Non-profit child welfare agencies provide resources for suicide prevention

blog image - AACFA

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

Children and families are struggling with their mental health now more than ever. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic persists, anxiety and depression continue to be at high levels as regulations change, life events are cancelled, and unprecedented times carry on.  

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies that make up our membership have seen an influx of children with mental health issues, including more and more struggling with suicidal thoughts.  

The month of September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. We use this time to emphasize issues and resources, as well as to spread hope and love to those who have been affected by suicide. In Michigan, an individual dies by suicide every six hours, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It is so important to destigmatize the issue of suicide and help connect people with resources that could help them or a loved one in a time of need. 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies like our Association of Accredited Child & Family Agency members offer a wide continuum of services to help with mental health. We know there’s pent-up demand for mental health services, and not getting children and teens help they need can have dire consequences. 

Our member organizations offer specialized programs for mental health related issues, including suicidal thoughts and self-harm. We provide round-the-clock residential care and highly personalized treatment with licensed therapists and knowledgeable, caring staff.  

We fight hard to provide these services to as many children and teens as possible because they are so vital to our state. We do so with 30 percent less funding than state-run child welfare agencies. Michigan should make fair funding a priority so we can continue to provide high quality services to children and families who need it. 

For more information about the mental health services provides by our member organizations, visit our member pages 

Anyone who needs urgent help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-273-TALK.  

Ennis Center for Children celebrates 43-year anniversary serving Michigan’s children and families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, Sept. 10, 2021  
Contact: Sydney Smith, Byrum & Fisk Communications, ssmith@byrumfisk.com, 586-212-3103 

LANSING – The Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies (AACFA) today is recognizing 43 years of service provided to Michigan’s children and families by Ennis Center for Children, an AACFA member organization. 

Ennis Center for Children has been working with abused and neglected children for more than four decades, reaching over 6,000 Michigan children and families annually in Genesee, Oakland, St. Clair, Monroe, Saginaw, Livingston and Wayne counties.  

“Ennis Center for Children is an invaluable part of Michigan’s child welfare system, and on behalf of AACFA I thank them for 43 years of dedicated service to Michigan’s children and families,” said Judith Fischer Wollack, president of AACFA. “The Ennis Center has shown time and time again that it will rise to the challenges faced as a non-profit accredited child welfare agency to get children the care they need to thrive.” 

Ennis Center offers a wide continuum of services and faces large demand for foster and adoptive parents, as well as for mental health services, which have become emphasized by the pandemic. It offers foster care and adoption services, as well as works with delinquent teens, helping them stay in school and on the path toward adulthood. 

“We are so thankful for communities across Michigan for their more than four decades of support,” said Bob Ennis, president and founder of Ennis Center. “We take great pride in providing essential services to Michigan’s children and families and will always advocate for their best interests alongside other AACFA organizations.” 

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Michigan’s children need more mental health support

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By Judith Fischer Wollack, president of AACFA 

As COVID-19 continues its unpredictable path forward, non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies remain committed to addressing the mental health needs of Michigan’s children and families. 

We have seen firsthand how COVID-19 has caused an uptick in the need for mental health care services for children and families, and we are at a critical point for addressing that pent-up demand. Simply put, there are not enough resources for children and families, given the shortage of psychiatric beds in our state and the closure of multiple residential care facilities. 

We’ve seen multiple news stories in recent months about children spending days in emergency rooms while they wait for psychiatric beds so they can get the vital mental health support they need to thrive.  

The Treatment Advocacy Center, a national nonprofit organization that works to eliminate barriers to mental illness treatment, reports Michigan fails to meet the minimum standard of minimally adequate mental health treatment for individuals with severe mental illness. With tens of thousands of Michiganders diagnosed with severe mental illness we only have hundreds of psychiatric beds available. 

It’s not enough to meet the current demand. 

Research also shows the mental health of children and teens has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 29 percent of parents surveyed in May 2020 said their child’s mental/emotional health was already harmed. That number increased in October 2020, when 31 percent of parents said their child’s mental/emotional health was worse than before the pandemic. 

It’s a simple fact that children in Michigan need more mental health support.  

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies like our sare helping Michigan’s children and families as much as we can through this crisis, but we need more resources in order to meet the demand. We receive 30 percent less funding than state-run child welfare agencies, which spreads our expertise and resources thinner, making it harder to find and retain qualified workers, which only does a disservice to children in our state who are struggling.  

As a state, we can and must do better while non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies keep working tirelessly to make sure Michigan’s children and families have the care they deserve through these incredibly difficult times.  

Michigan foster, adoptive children need PTSD resources

Copy of AACFA blog photo

By Judith Fischer Wollack 

Many children who enter the child welfare system have experienced traumatic events and need a safe place to cope. 

June 27 is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day, and as a group of non-profit, accredited child welfare organizations who work with children and families with PTSD, we believe it’s important to highlight existing resources and how policymakers can help children in our care who need support.  

Our organizations provide help to the children and families in our state who need it the most. Many children come into our care traumatized. Foster and adoptive children may have specific needs that we are equipped to treat, aiding in healing and coping.  

Trauma can affect children physically and mentally and can change the way they think for the rest of their lives. These children may develop unhealthy or dangerous behaviors, which could have protected them in the past from abusive behavior that initially traumatized them.  

Here are some helpful resources on parenting children who have experienced trauma. 

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are here to help. Our organizations offer a full continuum of high-quality and comprehensive services, including counseling and mental health services for children and families. 

We offer this wide continuum of services with a fraction of the funding that state-run organizations receive, which is why we advocate for Fair Funding for Michigan Families. Increasing funding fairness across child welfare agencies would allow us to provide more high-quality services and meet the growing needs of children and families in Michigan who have experienced trauma, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Children and families in Michigan, especially those who have experienced trauma, deserve the best possible care. Policymakers can help in this by funding our organizations fairly, so we are able to give children and families the support they need. 

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.   

Join us in advocating for Fair Funding for Michigan Families

By Judith Fischer Wollack, President of AACFA 

Michigan’s children and families deserve the best care possible. 

That’s why the Association for Accredited Child & Family Agencies today launched our Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign. As non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies in Michigan, we believe it’s critical to ensure fairness in funding across our state’s child welfare system in order to provide Michigan children and families with the care they need and deserve. 

Watch our virtual campaign launch

Non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies are an essential part of Michigan’s child welfare system –offering youth mental health and counseling services, bringing families together through adoptions and foster care, and providing juvenile justice, residential care and other high-quality comprehensive services for families. Our member organizations employ more than 2,100 highly trained frontline workers who play a critical role in supporting Michigan families, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We provide these services without the same funding as state-run entities, which leaves us at a huge disadvantage to meet the growing needs of Michigan’s families. Lawmakers must explore fairness in funding to ensure children and families are receiving the highest quality care in Michigan. 

Through AACFA’s Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign, we strive to make policy changes that ensure funding fairness across child welfare agencies. Research has shown investing in Michigan’s non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies on the front end will pay dividends for Michigan’s children, families and taxpayers. Fairness in funding would also help level the playing field by affording us resources to provide services to children amid a challenging labor shortage. 

Our policy priorities include: 

  • Providing staffing incentives by increasing per diem rates across Michigan’s child welfare system so agencies are better able to provide the full continuum of services, 
  • Working with local school districts, communities, judges and law enforcement to gear up for pent up demand for child welfare services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and 
  • Stopping the intentional elimination of residential services for children in Michigan, which has a huge impact on the overall continuum of services non-profit, accredited child welfare agencies can provide.

By investing in our child welfare system, Michigan can better support programs that reduce abuse and neglect, and better support children and families when they need our services the most. Given the issues COVID-19 has caused, it is a critical time to make these investments.  

We urge lawmakers and advocates to support Fair Funding for Michigan Families to give Michigan’s children and families the best care possible. 

Keep up with the campaign on our Fair Funding for Michigan Families Facebook page.