Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies call for permanent increased wage for direct care workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEThursday, May 20, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communicationsssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – The Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) is calling on Michigan lawmakers to make the $2.25 hazard pay increase for direct care workers permanent.  

The pay increase, which was enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to expire amid a critical labor shortage facing non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies. These workers provide much needed care to Michigan children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. 

Our agencies provide high-quality and comprehensive services  from adoption and foster care to juvenile justice and residential care and other family services  without the same funding as state-run child welfare agencies,” said Judith Fischer Wollack, president of AACFA. “As non-profit agencies, we are competing for talent with state-run agencies, which are able to pay more. We need resources to ensure we have enough talented people to serve the growing needs of children and families in our state.” 

The COVID-19 pandemic, along with contributing to the labor shortage, has impacted Michigan’s child welfare system, including causing a pent-up demand that agencies in Michigan will need enough workers to address over the coming years 

“Lawmakers must ensure child welfare agencies are equipped to meet the needs of the communities we serve,” Fischer Wollack said. “AACFA stands ready to work with our legislators to make sure children and families get the care they need to thrive.” 

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Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies highlight fair funding during National Foster Care Month

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEWednesday, May 12, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communicationsssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – During National Foster Care Month, nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are shining a spotlight on the importance of Michigan’s foster care system to children and families. 

Collectively, nonprofit agencies involved in the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) manage numerous foster care cases and provide a wide continuum of services for foster care children and their foster families. 

“During National Foster Care Month, we thank our frontline workers and foster care parents who make a difference in the lives of these children every day,” said Judith Fischer WollackAACFA president. “Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are our state’s experts on caring for these children and families, and we know success happens when they are provided with a continuum of care from highly trained individuals.”  

Children in Michigan’s foster care system often come to non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies traumatized and could be suicidal or considering self-harm. These children require round-the-clock care by highly trained frontline workers, especially mental health care. This is one reason AACFA launched its Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign, with the goal of increasing funding fairness across child welfare agencies statewide so children and families can get the care they need.  

Detroit resident Juan Walker, 22, was in the foster care system since 2005 and experienced multiple placements including residential facilities, foster homes and relative placements after courts terminated his mother’s parental rights. Walker is now expected to graduate from Wayne State University next May after utilizing the Orchards Promise Scholarship, which is funded entirely by donors. He credits his independent living providers and caseworkers at Orchards Children’s Services, an AACFA organization, for helping him get to college. 

“It’s hard to imagine where I would be without Orchards – I don’t think I would be in school if not for the scholarship and the consistent relationship with Orchards throughout my life,” Walker said. “It would have been much more challenging to get here if I was bounced around to different agencies or assigned different case workers during my time in foster care, and I’m thankful for the continued support while I’m in college so I can focus on my future.” 

Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are provided less funding than state-run agencies, leaving them at a major disadvantage when it comes to providing children and families with essential services and hiring, training and retaining frontline workers. These agencies are not able to pay as much as state-run agencies. 

For more information about the Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign, visit aacfami.org 

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Former foster care youth share experiences with Michigan Adoption & Foster Care Task Force

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, May 7, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communicationsssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – Darryl Gardner was a child when he entered foster care after witnessing his father’s murder and his mother become addicted to crack cocaine.  

Gardner, 39, now an administrator at Wayne State University, spoke about his childhood experiences in front of the Michigan Bipartisan Adoption and Foster Care Task Force today along with other former foster care youth. Their aim was to provide real examples of what it’s like to grow up in Michigan’s child welfare system. 

The speakers received resources and support by non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies in the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA).  

Orchards Children’s Services, an AACFA member, helped Gardner thrive by providing a family environment and mental health services that eventually led to his mother getting clean and reuniting with her children. 

The mental health support and family environment Orchards provided to me has helped me and my family get to where we are today,” Gardner said. “Without that support, my life could have looked much different than it does now.” 

Juan Walker, a 22-year-old student at Wayne State University, spent most of his life in the foster care system. When he was a child, courts terminated his mother’s parental rights and Walker experienced over 20 placements in foster care homes and residential facilities on six different occasions. 

Through Orchards Children’s Services, Walker was able to remain with the same agency no matter where he was placed, providing consistency to his life when he needed it. Through the Orchards Promise Scholarship, Walker attends college. The scholarship given through Orchards is funded entirely by donors. 

“Services like those at Orchards should be the norm in Michigan’s child welfare system,” Walker said. “I had to rely on luck and generosity; however, that shouldn’t be the case for others to achieve great outcomes such as graduating from college. Although I am still writing my story, I would like to use my experiences to strike a great deal of change within the system.” 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies do not receive the same amount of funding as state-run child welfare agencies. AACFA aims to increase funding fairness through its Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign. Read more about the campaign on AACFA’s website 

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All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies provide critical services for abused, neglected children

Child Abuse Prevention Month underscores urgent need for services

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 2, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communications, ssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – The Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies today recognized National Child Abuse Prevention Month by highlighting the comprehensive services non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies provide to children and families facing abuse and neglect.  

AACFA agencies work with children and families every day to provide resources, mental health services and advocate for the best interests of children and families. These essential agencies also unite families through foster care and adoption.  

Our agencies work hard to provide the best care possible for children who have faced abuse and neglect,” said Jaimie Claytonpresident and CEO of Oakland Family Services. “As a group, we remain committed to providing a wealth of programs for children and families in the communities we serve that help put these populations on the path to a brighter future.” 

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, for the last fiscal year, Michigan had more than 17,000 confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect. The concern for child wellbeing, and the need for comprehensive services like AACFA’s, is even more heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic as case workers are less often able to make home visits. Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are also facing a critical labor shortage and operate with 30 percent less in funding than state-run organizations. 

“AACFA organizations provide a wide continuum of services that help abused and neglected children, at multiple locations throughout the state,” said Stacie Bowens, executive director of Spectrum Child & Family Services. “We work together to strengthen families affected by abuse and neglect and urge the state to make the needs of Michigan’s children and families a priority, especially during Child Abuse Prevention Month.” 

All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

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Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies call for Fair Funding for Michigan Families

LANSING – The Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) today launched its Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign, which aims to level the playing field across child welfare agencies in Michigan so all children and families get the level of care they need. 

Even though non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies offer a comprehensive continuum of services, we do not receive the same funding as state-run agencies,” said Judith Fischer Wollack, president of AACFA. “In order to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s children and families, policymakers must explore fairness in funding. AACFA stands ready to work with lawmakers to make this happen.” 

AACFA is a group of non-profit, accredited child welfare organizations that provide a continuum of services including adoption, foster care, mental health, residential care, counseling and more. Our member organizations employ more than 2,100 workers across Michigan. The organizations receive 30 percent less in state funding than state-run entities, leaving them at a disadvantage in providing the level of care Michigan children and families need, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“There is now growing demand to meet the many needs of our children and families,” said Michael Williams, president and CEO of Orchards Children’s Services, an AACFA organization. “At the same time, we are facing critical labor shortages and we cannot compete with state run agencies for workers simply because we can’t pay them as much. By investing in our collective child welfare and mental health systems, Michigan will be able to better support programs for our children and families when and where they need our services the most.” 

Christie Lazette and her husband Chris Smith adopted Melody, 2, in 2020 through Wolverine Human Services, an AACFA member organization. Lazette emphasized that having an informed child welfare agency to assist with the adoption process is paramount.  

“The adoption process is complicated; there is so much paperwork, so many different people involved, and it can take a very long time,” Lazette said. “Thankfully, our caseworkers from WHS were remarkable, and it’s hard to describe the value Wolverine Human Services and agencies like it bring to families like ours. As a family we are so thankful to have had this team on our side to bring Melody home. We could not imagine our lives without her.” 

Angela Lapham is the adoptive mother of six children, adopting five of her children through Oakland Family Services (OFS), an AACFA organization. Through OFS, she has also fostered 21 children.  

“OFS was wonderful in every aspect, whether fostering, adoption or helping with any obstacle we faced,” Lapham said. “Organizations like OFS and AACFA are so important to our state, and they should be provided the funding to ensure they can keep doing the invaluable work of uniting families.” 

You can watch a recording of today’s press conference or find more information on our campaign Facebook page. 

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All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies applaud formation of task force on adoption, foster care

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Advocacy Communicationsssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – The Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) today applauded the formation of the Michigan House Bipartisan Adoption and Foster Care Task Force.

“We applaud the Michigan House for forming the bipartisan Task Force on Children and Family Services, underscoring the urgent need to focus on child welfare in our state, especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said Michael Williams, president and CEO of Orchards Children’s Services, an AACFA member organization. “As experts with deep knowledge in child and family welfare services, we stand ready to partner with the task force to help it succeed. We are also hopeful the task force will help address the lack of funding fairness between public and non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies and the critical labor shortage non-profit agencies are facing. Non-profit accredited child welfare agencies look forward to working with the task force so the many critical issues facing children and families get the focus and attention they deserve in these challenging times.”

Crain’s Commentary: Nonprofit child welfare agencies facing critical labor shortage

This guest voice was published in Crain’s Detroit Business on January 19, 2021.

Essential family services in Michigan like adoption and juvenile justice facilities are facing a critical labor shortage.

While the labor shortage has been a chronic problem for Michigan’s nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies, COVID-19 has made it much worse.

As a member of the Association of Accredited Child Welfare Agencies, I speak from experience when I tell you we are constantly seeking to hire qualified workers.

Unfortunately, a major roadblock to filling our open positions is the fact the state dictates and caps the cost of care in terms of reimbursement for direct care services.

A similar cap doesn’t exist for state-run facilities, which means while we can afford to start hiring at $10-$12 an hour, the state of Michigan hires workers with similar qualifications for its state-run facilities starting at $18-20 an hour.

Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are also competing for hourly workers with the likes of Amazon, which is paying $15-$17.50 an hour in Michigan, or at Meijer, which is offering $13-$15 an hour, according to a recent search on Indeed.com.

This creates a major competitive disadvantage with state facilities or even fast-food chains, which pay workers $10-13 an hour, depending on location.

Employees at non\profit, accredited child welfare agencies work around the clock and are responsible for the care of children with a wide range of needs. Working in our industry allows people to make a real difference in the lives of children and families.

And our highly trained front-line workers play a critical role supporting Michigan families, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s children and families, policymakers need to explore fairness in funding to help us deal with this critical labor shortage.

Research shows that investing in Michigan’s nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies on the front end will pay dividends for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers.

Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are an essential part of Michigan’s child welfare system from providing youth mental health services to bringing families together through adoptions.

Through our national accreditation status, we meet the highest standards for safety and positive outcomes and our deep experience in Michigan gives us expertise regarding the needs of children and families.

Fairness in funding would better equip our agencies looking to hire Michigan workers and provide fair pay for critical work.

In the meantime, Michigan residents looking to work with a non-profit, accredited child welfare agency should visit the AACFA website where there is a link to available jobs at our member organizations.

Judith Fischer Wollack is president of the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies and CEO of Wolverine Human Services.

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies applaud state’s Director of Juvenile Justice appointment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMonday Jan. 18, 2021 
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communicationsssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – The Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) today applauded the appointment of Derrick McCree as Director of Juvenile Justice at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services  

Derrick McCree has a proven track record of advocating for children and families and he understands the critical role non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies play in Michigan’s child welfare system,” said Judith Fischer Wollack, president of the Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies. “We congratulate him on his appointment, and we look forward to partnering with him to ensure we can meet the growing needs of children and families and raise awareness of the critical need to provide fair funding for Michigan families.”  

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All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies facing critical labor shortage

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communications, ssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies facing critical labor shortage
Fairness in funding would better equip agencies 
looking to hire Michigan workers and provide fair pay for critical work 

LANSING – Nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies are sounding the alarm bell regarding a growing shortage of workers that could affect critical family services like adoption and juvenile justice facilities.  

“From providing youth mental health services to bringing families together through adoptions, non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are an essential part of Michigan’s child welfare system,” said Judith Fischer-Wollack, president of the Association of Accredited Child and Family Agencies. “Because we don’t receive the same level of funding as state-run organizations for the same services, we are at a major disadvantage to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s families and we are facing a critical labor shortage that has been exacerbated by COVID-19.” 

The state determines and caps the cost of care in terms of reimbursement for direct care services for non-profit, child welfare agencies. A similar cap does not exist for state-run facilities.  

This creates a major competitive disadvantage with state facilities or even fast-food chains when it comes to wages. 

The starting salary for an employee at a nonprofit, accredited child welfare agency is typically $10-$12/hour, while the state of Michigan hires workers with similar qualifications for its state-run facilities starting at $18-$20/hour, according to a search of jobs on the State of Michigan website.  

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are also competing for hourly workers with the likes of Amazon, which is paying $15-$17.50/hour in Michigan or at Meijer, which is offering $13-$15/hour, according to a search on Indeed.com.  

Fast-food chains across Michigan typically start at $10-$13/hour, depending on location — a similar pay as non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies whose employees work around the clock and are responsible for the care of children with varying needs. 

“Research shows that investing in Michigan’s nonprofit, accredited child welfare agencies on the front end will pay dividends for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers,” said Spectrum Human Services CEO and President Josh Swaninger. “As we deal with this critical labor shortage in order to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s children and families, policymakers need to explore fairness in funding.” 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies can now request variances to their staff/child ratios because of COVID-19, which has exacerbated the labor shortage. As an example, for residential programs the staff/child ratio is one-to-five, but variances could shift that to one-to-six or one-to-seven. 

Jobs are currently available in WayneOakland and Macomb counties. The AACFA website has a link to available jobs at member organizations.  

All members of AACFA are 501(c)(3) organizations and are accredited by the National Council on Accreditation or Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Our accreditation means we follow national best practices, and we are subject to independent audits and reviews to ensure the highest standards for safety, transparency and fiscal responsibility.   

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