Foster kids’ stories inspire moves to reform

Capital News Service
LANSING – The number of Michigan children in the state’s foster care system is at its lowest in almost a decade, but anecdotes from kids within the system have legislators considering bipartisan reform. First term Rep. Jim Runestad, a Republican from White Lake, said he has spoken to Rep. John Chirkun, a Democrat from Roseville, about working together to improve the foster care system. Chirkun could not be reached for comment. About 18 foster children told legislators recently about their experiences in the system, highlighting issues such as sibling separation and limited resources available once they age out of the system. The children told their stories through an event called KidSpeak, organized by the nonprofit Michigan’s Children to help young people directly address legislators on issues affecting them.

Racial disparities in adoption raise concerns

Capital News Service
LANSING – Decades later, Rhonda Roorda still becomes emotional. “Sometimes I still feel the trauma of knowing that but for the grace of God, I could have aged out of the foster care system,” said Roorda, an African-American woman who was adopted by a white couple in 1971. “I could have fallen through the cracks.”

The most recent national data by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System suggests that many of these cracks in the foster care system are shrinking. The total number of children entering foster care has decreased by 18 percent since 2007. Fewer children are waiting for adoption placement.

Youth could stay longer in foster care system

Capital News Service
LANSING — A new Department of Human Services (DHS) program would allow youth to remain in foster care until they turn 21. The voluntary program would allow participants to continue receiving foster care payments, health care and counseling after they turn 18. They would be eligible to remain in the program if they are employed at least 80 hours per month, are in school or a job training program, or if they can’t work or attend school due to a medical condition. Every year, around 600 youth age out of foster care, losing eligibility for funds that DHS officials say could help them transition into adulthood. Of the state’s 14,000 foster care youth, 585 will be eligible for the program this year.