Local judges concerned over potential foster care cuts

Posted at 10:40 PM, Oct 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-28 22:45:42-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Many within the foster care system are doing anything they can to save one non-profit dedicated to helping vulnerable children.

The West Michigan Partnership for Children launched a pilot program two years ago. Their enhanced foster care model provides an intensive community-based approach by stabilizing current youth in foster care, diverting youth from being placed out of the community and deliberately returning children from residential group home settings to foster families.

Typically, the enhanced foster care model is used to help some of the system's most vulnerable who need extensive resources to cope with severe trauma they have endured.

In the two years the enhanced model has been operating, WMPC has reduced the number of days children spend in residential treatment facilities by 20 percent, increased the number of licensed foster homes in three Kent County zip codes by 65 percent and decreased the length of stay for children in foster care by 5 percent.

$2 million of WMPC's budget has been cut as part of Governor Whitmer's budget. The funds make up their entire administrative budget and would effectively obliterate the organization from operating. If the funds are not restored, WMPC's case load would be transitioned over the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

Stacey Goodson has fostered 18 children over the years, 3 of those children have been placed with her through WMPC.

"I had a lot of feelings when I first heard about it," said Goodson. "I think the initial reaction was angry like wow, we're actually doing something that's good and making a positive impact in a positive direction with foster care."

When working with WMPC, Goodson received additional training so that she could be prepared to help children coming from difficult backgrounds. The children also received in-home treatment and additional resources they wouldn't have received otherwise.

"It's sad and scary to think that they could potentially lose the intensive services but also the improved services that they've been getting over the last couple of years," said Goodson.

Local judges also fear that children currently benefiting from placements will lose that progress without WMPC's services.

"To think that it's all going to go away, it's almost mind-boggling," said Judge Kathleen Feeney, Chief Judge Pro Tem of the Kent County Circuit Court. "It's going to be really dramatic, and we are going to go back and lose so much of the progress that we have made."

Judge Feeney has seen the progress firsthand and says WMPC is preventing children from hopping from one foster home to the next.

"It's devastating to all of us that work here because we have faces, the children have faces that go with what's happening," said Judge Deborah McNabb, Presiding Judge of the Family Division of the 17th Judicial Circuit Court.

WMPC is currently trying to plead with the Governor's office to reverse this decision and restore the funds.

They ask anyone who feels strongly about this issue to contact the Governor's office or their local representative about this issue.