The creation of a new, bipartisan task force to address problems in the state's adoption and foster care system was announced Thursday by Michigan Representative Thomas Albert (R-Lowell), chair of the House Appropriations Committee.
"The overall goal is to improve the outcomes for kids that are in the foster care and adoption systems," Albert said.
Albert said the specific agenda will be set by the task force.
He cited child welfare services, family reunification, increasing adoptions, and educational outcomes of foster kids as possible areas to be investigated.
The task force plans to hear from experts, families, and children who have had firsthand experience with the system and its shortcomings.
It aims to develop specific recommendations for legislative, administrative and judical changes and to make recommendations in August for legislative action.
"The measure of any task force is whether the work they will do will actually benefit the lives of children and their families," said Vivek Sankaran, director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School. "And that has to be their North Star as they begin the work, thinking about those who are entering juvenile court every day and thinking about what it is they are doing that will actually benefit those families."
"I would love to see a push to radically reform how we fund foster care," Sankaran said. "And how we support families and invest in prevention in keeping kids safely with their families whenever possible."
According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, about 13,000 children are in Michigan's foster care system, and roughly 3,000 of them are waiting for adoption at any given time.
Representative Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp.) will chair the task force.