Ensuring Safety at Home
Supporting parents to be their children’s first and best teachers will result in safe, stable, and nurturing home environments that promote children’s early learning and development.
Stable Paths to Adult Success
Ensuring that young people in the state’s care are provided some stability in their educational careers will result in the ability to build supportive relationships; end the direct path from foster care to juvenile justice; and better educational, career, and family outcomes.
In order for young people to be successful, they need to be a part of a home and community where they feel safe and that provides some consistent support for their relationships, for their education, and for their transition into adulthood.
At the same time that confirmed cases of child abuse and neglect have risen in Michigan, investments in programs that stabilize families and supports infants, children and youth connected to the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have not kept pace.
As in other areas, we know a lot more than we used to about the impact of abuse and neglect on children. Brain science shows that – especially in young children – abuse and neglect rewires a child’s brain with potential lifelong consequences; so clearly preventing abuse and neglect in the first place is the best option. The state can make targeted efforts to reduce the incidence of abuse and neglect, including building a base of economic support around families and paying more attention to behavioral health needs of parents. Challenged families often need additional help in providing consistent support to their kids, and once a decision is made to remove children and youth from their families, the systems mandated to provide that consistent support need to be held accountable for doing that.
Current outcomes for young people who have been involved in the foster care system are unacceptable. While we are making strides in how we serve the young people under our guardianship – those who the state removed from their challenged families and often their communities because of abuse, neglect and delinquency – we are still not successful enough. Multiple sectors must work together to make sure that under our care, young people are better able to rebuild what has been lost and move successfully toward supporting themselves and their own families now and in the future.
Consistent, Accessible Behavioral Health Services
We know so much about the risks that lead children, youth and families into the system, and we need to invest in preventing those risks. Too often, children and youth who are already in the foster care and juvenile justice systems do not receive the appropriate behavioral and mental health services they need. And challenged parents of the very youngest children often need additional supports, since infants are the largest share of any other age group as confirmed victims of abuse and neglect. Better investments in behavioral health assessment and intervention, mental health and substance use/abuse, and domestic violence prevention and treatment are required to ensure that fewer children and youth end up under the state’s guardianship and that those already in the system have the supports they need to thrive.
Robust Transition Services
Young people aging out of the state’s foster care system have unique needs, and the state carries a unique responsibility to support their transition. It often takes longer to get through high school as frequent moves, credits failing to transfer and other life circumstances make it difficult to succeed in four consecutive years. When young people do make it onto a post-secondary path, financial and other supports are critical to help them make it all the way through to a degree. This too can take longer than the time frames allowed by currently funded transition programs. Supporting coordination across multiple sectors — education, health, and human services — for youth aging out of the foster care system can ensure that their physical health, mental and behavioral health, and basic needs are met; so they can stay on a path of education and, ultimately, life success.
Learn more about recommendations young people are making.