The Child Welfare Services division within the State Court Administrative Office provides assistance to circuit court family divisions on child welfare matters, including child protective proceedings, foster care, adoption, coordination with Indian tribes, termination of parental rights, permanency outcomes, and data collection and analysis. Child Welfare Services administers the Michigan Court Improvement Program (CIP) and the Foster Care Review Board Program (FCRB) and provides 25 to 30 multi-disciplinary trainings each year on a variety of child welfare issues.
Court Improvement Program
The Court Improvement Program is part of a nationwide effort to improve how courts handle child abuse and neglect cases. The program is funded by federal grants that are guided by and operate through a statewide, cross-disciplinary task force aimed at improving the three key elements of child protective proceedings: safety, permanency, and well-being for children. The CIP allows Michigan to implement necessary reforms, track its progress toward meeting state and federal laws, national standards, and program improvement plans to improve child protective court proceedings.
Foster Care Review Board Program
The Foster Care Review Board Program provides independent, periodic review of cases in the state foster care system. A statewide advisory committee, including leaders from the child welfare community, ensures that the program fulfills its statutory mandates and provides maximum benefit to improving the foster care system.
Child Welfare Performance Measures
All systems need measurements to ensure the goals are being accomplished. Child Welfare Services is working towards establishing performance measurements for child protective proceedings and a system for continuous monitoring and improvements to ensure the critical goals of safety, permanency, and well-being are being met throughout the state.
Absent Without Legal Permission
Children in Michigan who run away from their foster placement are deemed absent without legal permission (AWOLP). Since 2002, courts have been required to have a plan for locating and monitoring AWOLP children and to report to the Supreme Court on these cases. Reporting forms and instructions, training materials and webcasts, best practice tips, and other resources are available to aid courts in complying with AWOLP requirements.
Child and Family Services Review
Child and Family Services Reviews are conducted by the Children's Bureau within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, and are designed to help states achieve more timely permanency decisions and establish stronger safety guarantees for abused and neglected children under state supervision. The latest review was conducted in 2009. See a March 18, 2010 memo on the review findings and the measures to be taken by the state as a result of those findings. Reports on the findings can be viewed under Audits and Reviews to the right.
Title IV-E Requirements
Title IV-E is a federal funding program that helps states pay for the costs of certain children who are removed from their home due to child abuse or neglect. Title IV-E eligibility is based on meeting certain criteria when the child is initially removed from his or her home and placed under the care and supervision of the Department of Human Services.
An essential component to meeting the criteria for eligibility are the courts orders. The State Court Administrative Office has approved a number of relevant court orders, which were reviewed by the federal government and determined to meet the federal requirements. Use of these SCAO-Approved court orders will aid the courts in meeting all federal and Michigan requirements where children have been removed from the home. Search for the SCAO-Approved court order forms.
The Child Welfare Services division provides training on Title IV-E requirements, shares information with local courts and the Department of Human Services, and collaborates with the Michigan tribal courts by including them in trainings and providing assistance as they apply for their own individual Title IV-E federal contracts.
Periodically, the federal government conducts an audit to ensure that states are spending the federal funding correctly and following the federal guidelines required to obtain the funding. Collaboration and communication between the courts and the Department of Human Services is critical to a successful audit. Child Welfare Services works with the Michigan Department of Human Services to ensure collaboration is taking place at the local level. The latest federal audit was conducted in 2010 (see the report), and the next audit will occur in 2013.