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State Rep. Rodney Wakeman speaks during a press conference on Nov. 10, 2021, to unveil a report compiled by the bipartisan House Adoption and Foster Care Task Force. He recently introduced legislation to solve some of the issues detailed in the report and improve services available to help vulnerable children in Michigan.

Rep. Wakeman spearheads plan to improve adoption, foster care system
RELEASE|March 31, 2022

State Rep. Rodney Wakeman, chair of the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee, is spearheading a plan to offer better services to Michigan’s most vulnerable children by making changes to critical areas where Michigan’s adoption and foster care system is falling short.

Wakeman, of Frankenmuth, served on the House’s bipartisan Adoption and Foster Care Task Force last year, meeting frequently with Michigan families, experts in the field, and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to determine areas where the state could improve the system. Last week, he helped introduce legislation to make changes recommended by the task force.

“Every child deserves to grow up in a warm and nurturing home,” Wakeman said. “The changes we are proposing will improve the lives of children who have experienced abuse, neglect and other trauma, and help them grow into healthy young adults.”

Wakeman’s measure, House Bill 5978, will help place more children with friends or family members, as opposed to an unknown foster family.

“One of the biggest solutions we identified was a need to work harder to place children in foster homes where they already have a connection, such as an extended family member or a close family friend,” Wakeman said. “Study after study has shown how beneficial these ‘kinship’ placements are for children. The system should be working harder to find these connections.”

House Bill 5978 will require DHHS to work with entities that perform “family finding and engagement” services, which help connect foster youth who lack permanency to 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 to help children remain safely in their homes and prevent foster care placements.

The plan, which was referred to Wakeman’s committee for consideration, has already earned praise from the foster care community, including the Michigan Federation for Children and Families and The New Foster Care.

“The Michigan Federation for Children and Families is pleased to see the Adoption and Foster Care Task Force legislative bill package moving forward,” Executive Director Janet Reynolds Snyder said. “Under the leadership of chair Rodney Wakeman, passage of the bills would help increase positive outcomes for children and families engaged with Michigan’s child welfare system, supporting a family-focused child welfare system.”

Chris Yatooma, president of the Board of Directors for The New Foster Care said: “The New Foster Care thanks Rep. Wakeman and other members of the House for their efforts to help change the trajectory of Michigan’s children in foster care. This is the most disadvantaged population in Michigan, and it is critical that we make them a focus. As wards of the state, we all have a responsibility to them. We appreciate the opportunity to work with Rep. Wakeman on the Foster Care Bills recently introduced in the House.”

The full report issued by the bipartisan Adoption and Foster Care Task Force can be viewed here.

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