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Gov. Whitmer signs foster care bills into law

Two parents with child
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Several bills aimed at improving Michigan’s foster care system are now law. They received the governor’s signature Friday.

The legislation handles a range of topics, from how many children certain foster care facilities can serve, to the legal definition of a “relative” for placement.

“Together, we are taking action to protect Michigan’s foster youth by offering them more permanent homes and improving training for the professionals who work with them,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a written announcement.

In all, the package came to a dozen separate bills. They hope to keep foster children close to adults who may already be part of their support network.

Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp) sponsored a bill that helps prioritize placing children with that fictive kin when possible.

“By expanding the definition of the word ‘relative,’ we ensure that even if no blood relative is available to foster a child, then someone with close emotional ties can be considered instead of the child going to a stranger. I am so appreciative of the work that my colleagues on the Adoption and Foster Care Task Force did to help the children of our state as well as Gov. Whitmer's support," she said in a separate press release.

Other parts of the package require trauma-informed training for lawyers who serve on a foster child’s behalf. Another bill signed into law sets up tax breaks for employers who offer paid adoption leave.

A separate legislative package also got the governor's signature Friday. She approved bipartisan legislation that allows some jurisdictions to start preprocessing some of their ballot returns before Election Day.