The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is pleased with its early progress in better protecting children while keeping families together through a pilot project in Kalamazoo, Macomb and Muskegon counties.
Families participating in the Protect MiFamily project and officials from MDHHS and its partner agencies provided an update at a press conference today at the Kalamazoo County MDHHS office. Through Protect MiFamily, federal dollars that Michigan would have spent to support placing children in foster care in the three counties is used to provide services for at-risk families with children ages 0-5 to prevent abuse and neglect.
“We’re investing in families – not foster care,” said Steve Yager, executive director of the Children’s Services Agency within MDHHS. “Protect MiFamily is consistent with our goal of keeping families together safely. Children are better off with their parents as long as it’s safe for them to remain in their homes. By working closely with families and providing intensive services to address barriers to child safety and well-being, Protect MiFamily staff members engage parents so they learn to properly care for their children.”
The department works with Samaritas – formerly Lutheran Social Services of Michigan – and Catholic Charities West Michigan to provide intervention services to families. “Driven by our mission to connect all people with the families and communities that will empower them to live their fullest life possible, we at Samaritas are proud to participate in Protect MiFamily to help bring hope, healing and wholeness to Michigan’s families and build stronger communities statewide,” said Sam Beals, CEO of Samaritas. “By working together to help children and families resolve their challenges and learn how to make healthy choices, we believe these changes will create an unending ripple effect of transformation in the communities we serve.”
Pam Cohn, chief operating officer for Catholic Charities West Michigan, said: “Following in our mission to provide help and create hope, we at Catholic Charities West Michigan are honored to be a part of the Protect MiFamily program. Being able to partner with families to promote positive change has been both rewarding and successful. The Protect MiFamily program has given us the opportunity to work with families in a different way by collaborating together to provide education, support and community services that enable families to remain together now and in the future.”
Today MDHHS released an interim evaluation report from two outside entities that shows progress in the first half of the five-year project. Michigan began Protect MiFamily in 2013 after receiving a federal waiver that gives the state more flexibility in how it spends Title IV-E funds.
Among the findings in the report from the statistical services company Westat and the University of Michigan:
For families that completed the entire Protect MiFamily program, subsequent child removals due to abuse and neglect occurred 4.6 percent of the time, compared to 10.8 percent for a control group of families in the three counties that didn’t receive Protect MiFamily services.
Families who received Protect MiFamily services spoke positively about its effect on their family. More than 90 percent of families said they were getting the services they need.
Thirty percent of young children in Protect MiFamily showed improvement in their emotional and social development as measured by the Devereux Early Childhood Assessment for cases in which parents participated in the full dose of Protect MiFamily.
“It’s so rewarding to see families succeed and stay together as they are empowered by Protect MiFamily services,” said Rachel Sykes, director of Child and Family Services for Samaritas in Southwest Michigan. “This is a better way to help children and families. Children love their parents and parents want better lives for their children. We need to prevent the trauma of removing children from their homes whenever possible.”
Protect MiFamily helps drive the participating counties toward the overall mission of MDHHS: Providing opportunities, services and programs that promote a healthy, safe and stable environment for residents to be self-sufficient. It provides a variety of services to meet the unique needs of children and families – including substance abuse and mental health services and services to help children affected by trauma.
“Protect MiFamily is a great support system,” said Alyssa Lovely, of Kalamazoo, a domestic violence survivor who received Protect MiFamily Services and is the mother of Joshua, now age 5. “They’re not there to judge you. They’re there to help you. That program was amazing. I was very blessed to be a part of it.”
The pilot project is one of the successful reforms in the last several years under Gov. Rick Snyder that have led to great progress with Michigan’s child welfare system. These reforms have resulted in gains in safety, well-being and permanency for vulnerable children. That success led to a federal judge’s February approval of an agreement that sets the state on a path toward exiting federal court oversight of its child welfare system.
MDHHS will make improvements to Protect MiFamily based on the evaluation report and feedback. In the long term, the department will work toward implementing a statewide program with support from Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care. Casey Family Programs is partnering with the department on this innovative approach to helping families.
The Protect MiFamily Interim Evaluation report can be found at www.michigan.gov/protectmifamily.