Michigan Settles Foster Care Lawsuit

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The state of Michigan has agreed to implement major reforms in its foster care system under a settlement reached in a class action lawsuit.

The suit, Dwayne B. v. Granholm, was brought in 2006 by Children's Rights, the New-York based advocacy group. The settlement was reached July 3, four days before a trial was to begin in federal court. The suit said the physical and mental health care for foster children was unacceptable and that certain practices endangered their lives.

As part of the settlement, the Department of Human Services will spend approximately $200 million over the next four years to reduce caseloads by hiring 700 new employees, establish a statewide child protective services hotline, and improve medical and mental health care for children in state custody.

Other stipulations include hiring 200 permanency specialists to address the needs of more than 6,000 legal orphans, whose parents have lost the rights to their children and are under state care. The system must also increase caseworker visits to foster homes.

From the start of the lawsuit, the state acknowledged that changes were needed in the system, according to Edward Woods III, spokesman for DHS.

Both sides said they believe U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds will approve the settlement. A 2007 proposed settlement was later abandoned by the state, which led to the trial preparations.