CBS Detroit – The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Michigan Supreme Court’s State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) are working together to get children in the foster care system to permanent homes as quickly and safely as possible amid the Coronavirus pandemic.

Child welfare officials have identified more than 200 children in Michigan’s foster care system as being close to being able to return home to one or both parents in a project called Rapid Permanency. The goals of the project by child welfare officials at MDHHS and SCAO want to get these children home within the next month or sooner.

Credit: MDHHS – JooYeun Chang, Senior Deputy Dir., Children’s Services Agency

“The department believes that children should not be in foster care for any longer than absolutely necessary,” said JooYeun Chang, executive director of the Children’s Services Agency at MDHHS. “ Even though we are facing numerous challenges right now, the urgency to achieve permanency for children and their families should not be slowed due to COVID-19.”

Rapid Permanency is taking a team approach, with Michigan’s public and private child welfare caseworkers, lawyers, and judges to analyze cases eligible for reunification. They look for evidence where parents have made significant progress. They create a plan with the input of parents to address issues holding up reunification with their children. The state agencies and courts then make referrals to resources or services so that families can be reunited safely and quickly.

The SCAO is helping by providing courts the tools to hold virtual hearings, as well as to help resolve issues to prevent delays and further case reviews. Also issuing return home orders when appropriate.

Credit: Michigan Courts – Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Megan Cavanagh said, “During a time of crisis, taking steps to make sure children are with their parents is the right thing to do. The goal of this partnership is to remove barriers to bringing families together as quickly as possible, and judges statewide are committed to making well-informed decisions that are in the best interest of every child.”

“To achieve permanency, families need strong support and access to resources, and this partnership will play a key role in making sure children can be safely reunified with their parents. With close supervision by the judiciary and support from child welfare professionals and the community, more children can go home,” said Justice Beth Clement. Both Justice Cavanagh and Justice Clement focus on child welfare issues for the Court.

One of the goals of this project is to take the lessons learned and put those best practices in the future to ensure children can safely remain with their parents.

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