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.”