Cutting off Assistance to Families Won’t Improve School Attendance, Will Drive Up Poverty

Pushing families further into poverty will not increase school attendance rates. The Michigan Legislature is considering House Bill 4041 that would codify current Department of Human Services policy that terminates Family Independence Program, or cash assistance, for an entire family if a child between the ages of 6 and 15 is considered to be truant by their local school district. An entire family is punished for the actions of one child. If the student is 16 or older, only the truant child is removed from the case. The bill will not boost school attendance rates, but it will increase the number of children and families living in extreme poverty.

DHS policy should have the goal of helping families, not driving them deeper into economic crisis. The cash assistance program helps families living in extreme poverty (income under half of the poverty level, or $9,385 for a family of three). Families receiving FIP have very few resources and already face a number of challenges, including inconsistent work schedules; lack of access to quality, affordable child care; and reliable transportation. Eliminating their cash assistance will do nothing to address these challenges and will make life more difficult for their children. The League has the following concerns with HB 4041:

Codifying current DHS policy ties the hands of the department. It becomes much more difficult to change policy after it is made into law. The department would lose any flexibility to adapt its policy to better serve the needs of the people.

Barriers to attending school are not addressed. Four of the top 10 reasons for missing school, as identified by the Michigan School-Justice Partnership, deal with transportation, child care, and lack of appropriate clothing for the weather. Eliminating a family’s cash assistance will only make these issues worse. Working oneon-one with families to identify and resolve the underlying issues—without reducing their resources—is a much better route to ensure that a child is ready and able to learn at school. HB 4041 does not include any type of required intervention.

Lack of due process to appeal a decision. At times, an illness or other situation results in a high number of absences. These could be excused absences depending on the school attendance policy. Individual situations should be recognized, and families should have a clear process for appealing a decision that terminates their assistance. While DHS policy does include an appeals process, this proposed law does not.

Full-family sanction for families with children between 6 and 15 years old is severe. There may be cases in which a parent is doing everything in their power to get their 14year-old to school, but the child—for whatever reason—does not arrive or stay in school. Terminating assistance for the entire family for the actions of one child could make it more difficult for other children in the family to get to school.

Unclear definition of truancy or attendance policy. Without a statewide definition of truancy and the variances across school districts in how truancy is defined, there will be inequitable impact on children and families.

Child poverty remains unacceptably high. From 2006 to 2012, the rate of children living in poverty in Michigan grew by 35%. The economic recovery has not touched everyone. More than 70% of program participants are children with an average age of 7. Cutting off assistance will undoubtedly harm children in these families the most at a time when the governor’s dashboard calls for reducing childhood poverty.

House Bill 4041, and the related DHS policy, is not the way to improve attendance rates or the lives of these families in either the short or long run. Codifying this DHS policy will only contribute to increasing child poverty and the number of families living in extreme poverty.

 

Why kids count

Recent news reports celebrate the decline in the unemployment rate and the quickened tempo of the recovery. But four years into the recovery, Michigan’s child poverty rates remain consistently high.

In 2013, one of every four children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level (roughly $18,800 for a single-parent family of three and $23,600 for a two-parent family of four), according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, released today. (more…)

Many kids stuck in poverty without solutions

Contact: Judy Putnam or Jane Zehnder-Merrell, 517.487.5436

Kids Count in Mich. ranks 82 counties on child well-being

LANSING, Mich. – Too many kids in Michigan remain mired in poverty at a time when policymakers have reduced help for struggling families, according to the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2015 released today.

Three measures of economic conditions worsened over the trend period with nearly one in every four children living in an impoverished household, a 35 percent increase in child poverty over six years. The trend period measured from 2006 to 2012 or 2013, depending on the availability of data.

(more…)

‘Yes’ on road funding is right direction

From the League’s First Tuesday newsletter
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It’s a pivotal time for Michigan public policy. Decisions made in the next few months will determine the path Michigan takes into the future.

In three short months, voters on May 5 will decide Proposal 1, the road funding package. There’s no doubt that this is Michigan’s single best chance to raise sorely needed money to pay for road repairs and put new dollars into school classrooms all while protecting families earning the least. (more…)

Diving deeper into the river of opportunity

At the League, economic opportunity is our mission so it was heartening to hear Gov. Rick Snyder talk about the ‘river of opportunity’ in his fifth State of the State address Tuesday. There is an assumption in that analogy, however, that deserves a closer look.

The governor spoke about his background growing up in a 900-square-foot home in Battle Creek in a supportive family. He said despite his family’s modest income, he was still able to be part of the river of opportunity. He spoke of the Michiganians who are not part – separated by poverty, absent parents or other barriers — and he talked about his desire to move them into that river of opportunity. (more…)

Back to school: Are children ready to learn?

For children to succeed in school, they must go to school “ready to learn” –  rested, fed and healthy. But how many children will start the school year with a toothache or other dental problem?

According to the Department of Community Health’s 2011 -2012 Count Your Smiles survey, the number is likely pretty high. (more…)

Senate and House Approve DHS FY 2015 Budget

Full report in PDF

Both the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives have approved their versions of the Department of Human Services budget for Fiscal Year 2015, which begins on Oct. 1, 2014, and ends Sept. 30, 2015. Differences between the Senate and House versions will now be reconciled in a joint House/Senate conference committee.

After years of declining investments, the DHS budgets approved by the House and Senate further reduce total funding for DHS. The governor’s budget cuts DHS by $427 million or 7.1% from current year-to-date spending. The Senate cuts DHS by 7.4% or $448 million, while the House reduces funding by $466 million or 7.7%.

Reductions in spending partly reflect policy decisions that have made fewer families and children eligible for public assistance benefits, including lifetime limits on income assistance, and a new asset test for food assistance.

In the current fiscal year, the DHS budget is the state’s third largest, accounting for 12.3% of total spending from federal and state resources. Federal funds now account for more than 80% of DHS funding, up from 70% in Fiscal Year 2004. Other sources of revenue for DHS are state General Funds (17%); and state restricted, local and private funds.

DHS administers a range of services, including the Family Independence Program; the Food Assistance Program; State Disability Assistance; State Emergency Relief; and child protective, foster care, adoption and juvenile justice services. Decisions made by the Legislature will affect nearly 2.4 million Michigan residents—including over 1 million children—who receive some form of public assistance to help them hold low-wage jobs, feed and shelter their children, access healthcare, or survive when faced with serious illnesses or disabilities.

Income Assistance

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET:

  • Another deep reduction in funding for income assistance for families with children. The gover­nor’s budget for Fiscal Year 2015 includes $152 million for the FIP program, a reduction of 29% from the current level of $214.3 million. The governor assumes that FIP caseloads will fall from 44,400 this year to 33,200 in 2015, a reduction of 25% in a single fiscal year.
  • Expansion of funds for out-stationed DHS workers. The governor recommends $19.3 million in federal, private and local funds to expand the number of outstationed DHS workers by 150. With this funding, DHS would be able to expand the number of workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, school-based centers or businesses that agree to pay a portion of the cost, using their contributions to draw down federal funding.
  • Continuation of the current Extended-FIP policy, which gives households leaving FIP due to earnings $10 per month in FIP assistance for six months. In 2011, when the state tightened its 48-month lifetime limit on FIP, those six months of very minimal assistance began to count against a family’s lifetime limit. The governor’s budget also removes language requiring DHS to notify persons eligible for Extended-FIP that receiving it will count toward federal and state lifetime limits. The governor projects monthly Extended-FIP caseloads of 1,105 next year, down by 155 cases.
  • Continuation of the current FIP children’s clothing allowance. The governor’s budget includes $2.9 mil­lion for the annual clothing allowance for children. The allowance was originally designed to make sure that school-age children have the opportunity to at least start the school year with a set of clothes. The program was restricted in 2011 to only those children in FIP cases that do not include an adult—e.g., children living with ineligible grandparents or other caregivers.
  • New contract to verify eligibility for public assistance. The governor includes $5 million for a contract to verify assets and other financial information for public assistance applicants and recipients.

HOUSE:

  • The House agrees with the gover­nor’s recommended FIP caseload of 33,200, and total funding of $152 million.
  • The House also allocates $2.9 million for the annual FIP children’s clothing allowance, but expands eligibility to all FIP children ages 4 through 18.
  • The House continues current policy of counting minimal Extended-FIP benefits against lifetime limits, but expands budget language requiring DHS to notify families of the effect on lifetime benefits on both the FIP application and the form that notifies families of their eligibility.
  • The House agrees with the governor’s expansion of out-stationed workers, but reduces the number of non-child welfare DHS staff by 150 ($19.3 million) to offset the expected increase in donated funds positions.
  • The House concurs with the governor and includes $5 million for a contract to verify assets and other financial information of public assistance applicants and recipients.

SENATE:

  • The Senate agrees with the gover­nor’s projected FIP caseload of 33,200, a reduction of 11,200 cases monthly, reducing FIP funding by $62.3 million.
  • The Senate adds budget language requiring DHS to report quarterly on: (1) the num­ber and percentage of nonexempt FIP recipients who are employed; (2) the average and range of wages of employed FIP recipients; and (3) the number and percentage of employed FIP recipients who remain employed for 6 months or more.
  • The Senate agrees with the gover­nor’s expansion of out-stationed workers by $19.3 million and 150 full-time positions.
  • The Senate agrees with the governor by continuing to count minimal Extended-FIP benefits against families’ lifetime limits. The Senate retains the current requirement to notify families that Extended-FIP will count toward federal and state lifetime limits.
  • The Senate includes new budget language requiring DHS to create a workgroup to determine how Michigan Works! job training programs can be revised to reflect declining FIP caseloads, including possible reductions in the amount of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding that is provided to Michigan Works!
  • The Senate concurs with the governor and the House by including $5 million for a contract to verify assets and other financial information of public assistance applicants and recipients.

Food Assistance

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET:

  • A reduction of $444.5 million in FAP funding, to a total of $2.4 billion. The cut reflects the loss of federal ARRA funding as well as a projected drop in FAP households, from 894,750 this year to 890,000 in Fiscal Year 2015. Nearly 1.7 million Michigan residents received FAP benefits in January 2014, including over 700,000 children. Of those children, 242,408, or more than one-third, were under the age of 6.
  • Continuation of the optional state asset test for FAP benefits. Beginning in October 2011, DHS adopted an asset test for FAP eligibility that is not required under federal law. FAP households/groups must now have less than $5,000 in assets, including the value of vehicles after certain exemptions.
  • No resolution of the “Heat and Eat” provisions of the federal Farm Bill. The governor’s budget was released right before the Farm Bill was passed by Congress and therefore does not address federal cuts related to the “Heat and Eat” provisions of the bill. The Heat and Eat option, which has been util­ized by 16 states including Michigan, allows states to use a standard utility allowance in determining food assistance benefits, including situations where eligible households receive a nominal $1 per year in energy assistance through the Low Income Health and Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). As a result, Michigan has been able to enhance the very modest Food Assistance benefits for some house­holds, particularly important on the heels of a cut in benefits for all FAP recipients in November of 2013 due to the loss of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Under the new Farm Bill, the nominal LIHEAP payment was increased to a minimum of $20 per years. Eight states, including New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Oregon, Montana, Massachusetts and Vermont have already announced that they will meet the new $20 minimum and continue current benefits for low income families, while two additional states and the District of Columbia are considering the change.

The House Fiscal Agency estimates—based on Fiscal Year 2010 data—that continuing the Heat and Eat option in Fiscal Year 2015 will require an additional $8.4 million in LIHEAP spending, but will prevent the loss of approximately $250 million in federal food assistance. Failure to raise the LIHEAP payment to $20 will result in the loss of $88 per month in food assis­tance for more than 235,000 low income families.

HOUSE:

  • The House agrees with the governor on the projected FAP caseload of 890,000, as well as the loss of ARRA funding, resulting in a total cut in FAP funding of $445.5 million.
  • The House also retains the FAP asset test.
  • The House budget bill does not address the “Heat and Eat” provisions of the federal Farm Bill.

SENATE:

  • The Senate concurred with the governor and the House on FAP caseloads and related funding.
  • The Senate also retained the FAP asset test.
  • The Senate did not address the “Heat and Eat” provisions of the federal Farm Bill.

State Disability Assistance and Services

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET:

  • A reduction in funding for State Disability Assis­tance of 14%. The governor’s budget includes $17.9 million for the SDA, down from the $20.8 million appropriated in the current fiscal year. SDA case­loads have been decreasing since Fiscal Year 2010, in part because of efforts to ensure that SDA recipients who are eligible for federal Supplemental Security Income are transferred to that program.
  • A continued reduction in SDA cases. The governor assumes that the SDA caseload will also fall by 14% from the level budgeted in the current fiscal year, with total cases of 6,693 next year.
  • An increase in funding for Michigan Rehabilitative Services. The governor includes $4.4 million ($2.4 million in one-time funding), allowing DHS to draw down an additional $14.8 million in federal matching funds for rehabilitative services and avoid waiting lists.
  • Additional disability determination staff. The governor’s budget includes an additional $20.6 million in available federal funding, allowing the state to add 80 staff positions to determine eligibility for disability services.

HOUSE:

  • The House agrees with the governor on a caseload of 6,693 for SDA, a reduction in funding of $2.9 million in state General Funds, and total funding for SDA payments of $17.9 million.
  • The House includes only $2 million for Michigan Rehabilitative Services (down from the governor’s recommendation of $4.4 million), along with a $100 “placeholder” to ensure later budget discussions about the remaining $2.4 million that the governor designated as “one-time” funding.
  • The House appropriates an additional $1 million for the Centers for Independent Living for accessible, comprehensive and coordinated services for persons with disabilities—with the goal of improving financial self-sufficiency.
  • The House concurs with the governor on the expansion of federal disability determination workers.

SENATE:

  • The Senate agrees with the governor’s overall reduction in funding for SDA payments from $20.8 million this year to $17.9 million in Fiscal Year 2015, as well as the projected SDA caseload of 6,693.
  • The Senate agrees with the governor and expands funding for Michigan Rehabilitative Services by $4.4 million, drawing down an additional $14.8 million in federal funds. In addition, the Senate adds $3 million to match $11.1 million in funding in the Department of Corrections to provide vocational and other services to persons with histories of probation and parole violations (not currently incarcerated), as well as those with severe mental health needs.
  • The Senate concurs with the governor on the expansion of federal disability determination workers, and takes savings of $2.2 million in the budget, assuming that additional staff support would reduce the average number of months individuals would receive state disability assistance from 12 months to 9 months (for half the caseload).
  • The Senate agrees with the House and appropriates $1 million to continue and expand the Center for Independent Living project.
  • The Senate includes new budget language that would limit the number of times persons could apply for disability assistance to two times per year—subject to federal approval.

State Emergency Services

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET:

  • Continuation of current energy assistance poli­cies and appropriations. In addition to federal funding from the Low Income Home Energy Assis­tance Program (LIHEAP), in the past, Michigan received funds through the state’s Public Service Commission for energy assistance. After the courts ruled that the PSC did not have authority to collect restricted fee revenues, a decision that reduced funding by $60 million annually, the Legislature approved a new surcharge on electric meters to fund the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP). The MEAP was created in state law (P.A. 615 of 2012), and required DHS to establish a consolidated energy assistance pro­gram with a single, simplified application. For Fiscal Year 2015, the governor includes nearly $175 million in LIHEAP funding, as well as $60 million for the MEAP.
  • Continuation funding for State Emergency Relief services, including $13.6 million for local DHS office emergency services, $15.7 million for homeless services through the Salvation Army, $4.3 million for indigent burial services, $1.8 million for the Food Bank Council, and $3 million for multicultural services.

HOUSE:

  • The House includes $165 million for LIHEAP—$10 million less than the governor—including approximately $85 million for home heating credits and $80 million for energy crisis assistance. The House uses $10 million in federal LIHEAP to fund the MEAP, reflecting a statutory cap on the new surcharge of $50 million in collections, and bringing total spending for the MEAP in the House budget to $60 million.
  • The House concurs with the governor and provides $13.6 million for local office emergen­cy services, $15.7 million for homeless programs, $4.3 million for indigent burials, $1.8 for food banks, and $3 million for multicultural integration funding and the Chaldean Community Foundation.

SENATE:

  • The Senate concurs with the governor, providing $175 million for LIHEAP, and $60 million for the MEAP.
  • The Senate includes a $200,000 increase in funding for food banks, bringing total funding to nearly $2 million.

Child Welfare and Family Services

GOVERNOR’S BUDGET:

Foster Care and Protective Services

  • A slight increase in funding for foster care services. The governor recommends $190.3 million for foster care payments, up slightly from the $187.7 million appropriated for this year.
  • A small reduction in projected foster care cases. The governor cuts $2.4 million ($1 million state General Funds) to reflect a projected decline in foster care cases from 6,250 this year to 6,075 in Fiscal Year 2015. Foster care cases have been falling and, with the governor’s projections, will be down 43% between Fiscal Years 2005 and 2015.
  • Funding to pay 100% of private agency administrative rates. The governor includes a $5 million increase in funding to pay 100% of the private child placing agency administrative rate for new cases entering care. Those costs are currently split between the state and counties.
  • An increase of 4% in the County Child Care Fund. The governor includes $178 million for the Child Care Fund, an increase of 4% over the current year appropriation. The Child Care Fund provides for the care and treatment of delinquent or maltreated children who are court wards and not eligible for federal payments through Title IV-E. The primary sources of funding for the Child Care Fund are state General Funds (49.8%) and federal TANF (48.5%).
  • Increased funding for medical and psychiatric evaluations of abused and neglected children. The governor includes an additional $2.1 million for medical and psychiatric evaluations for children in the child welfare system, increasing total funding from $6.6 million to $8.7 million.
  • Funding to launch a new performance-based contracting model for child welfare services. The governor includes $1.4 million, including $1 million in state General Fund) for the first phase of a new financing model for child welfare services.

Adoption Services

  • A small decrease in funding for adoption subsidies. The governor includes $241 million for adoption subsidies, a small decrease from the current year appropriation of $244 million. Subsidies are provided to families adopting children with special needs, and include both cash and medical subsidies for pre-existing medical or mental health conditions. Adoption subsidy average monthly caseloads increased by 11% between Fiscal Years 2005 and 2010, and have since stabilized at approximately 27,000. The major sources of funding for adoption subsidies are Title IV-E (46%), state General Funds (33%), and federal TANF (21%).
  • An increase in incentive payments for private agen­cies finalizing adoptions. The governor includes a total of $3.2 million—an increase of 5%—for private agencies that are placing children for adoption, including incentive payments to encourage more timely adoption turnaround times.

Family Preservation and Prevention

  • No reinvestment in prevention and family preser­vation services. The governor provides continuation funding for Strong Families/Safe Children ($12.35 million), Family Reunification ($3.98 million), and family preservation and prevention services pro­grams ($2.5 million). Small cuts were made in the Families First program (from $17.2 million to $16.9 million), and the Child Protection and Permanency program ($13.2 million to $12.9 million). Total funding for family preservation and prevention programs fell from $60.6 million in Fiscal Year 2005 to $49.3 million in the current fiscal year—a reduc­tion of nearly 19%, in the face of a 20% increase in the number of substantiated victims of child abuse and neglect.

Other Child and Family Services

  • An increase in funding for domestic violence prevention. The governor includes $514,200 for domestic violence prevention and treatment programs, increasing total funding from $15.2 million to $15.7 million.
  • Small increase in funding for juvenile justice reentry services. The governor recommends $800,000 for services for youths in the juvenile justice system to ease their re-entry into the community.
  • Funding for the Healthy Michigan Plan call center. The governor recommends $20.3 million for a call center for Healthy Michigan Plan/Medicaid applicants and recipients.

HOUSE:

Foster Care and Protective Services

  • The House recommends total funding for foster care payments of $188.4 million, slightly below the governor’s budget, but accepts the governor’s estimated foster care caseload of 6,075, at a projected cost of $28,061 per case for the year.
  • The House increases the Child Care Fund to $185.2 million. The House agrees with the governor to pay 100% of the private agency administrative rate for new cases next year (rather than splitting costs with the counties), but appro­priated those funds to the Child Care Fund, rather than to the foster care portion of the budget.
  • The House includes the governor’s recommended increase in funding for incentive payments for private agencies that finalize adoptions in a timely manner ($3.2 million).
  • The House revises the goal limiting the number of children in foster care for longer than 24 months from 31% to 25%.
  • The House appropriates an additional $3.7 million (including $3.3 million in state funds) to increase rates paid to private agency residential care providers by slightly over 2%—provided the county match rate is eliminated for the increase.
  • The House agrees with the governor to fund the launching of a new performance-based contracting model for child welfare services. The House shifts $100,000 of state funds (from the total $1.4 million recommended by the governor) for a technical assistance contract for Kent County—the first county to pilot the new financing approach. Under the House bill, Kent County would privatize all foster care and adoption services (not child protective services) by Oct. 31, 2014, with performance-based funding in place at that time.
  • The House expands the governor’s proposed increase in funding for medical and psychiatric evaluations of abused and neglected children by $100,000 to a total of $2.2 million.

Adoption Services

  • The House agrees with the governor on the projected adoption subsidy caseload of 26,800 at an estimated cost of $732 per month per case, as well as total spending for the program of $241.1 million.
  • The House concurs with the governor and adds $3.2 million in state funds for incentives for private agency adoptions.
  • The House adds budget language prohibiting DHS from using the income of the adoptive parent in determining eligibility for adoption support subsidies.
  • The House adds $1 million for a “Parent to Parent” peer mentoring program to provide support for adoptive parents.

Family Preservation and Prevention

  • The House concurs with the governor’s recommendation on funding for family preservation and prevention programs, with continu­ation funding for Strong Families/Safe Children, Family Reunification, and family preservation and prevention services programs, as well as small cuts in the Families First and Child Protection and Perma­nency programs.

Other Child and Family Services

  • The House allocates $3 million for before- and after-school programs, as well as $500,000 for a school success partnership program through the Northeast Michigan Community Services Agency.
  • The House approves the governor’s recommendation of $800,000 for services for youths in the juvenile justice system to ease their re-entry into the community.
  • The House cuts $8.1 million ($3 mil­lion in state General Fund) by closing the Maxey Training School for delinquent youths, transferring those youths to other facilities.
  • The House approves $20.3 million for the Healthy Michigan Plan call center.
  • The House accepts the governor’s proposed increase in funding for domestic violence and prevention services.
  • The House approves $350,000 for the Michigan Reading Corps to provide literacy services and tutors for students in kindergarten through third grade who are identified as being at risk of reading failure.

SENATE:

Foster Care and Protective Services

  • The Senate agrees with the governor on foster care caseloads and costs, projecting a decline in foster care cases to 6,075 next year, and a total reduction in related foster care costs of $2.4 million.
  • The Senate agrees with the governor on a nearly $7 million increase (4%) in the County Child Care Fund, with total funding of $178 million.
  • The Senate agrees with the governor’s recommendation to allocate $1.4 million for the new performance-based contracting model for child welfare services.
  • The Senate increases funding for medical and psychiatric evaluations of children in the protective services and foster care systems by $2 million over the governor’s recommendation, for a total increase of $4.1 million. Total funding would rise to $10.7 million—up nearly 63% from the current fiscal year.
  • The Senate agrees with the governor in approving a $5 million increase in funding to pay 100% of the private child placing agency administra­tive rate for new cases entering care.
  • The Senate includes $300,000 to cover the costs foster parents incur in transporting their foster children to parent-child visitations.
  • The Senate revises budget language to change the goal of limiting the number of children in foster care for longer than 24 months from 31% to 30%.
  • The Senate adds new budget language requiring DHS to set clear policies for parent-child visitations, including written plans with a minimum of three hours per child per week.

Adoption Services

  • The Senate concurs with the governor and includes $241 million for adoption subsidies, a decrease of $2.9 million from the cur­rent year based on a projected drop in the caseload of 350 cases to 26,800.
  • The Senate increases funding for incentive payments for private agency adoptions by only 3.3% (compared to the 5% recommended by the governor and approved by the House), for a total increase of $2.2 million.
  • The Senate includes $18.8 million to allow adoptive parents to claim enhanced payment rates for children who had special needs that existed at the time of adoption, but were not identi­fied until later. Adoptive parents would be allowed to receive the enhanced rate one time for any eligible child from birth to age 18. This recom­mended change is in response to complaints filed by adoptive parents that they were not notified that their adopted children had special needs, and includes physically disabled children needing greater supervision and care, as well as children with special mental health needs, requiring special diets, or with antisocial behaviors.
  • The Senate includes budget language prohibiting DHS from negotiating adoption subsidies that are below the standard payment for foster care.

Family Preservation and Prevention

  • The Senate concurs with the governor’s recommendation on funding for family preservation and prevention programs, with con­tinuation funding for Strong Families/Safe Children, Family Reunification, and family preser­vation and prevention services programs; and small cuts in the Families First and Child Protection and Permanency programs.

Other Child and Family Services

  • The Senate agrees with the governor’s recommended increase in funding for domestic violence prevention and treatment.
  • The Senate includes $125,000 in state funds to match federal funding for the Michigan Reading Corps—for the purpose of literacy and tutoring services for children in kindergarten through third grade—as well as $300,000 to expand the School Success Partnerships program to four new counties through the Northeast Michigan Community Services Agency.
  • The Senate includes $2.9 million for a database to track youths in the juvenile justice system, funding not included in the governor’s budget or the House budget.
  • The Senate includes $500,000 to expand grants to rural communities to fund new and expanded in-home juvenile justice programs, bringing total funding to $1.5 million.
  • The Senate includes the governor’s proposed increase in funding for juvenile justice re-entry services of $800,000.
  • The Senate includes $20.3 million for the Healthy Michigan Plan call center.
  • The Senate includes budget language requiring the DHS to work with the Department of Community Health and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to establish a lead abatement task force with recommendations by March 1, 2015. Senate language also requires the DHS and Community Action Agencies to give first priority for weatherization services to families with children with elevated blood lead levels.

80-mile walk

On this cool, windy spring morning I joined other advocates to show support for the youth who walked the 80 miles from Detroit to the Capitol steps in Lansing to express their concerns with Michigan’s zero tolerance policies and the impact on their lives.

Michael Reynolds, an organizer of the 80- mile event, said zero tolerance policies are "kicking good kids out of school.''

For the uninitiated, “zero tolerance” in this context refers to those education policies that mandate automatic suspension or expulsion for offenses deemed a threat to the safety of other students or school staff. The big problem in Michigan is that the list of such offenses now includes relatively minor infractions such as not having a school ID badge or wearing clothing that doesn’t adhere to the uniform code, according to the students who spoke this morning.

“I hope that legislators understand that youth around Michigan want to modify zero tolerance, and we’re willing to walk 80 miles to show it,” said Michael Reynolds, co-president of Youth First and an organizer of the march.

In 1995, Michigan enacted a series of laws in response to the federal Gun Free Schools Act of 1994 that required expulsion for at least one year any student who brought a weapon onto school property. Unfortunately Michigan legislators enacted some of the most stringent policies in the country by expanding the list of “expulsion” offenses to include assault whether or not a weapon was involved, verbal “assaults,” vandalism, disobedience and an expansive definition of “weapon” that included toys and plastic knives. (more…)

Walking the walk with infant mortality

Factors that may drive Michigan’s tragically high infant mortality rate include stress, unemployment, poverty and neighborhood safety in addition to what might be thought of as the more traditional reasons, such as lack of healthcare or poor safe sleep practices, according to a new report from the Michigan Department of Community Health. The report takes a broad look at why Michigan’s rate is so high and in particular why an African American infant in Michigan is 2.6 more times likely to die before reaching the child’s first birthday than a white infant. (more…)

Ten steps to boost Michigan’s economy

new report by the League outlines 10 steps Michigan must take to improve its economy, refuting the myth that tax cuts are a shortcut to economic prosperity. Included in the report are strategies for investing in the services and infrastructure needed to create jobs and fuel economic growth, as well as tax changes that modernize and strengthen the state’s revenue system.

It is an agenda for long-term economic prosperity that includes investments in education from early childhood through higher education, access to the health and mental health services needed for a healthy workforce, basic income security for those who cannot work or find jobs, and support for the community services businesses and consumers rely on. (more…)

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