For all of the controversy and monstrous errors that have haunted Michigan’s CPS for decades, there is another side to that coin. A side that rarely gets talked about, and doesn’t often make the news. A side that strives to solve the problems faced by families who’ve been torn apart by CPS, and make right what was wrong. Not sure what we’re talking about? It’s none other than Michigan’s Family Reunification Program.
Never heard of them? You’re not alone. Many people haven’t. And yet the work they do is recognized on a national level, and sets the standard for family reunification around the country. So what do they do? How does reunifying a family work here in Michigan? Let’s take a look…
How does the Michigan Family Reunification Program work?
It started as a small trial program in rural parts of the state, where there were no foster homes available for children. So the state provided a small stipend, created the reunification agency, and told them to figure out how to get those kids to stay safely with their families. The trial was a huge success, and has since branched out into 73 of the state’s 83 counties, serving about 1,000 families every year on an annual budget of about $6 million.
The layout is simple. Each family worker is given no more than 6 families to work with, so that they have the time available to meet each family’s needs. The family worker, and their team leader, are available 24/7 to the families they serve. This ensures that crises can be handled immediately and effectively. Each family receives between four and six months of services, several hours a week, to ensure that reunification is successful.
Reunification is actually much harder than it sounds!
You would think it would be easy. Give the kids back to their parents, everyone will be happy, and life will go on. But that’s not the case. The children tend to return home expecting their parents to be the way they were before. But the parents have changed. They’ve attended substance abuse counseling, therapy, parenting classes. Everything is different now, and everyone needs to get to know each other all over again. Boundaries will be pushed. It’s a very fragile time for the newly reunited family.
And whatever problems led to the children being removed in the first place, those are often still there. An unreliable car that makes keeping a job hard. Finances that never seem to cover all of life’s necessities, making having enough food and bill paying a juggling act. Tenuous sobriety that is vulnerable to stress. Unreliable childcare options. These are families with a lot of challenges. And being newly reunified means working to establish boundaries and relationships during times of hardship and need.
Many families don’t get into the reunification program.
There simply isn’t enough room. Due to staffing limitations and financial restrictions, the program can only handle 1,000 families per year. Which may sound like a lot, until you stop and consider how many children are in foster care in Michigan. The answer is thousands. And so many families might meet the criteria for reunification under this amazing program, but there just isn’t space for them.
Join us next time, as we look at some of the challenges this program faces, and some of the incredible successes they’ve achieved. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of child abuse or neglect, and CPS is threatening to take your children away, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our skilled CPS Defense Attorneys are standing by 24/7 to help you!