juvenile sex offenders because only adult offenders were prohibited. The new policy will include sexual predators of all ages, including those under 18.

DeWitt

Tamera and Chadd Smith's adoption of two children was approved by a Clinton County judge in March, based on a recommendation by the Michigan Children's Institute, a division of the FIA that acts as a legal guardian for state wards. But an Oakland County judge overturned the FIA recommendation in April, and awarded the children to a Farmington Hills couple who are distantly related to the girls.

The girls are daughters of Jennifer Holey, who is jailed on a sexual assault charge and had her parental rights terminated. Lawmakers are studying options to revamp adoption law, including a proposal that would require a single judge to consider all petitions for adoption involving the same child.

Cass County

Cass County's child foster care caseload has jumped 12 percent in the last year, continuing a seven-year trend that's seen the number of children removed from their homes and placed in foster care increase by 60 percent.

Wayne County

Foster child LeRon St. John, 15, died of malnutrition and untreated tuberculosis. The Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a homicide because the disease was treatable and the child should have been able to eat. LeRon's foster mother had faithfully taken her to a doctor, who apparently failed to correctly diagnose her condition. No criminal charge was filed.

Oakland County

Joshua Causey, 4, a foster child under jurisdiction of FIA and Oakland County Family Court because of alleged neglect in his mother's home in Oakland County, was beaten to death by his foster mother, Lynda Baker, in her Detroit home. Baker was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 5-15 years in prison.

Roscommon County

A 14-month-old baby died in foster care. The foster mom refused to take baby to hospital while having an asthma attack because she had errands to run. The child was blue around the lips and eyes but foster mom states baby was still breathing. She lifted the baby's head up while she was driving so the child could get air. After running errands, she and baby returned home and the child was still laboring and blue so foster mom thought all she needed was a nap. Five hours later, foster mom got worried because baby had not woke up from her nap. The foster mom found baby in a pool of blood.

Gogebic County

A Six-year-old boy was placed in foster home with a foster teenage boy who had frequently raped his sister in his biological parents home. The Foster teen repeatedly raped the boy from May 6, 2003 to June 26, 2003. The foster mom presented a journal to the court during hearings. She writes in journal, that the child has nightmares every night and screams out, "Stop, don't do that, ouch, ouch, and cries." The foster mom never gets up to check on child stating that he must be having nightmares from the abuse he suffered in his home. The foster mom never realized the child was being raped by the teeager every night! Foster mom further writes, six year old is always stating he is gay and scratching his butt. Foster mom says. "Where is he getting this? It must be from his abusive dad.".

Who Pays?

Michigan spends more than $400 million a year, including roughly $224 million in federal funding, on programs related to foster care and adoption.

In a report filed after the 2002 Federal review of Michigan's foster care system, inspectors found that FIA is not consistent in meeting the needs of children and families. Needs weren't met in an estimated 27 percent of cases.

Families were not involved in the case planning process in some instances. In 20 percent of applicable cases, caseworkers failed to spend adequate time with children. Caseworker visits with families were determined to be inadequate in 27.5 percent of all cases.

"It's a problem of epidemic proportions," said state Rep. Lauren Hager, R-Port Huron, chair of the House Family and Children Services committee. "It's a crisis brewing not just in Michigan, but across the nation."

A problem our children are paying for with their lives.