State agencies are partnering up to transfer children in foster care to permanent homes due to health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 200 children in the state’s foster care system have been determined to be almost ready to return home to one or both parents.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) are looking to transfer these children home within the next month.
“The department believes that children should not be in foster care for any longer than absolutely necessary,” JooYeun Chang, executive director of the Children’s Services Agency at DHHS said. “Even though we are facing numerous challenges right now, the urgency to achieve permanency for children and their families should not be slowed due to COVID-19.”
The project to return these children to their homes is called Rapid Permanency and it will involve public and private childcare caseworkers, along with members of the court to evaluate cases and whether the parents have made the changes needed to be reunited with the children. Stakeholders in the project will coordinate and plan on how to overcome barriers in reunification and refer services and resources that can help in a safe transition.
Virtual hearings and recommendations to resolve issues without hearings are being facilitated by SCAO to quickly and efficiently review cases.
As COVID-19 cases continue to be reported and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her stay-home order until May 15, it has become difficult for visits to occur.
Making sure children are with their parents is the right thing to do, Justice Megan Cavanagh said in the press release.
“The goal of this partnership is to remove barriers to bringing families together as quickly as possible, and judges statewide are committed to making well-informed decisions that are in the best interest of every child.”
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