Orchards Children’s Services honored with major business award for ethical practices

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, June 1, 2022

LANSING – Orchards Children’s Services, a not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agency serving southeast Michigan, has been awarded a 2021 Torch Award for ethics from the Better Business Bureau of Eastern Michigan. 

Orchards, a member of the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA), services approximately 8,000 clients each year, providing critical services for children and families in need. AACFA, an association with some of the largest child welfare agencies in Michigan as members, advocates for fair and adequate funding in Michigan’s child welfare system.  

“At Orchards, ethics and values are the foundation of everything we do,” said Michael Williams, Orchards president and CEO. “It’s imperative to ground our work in strong ethics and values so the community we serve is strengthened through quality services for children and families. We are honored to receive this important award.” 

Orchards offers a full continuum of services for Michigan’s children and families and is a fierce advocate of fair and adequate funding for Michigan’s not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies. Orchards provides foster care, adoption and family preservation services, as well as an array of community-based programs. Orchards prides itself on being a resource to clients and the greater community.  

A Torch Award is the most prestigious award the Better Business Bureau presents to businesses that demonstrate a commitment to integrity and ethics. The Ethics award is for a business that embodies the Better Business Bureau’s mission of advancing trust and celebrating business role models. 

“On behalf of AACFA, I congratulate Orchards for this well-deserved award for ethics,” said Judith Fischer, AACFA president. “Orchards represents the best of child welfare in Michigan, caring for so many children and families in need and doing so in an ethical and value-based manner. They are a leading voice in advocating for an improved child welfare system and we are truly proud they are members of AACFA.” 

Not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies call for increased funding for foster parents

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, May 26, 2022

Agencies call for increase during National Foster Care Month 

LANSING – The not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies that make up the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) are celebrating National Foster Care Month, honoring the foster families who provide safe and loving homes for children and calling for a funding increase for foster parents 

“During National Foster Care Month, we commend the families who open their homes to children and make a difference in their lives,” said Judith Fischer, AACFA president. “Not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are Michigan’s experts in caring for these children and families, and we know they are able to thrive when they are provided a continuum of care from foster parents, foster care workers and accredited agencies.” 

In Michigan, there are approximately 13,000 children in foster care and 300 children who need an adoptive family, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The agencies that make up AACFA have resources for those interested in giving children in need a loving and safe place to call home. 

Cynthia Hollingshed, a Detroit-based teacher, has been fostering children for the last five years. After her son graduated from high school, she began taking overnight foster placements through Spectrum Human Services, an AACCFA member agency. With the support of Spectrum and Hollingshed’s “village” of support through her family, she helps young people who are in need. 

“If you have a love for children, I would say give fostering a try,” Hollingshed said. “There’s a great need, and though some placements are easier than others because of the level of trauma some children have experienced, you do what you can. We’re helping out children and their families – that’s the bottom line.” 

AACFA members are some of the largest child welfare agencies in Michigan, and they work hard to ensure children have the resources they need to thrive. This year, the agencies have called on Michigan lawmakers to provide an 18% pay rate increase for foster parents to help mitigate the current shortage of foster parents.  

Oakland Family Services celebrates 100 years of service as a not-for-profit accredited child welfare agency

LANSING – Oakland Family Services, a not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agency and member of the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA), is celebrating its 100-year anniversary of providing critical services to Michigan’s children and families.

For the last century, Oakland Family Services has helped ensure children have safe and loving homes free from abuse and neglect. The agency also helps children cope with trauma, mental health issues and substance abuse, and provides foster care and adoption services, education and child development programs and treatment.

“We are truly thankful for the communities, families and people across Michigan for their support for the past 100 years,” said Jaimie Clayton, president and CEO of Oakland Family Services. “For 100 years, we have taken great pride in our mission to serve and provide critical resources to Michigan children and families and we will continue to advocate for those in need for the next 100 years in partnership with the amazing and dedicated not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies that make up AACFA.”

Oakland Family Services is a valued member of AACFA, and it advocates for fair and adequate funding for Michigan’s not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies. Research shows investing in child and family care on the front end pays huge dividends for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers.

“Oakland Family Services is an important part of Michigan’s child welfare system, and on behalf of AACFA, I congratulate them for 100 years of providing services for Michigan’s children and families,” said Judith Fischer, president of AACFA. “Oakland Family Services has a deep expertise and a proven track record in the area of child welfare and has demonstrated its deep commitment to supporting children and families in need for 100 years.”

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Support foster children by giving foster families the resources they need

By Judith Fischer, president of AACFA 

AACFA May posts

May is National Foster Care Awareness month, a time we set aside to honor foster children and the families who provide them with safe, loving homes, as well as the foster care workers who make it all possible.  

We thank the families who open their homes to children in need and make a difference in their lives. The not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies that make up AACFA provide a full continuum of services to foster children and families, and foster care is a huge part of what makes our child welfare system work.  

In Michigan, there are approximately 13,000 children in foster care and 300 children who need an adoptive family, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. AACFA agencies have resources for those interested in giving a loving and safe place to call home to children in need. 

AACFA members are some of the largest child welfare agencies in Michigan and we are working hard to ensure children have the resources they need to thrive. This year, the agencies have called on Michigan lawmakers to provide an 18% pay rate increase for foster parents, and we’re working to help mitigate the current shortage of foster families. 

Dedicating more resources to foster families would help them meet the needs of foster children and allow more families to open their homes and take care of the children who need it. We appreciate the administration and bipartisan support we have received from the Legislature in hearing this request. AACFA is also very pleased that the Michigan House and Senate have passed an 18% increase in pay rates for foster families. This support is a step in the right direction. 

During National Foster Care Month and year-round, we will continue to push for the best possible care for children and families in our state. 

Not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies highlight critical need for funding

Agencies support MDHHS and bipartisan legislative efforts to serve children in need

LANSING – Members of the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) today urged Michigan lawmakers to act on pressing issues facing Michigan’s child welfare system.

In a joint meeting of the Michigan House and Senate committees on Community Health and Human Services, leaders of some of Michigan’s largest not-for-profit child welfare agencies in Michigan discussed urgent issues impacting the services children and families need, including a need for additional resources to adequately staff family preservation work, pay rates for foster parents, and the need to retain residential treatment programs.

“As not-for-profit providers, we acknowledge the complexity of funding our child welfare system, and we hope our testimony today supports the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in being able to maintain and improve the entire continuum of care, which includes not-for-profit agencies,” said Judith Fischer, president of AACFA. “We appreciate the administration and bipartisan support we’ve received from the Legislature and look forward to strengthening the relationship as we work to continue to improve the child welfare system for children and families in Michigan.”

AACFA is a group of not-for-profit, accredited child welfare organizations that provide an array of services including adoption, foster care, mental health, residential care, counseling and more.

Family preservation, or efforts to keep children with their families rather than in foster care or residential homes, was one focus of AACFA’s testimony. Michael Williams, CEO of Orchards Children’s Services, said more resources would allow the agencies to better provide intervention and prevention services, with adequate funding we can continue to strengthen the family preservation system.

“Right now, we are asking workers with college degrees to work for less than the market rate, which is simply not enough to attract and retain people necessary to provide the level of care our children and families need,” Williams said. “Fair and adequate funding will help us offer better pay rates to hire qualified individuals to do this work.”

“We have had to turn away children who need a safe place to stay because there simply aren’t enough foster homes,” said Bob Ennis, president and founder of Ennis Center for Children. “We are very pleased to see the Governor’s budget recommendations which include increased rates for foster and adoptive families and residential treatment providers. This support is a positive step in the right direction, and we look to partner with policymakers to increase resources as there are still gaps in meeting the needs of foster children.”

AACFA members also discussed the immediate need for more psychiatric beds in Michigan, as children are sometimes waiting days in emergency rooms to receive desperately needed care. AACFA members urged legislators to provide support for residential treatment programs, which are a crucial part of the continuum of services.

“While there is capacity within the existing residential care network here in Michigan, we need additional resources to be able to hire qualified and trained staff to have beds online to serve these children. Without these resources, where will the kids be served?” said Stacie Bowens, executive director at Spectrum Human Services. “Residential care is an important part of our child welfare system, and we need to keep these facilities open in order to help the children and families who need us.”

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Child Abuse Prevention Month highlights urgent need for child welfare services

By Judith Fischer, president of AACFA 

This month, we recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month by highlighting the comprehensive services non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies provide to children and families in Michigan who are facing abuse and neglect. 

Most of the children our agencies work with have faced abuse and neglect in some way, and we work every day to provide them with resources and mental health services, in addition to advocating for their best interests. 

This month, we spoke in front of Michigan lawmakers during a special joint meeting of the House and Senate committees on Community Health and Human Services. We told these lawmakers it’s more important than ever to ensure fair funding across our state’s child welfare system. The demand for our services – so many of which are dedicated to children who have faced abuse and neglect – is at a peak. 

Not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies like those in AACFA provide a full continuum of services to help children in need across Michigan. We work together to strengthen families affected by abuse and we continue to urge the state to prioritize the needs of Michigan’s children and families, especially during Child Abuse Prevention Month. 

Research has shown investing in Michigan’s not-for-profit, accredited child welfare agencies on the front end will pay dividends for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers. Being able to offer higher wages, hire more staff and fund family preservation services will help us expand prevention services that Michigan children and families need. 

Fair and adequate funding will ensure we can offer the best possible treatment and outcomes for children who are abused or neglected. As we continue to advocate for not-for-profit agencies, we call on lawmakers to join us as we fight for the children in our state who need us. 

 

AACFA members stand ready to help address racial disparities in child welfare system

AACFA March blog

By Judith Fischer, president of AACFA 

It’s no secret that our child welfare system has a long way to go in adequately addressing racial disparities. 

We see these inequalities play out across the board – in adoption, juvenile justice and foster care. This issue was recently the focus of several recommendations made to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services by the state’s Child Welfare Improvement Task Force. 

Some of the recommendations included changing the definitions of abuse and neglect, as well as obtaining funding for needed services and increasing mental health programming to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, systemic racism in our child welfare system. 

The non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies that make up the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies stand ready to help our state address these disparities. All of Michigan’s children deserve a safe and loving place to call home, no matter where they come from or what they look like.  

Data shows children of color make up more than half of Michigan’s foster care population, despite making up a minority of our state population. Children of color are more likely to be placed in institutional settings, where they are more likely to remain for an extended period. Eventually, many of these children age out of foster care without a family. 

We must do better by these children, and work on solutions that eliminate this vicious cycle. Michigan’s children and families deserve that.  

AACFA member organizations and our diverse leadership have the tools and expertise to help Michigan work on the task force’s recommendations. In fact, Michael Williams, CEO and president of one of our member organizations, Orchards Children’s Services, served as a member of the task force. 

AACFA members offer a full continuum of care for Michigan’s children and families, and we urge the state to heed the task force’s recommendations so we can have a better child welfare system for ALL children. 

Need for foster families has never been greater in Downriver communities

Click on Detroit highlighted Jared and Becky Rodd, a Taylor family who has adopted and fostered children through AACFA member Wolverine Human Services.

Wolverine Human Services, and all of our members, try to help as many children in the foster care system as possible, but the pandemic has made it more challenging than ever.

Read more about the Rodd family, and the need for additional funding for non-profit child welfare agencies, which serve thousands of children and families each year. Read more

Michigan’s children need foster parents

aacfa feb blog

By Judith Fischer Wollack, president of AACFA 

Across the country, the need for foster parents is high. This is true in Michigan too.  

In our state, there are approximately 13,000 children in foster care and 300 children who still need an adoptive family, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies that make up the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies have resources for those interested in giving children in need a loving and safe place to call home. 

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in her recent executive budget recommendations supported an 18 percent increase to go toward maintenance payments for foster care, adoptive and juvenile guardianship families. These payments have not increased since 2012. That means Michiganders who foster children would have more financial resources to support their family. 

AACFA agencies desperately need people to become foster parents and make a difference for these children, who have often experienced neglect and/or abuse in their homes. 

Our non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies offer an array of resources for those interested in becoming foster parents, and we can walk you through it every step of the way.  

Please visit one of our agency websites to learn more about how you can make a difference: 

  • Oakland Family Services’ Frequently Asked Questions about foster care is a great place go for common questions about what the fostering process looks like. 
  • Children of all ages find homes through Wolverine Human Services, and Wolverine will help facilitate the process. 

No matter where you are on the foster care journey, our agencies can help. Make a difference in the life of a child by becoming a foster parent. 

AACFA organizations help Michigan’s children, families celebrate during holiday season

Holiday giving blog

By Judy Fischer Wollack, president of the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies 

Many children look forward to the holidays, counting down the days until Santa Claus fills the living room with toys and other presents. 

For children in the child welfare system, this time of year can be extremely difficult if they do not have a place to call home and they go without needed essentials and gifts at Christmas. 

Each year, the member organizations that make up the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies work hard to ensure the children and families in our care have some holiday cheer. 

From adopting families to hosting holiday parties, our member organizations gave children in their care a holiday season to remember. 

Here are just a few of the ways our members are helping children and families enjoy the holiday season: 

  • Ennis Center for Children in southeast Michigan holds a holiday party each season for children in its foster programs. The parties take place in Genesee, Oakland, St. Clair and Wayne counties, and they provide dinner, gift bags, crafts and photos with Santa. Ennis Center also participates in Adopt A Family and donates holiday baskets of food.
  • Each year, Oakland Family Services participates in Adopt A Family, identifying families it serves who could use help giving holiday gifts and essentials to their children. In 2020, donors provided gift cards to more than 700 children from nearly 300 families in need. This year, Oakland Family Services continued Adopt A Family, as well as accepted donations to its Adopt A Family Fund, which the agency uses to purchase gift cards for families that are not able to be matched with a donor.
  • At Orchards Children’s Services, staff helps bring the magic of the holidays for children and families in need through its Holiday Food and Toy Drive and Adopt A Family program. Food and toy collection continued throughout October, November and December. 

While giving is amped up during the holidays, these are just some of the ways AACFA member organizations serve Michigan’s children and families year-round, especially during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

Our member organizations are helping Michigan’s children and families as much as we can through this crisis and beyond COVID-19. Year round, our member organizations provide a myriad of services to children and families to help them get mental health support, obtain trauma resources, adopt and foster children and more. 

I encourage everyone to think about how they can make a difference in the lives of children and families in need this holiday season. Even the smallest donation or gift of an essential item or toy can make the biggest difference.