MDHHS responds to multiple failures in Child Protective Services audit

Posted at 9:45 PM, Sep 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-11 22:23:54-04

LANSING, Mich.-- A recent audit found multiple problems when it comes to  Michigan’s Child Protective Services.

The report released last Thursday by the Office of the Auditor General found 17 material findings from a list of 23 total between May 2014 and July 2016. That list includes reports of CPS workers not doing proper background checks and not interviewing alleged abuse victims.

In a scathing 107 page report, the Office of the Auditor General outlined numerous areas where Michigan Child Protective Services fell short.

"Obviously we’re concerned about the findings of the audit and want to make improvements to Children’s Protective Services and we’re taking this as a learning opportunity and an opportunity to make improvements to Children’s Protective Services," said Bob Wheaton, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CPS.

Wheaton says the department agrees with a majority of the Auditor General’s findings.

The report shows:

  • Investigations were not commenced on time for 17 percent of cases.
  • Required background checks were not done in more than 50 percent of investigations.
  • CPS investigators didn’t meet with alleged child victims in 11 percent of cases.
  • County prosecutors weren’t contacted when required in 50 percent of cases.
  • Many required medical examinations didn’t take place
  • Almost 30 percent of reviewed investigations were 44 days late on average.
  • 257 confirmed perpetrators of child abuse and neglect weren’t added to the central registry as required.

The list goes on.

"We do take these findings in this audit very seriously and we share the concerns that the Office of the Auditor General has for protecting Michigan children from abuse and neglect," said Wheaton. "We’ve already begun taking corrective actions and working on making improvements to the CPS investigation process."

The audit also shows 75 percent of investigators say they’ve feared for their physical safety on the job and a majority feel pressure to meet time standards contributes to unsafe situations.

More than 60 percent of employees say they’ve had caseloads of 13 or greater in that time, which negatively impacted their ability to do their jobs in compliance with MDHHS policy.

"We’ve had some early discussions about possibly going to the legislature to try to make some changes in staffing levels to lower the case sizes that our CPS investigators have," said Wheaton.

In a release on Tuesday, Governor Snyder announced a team in charge of improving Child Protective Services. Snyder  is appointing Orlene Hawks, Director of the Office of Children’s Ombudsman, as the leader of that team to conduct an operational review and improvement process at the Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Protective Services program.

Snyder also called the findings of the audit 'unacceptable'. Governor Snyder released the following statement on Tuesday:

“Child Protective Services needs to be a high-performing, accountability-driven unit because they are serving some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.I have instructed the team to move faster than people are used to seeing in government because the children of Michigan are counting on this program working well. I have full confidence in Orlene getting to the bottom of what is happening within this program and finding the most effective way to improve things quickly.”

"We do agree that we need to and just do much better, so we do need to do better," said Wheaton.

16 counties were included in the audit of 160 investigations, including Kent, Allegan and Ionia counties.

The Department of Health and Human Services now has 60 days to respond with a plan to comply with these recommendations.

A full copy of the report can be read here.