Task force created to address racial disparities in Michigan's child protection system

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has created a task force to prevent and eliminate systemic racism in the state's child protection system and transform it to make family well-being and preventing abuse, neglect and trauma the top priority of the department's Children's Services Agency.

MDHHS is partnering with MPHI, a non-profit public-private partnership created to support MDHHS, to establish the Child Welfare Improvement Task Force to address racial disparities in child welfare.
MDHHS believes overrepresentation of children of color in the child protection system requires a fundamental system change, according to state officials.

Children of color enter foster care at higher rates and stay in care longer than their white peers. They are more likely to be placed in institutional facilities rather than in family homes, remain there for long periods, and leave the foster care system without a family.

While 16 percent of children in Michigan are Black, children who are Black make up 29 percent of the state's foster care population. While 31 percent of children in Michigan are children of color, they make up 51 percent of the foster care population.

As a result of these experiences, Black and brown children and their families are at greater risk for adverse health, social, and economic effects that can last a lifetime.

"As well-intentioned as we are, our current system perpetuates injustices and keeps us from meeting our core values," said JooYeun Chang, executive director of MDHHS's Children's Services Agency. "This is primarily driven by systemic issues and we must therefore acknowledge and then address systemic racism and bias wherever it exists"

MDHHS has acknowledged the disparate treatment of Black children and families as a barrier to achieving that goal and has identified specific strategies to address this challenge.

The Child Welfare Improvement Task Force's goals are to support MDHHS to improve the child protection system to provide safe, fair and equitable treatment of all Michigan's children and families.

The task force will:

• Be responsible for reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of the strategies identified by the Children's Services Agency, assessing whether the agency is implementing the identified strategies, and seeking necessary community support - including legislative support - to implement effective strategies.

• Oversee the planning, implementation and evaluation of this new approach. The goal is to fully implement a new approach that improves safety and equity and reduces unnecessary and potentially harmful investigations of Black families.

• Provide policy and practice recommendations to improve equity in group care of children who are removed from their homes.

MPHI is a Michigan-based, nonprofit public health institute leading public health efforts across the country.


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