Foster Care and Adoption
Direct-consent adoption The
instance in which birth parents identify, before the birth, the
person(s) to whom they will release the child for adoption.
Foster care Temporary
full-time care of children by person(s) other than their parents.
Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange
(M.A.R.E.) An organization that tracks adoption-eligible
permanent court and state wards with special needs, produces a monthly
photo book and maintains a Web site featuring children in state
care who are awaiting adoption, and recruits families for children
with special needs.
Open adoption The
instance in which the biological and adoptive parents know one another
and may maintain some form of contact after the adoption.
Relative care/adoption The
care or adoption of a child by an adult who, by marriage, blood,
or adoption, is the child's relative (e.g., grandparent, sibling,
step sibling, uncle, aunt); also called kinship care/adoption).
Special-needs children Children
who have physical, emotional, or mental impairments often resulting
from abuse or neglect.
Voluntary-release adoption The
instance in which a child's birth parents release the child to a
private adoption agency, and s/he is adopted from the agency.
[APRIL 1, 2002] When children must be removed from their own home,
the state may place them temporarily in family foster care. Foster
care can be necessary for various reasons, such as when a child's
family is unable or unwilling to provide minimum care and supervision,
when there are safety concerns attributable to abuse or neglect,
or when parental rights are terminated.
During the 1960s, growing awareness of child abuse/neglect
led to (1) public financial support for children in foster care
and (2) mandates that various professionals who have contact with
children (e.g., doctors, teachers) must report suspicions of abuse/neglect
to the authorities. The latter led to increased knowledge of instances
of abuse/neglect and resulted in more children being placed in foster
care. Nationwide, the most recent data say that on September 30,
- 568,000 children were in foster care,
- 118,000 children awaited adoption,
- 171,000 victims of child maltreatment had been
placed in foster care during the previous year, and
- 1,100 children died as a result of maltreatment
(22 in foster care).
In the 1980s state policythrough federal funding
incentives and legislation enacted to comply with federal requirementswas
to make a reasonable effort to keep children with
their families, avoiding the necessity of foster placement when
possible and shortening the length of stay when it was not. When
children could not be safely returned to their family, states were
encouraged (as they are now) to facilitate the children's adoption.
For several years, family preservation and reunification took precedence
over other child-welfare concerns, but this has changed in light
of (1) too many instances of continued maltreatment and even death
among children returned to their family and (2) harm done to children
languishing in the foster-care system, which frequently involves
a child being in a number of foster-care placements.
In Michigan, the landmark report of the Children's
Commission (Binsfeld Commission, 1995) and the annual reports of
the state Office of Children's Ombudsman scrutinized the workings
of the Michigan child-welfare system and proposed changes that led
to a considerable body of legislation making the safety and best
interests of children (often preservation of the family unit) the
primary goals of the system. Among the changes that affect foster
care are reforms that
- allow the state to more rapidly sever parental
rights in egregious cases of sexual and psychological child abuse
and make these children available for adoption as quickly as possible;
- waive some foster-home licensing requirements,
to enable sibling groups to be placed together;
- give parents of abused children priority for substance
- revise the duties of the foster-care review boards,
requiring them to examine the history of children in foster care
in each county, monitor progress made toward fulfilling their
permanency plans (a plan, prepared by the state Family
Independence Agency [FIA] caseworker when a child is placed in
foster care, to achieve permanent placement for the child), and
hear appeals of proposed placement changes;
- require an attorney to be available to act on behalf
of a child who is the subject of a child-protection or guardianship
- require that foster parents be given prior notice
of proposed placement changes (unless the child is endangered),
provide for review-board investigation of proposed changes, with
a court hearing if necessary, and require foster parents to be
given all pertinent reports;
- provide foster parents with medical and education
records on children in their care; and
- furnish each child in the welfare system with a
portable medical passport to facilitate ongoing
In 1998 the FIA began intensive caseworker education
that includes specific training on foster care, kinship care, and
adoption. More recently, the FIA and the State Court Administrative
Office have jointly sponsored similar training for judges, attorneys,
court personnel, and additional FIA staff.
Since 2000 the family court must conduct a permanency
planning hearing within one year after the FIA first files a petition
to terminate parental rights; if the parent is found to have abused
the child, parental rights may be terminated immediately and the
hearing must occur within 28 days after the petition. The court
must then review the progress of the child towards permanency every
In 2000 about 19,500 Michigan children were in 8,201
licensed foster-care homes and 3,422 kinship homes. Foster parents
receive a basic-care allowance of $14 a day for children aged birth12
and $17.30 for older children; additional funds are paid for medically
fragile children. To date, the recent budget cutting does not affect
funds for foster care or adoption.
The 2000 FIA Supervising Agency report card
on the FIA and private child-placing agencies finds that the average
length of time from termination of parental rights to adoption is
about 13 months for children aged under 14 and about 24 months for
older children. About 46 percent of children in foster care have
had more than one caseworker, and 5 percent have had four or more.
Among the several nonprofit organizations concerned
with foster-care issues are the three large groups listed here.
- The Michigan Foster and Adoptive Family Association
promotes communication, cooperation, and coordination among people
involved with the child-welfare system. A major focus is on recruiting,
retaining, and educating foster and adoptive families. The association
works closely with the FIA to find homes for special-needs children.
- The Michigan Federation of Private Child and Family
Agencies is a statewide organization of nonprofit, private, charitable
agencies that serve children, youth, and families through foster
care, residential care, adoption, and other services. The federation
advocates for policies and legislation that protect children and
- The Child Welfare League of America, a national
organization of 1,100 public and private nonprofit agencies, develops
and promotes federal programs and policies to protect children,
especially those who are abused/neglected, and strengthen families.
The various kinds of adoption are defined in the glossary.
In 1999, 36,000 children were adopted nationwide64 percent
by their foster parents, 15 percent by relatives, and 21 percent
by nonrelativesand 10,000 more were waiting.
The number of Michigan adoptions climbed appreciably
after (1) passage of the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act
in 1997, which provides funding incentives to states for increasing
adoptions; (2) further federal legislation that prohibits delaying
or denying foster or adoptive placement on the basis of the child's
or foster/adoptive parent's race or ethnicity; and (3) the passage
in Michigan of the Binsfeld legislation, which, among
other measures, makes it easier than before to terminate parental
rights and begin the adoption process. From 1997 to 1999, Michigan
adoptions rose by 18 percent, or nearly 330 children (due in part
to enabling foster parents to adopt more quickly than before and
also to increased publicity about available children); this qualified
the FIA for nearly $1 million in federal awards, more than half
of which the FIA passed on to adoption agencies for post-adoptive
In Michigan in fiscal year 200001, more than
2,900 adoptions were finalized, of which more than half were placed
by private agencies. Exhibit 1 presents
the statistical breakdown of these 2,900 children.
In its March 2002 monthly issue, the Michigan Adoption
Resource Exchange, which promotes the adoption of state wards with
physical, mental, or emotional problems, lists 427 children available
for adoption. Exhibit 2 presents the statistical
breakdown of these children.
Michigan, which allows an income tax credit for adoption
expenses, is among the leaders in placing special-needs children
in permanent homes.
Michigan law permits certain information to be released
to and about an adopted adult (that is, an adopted child who has
- An adopted adult, his/her direct descendants (if
s/he is deceased), an adoptive parent, a birth parent, or a birth
sibling may obtain nonidentifying information, such as
medical history, about an adoptee's birth parent(s).
- An adopted adult may receive identifying
information on his/her birth parents and siblings through the
FIA's Central Adoption Registry, if the parties have filed statements
- Birth parents and siblings may receive an adopted
adult's identifying information if s/he provides written
consent through both the agency and court that completed the adoption.
With the shift to measuring child welfare by the yardstick
of safety, permanency, and well-being for the child, all decisions
concerning placement in foster care or adoption are guided by the
best interest of the child. This emphasis exacerbates an already
severe shortage of foster families. Of particular difficulty is
placing special-needs children, minorities, older children, and
sibling groups of two or more.
The foster-home shortage is aggravated by the proliferation
of two-income families, the mounting number of single-parent homes,
a rise in substance abuse, the aging of current foster parents,
and the many foster parents who adopt their charges (6070
percent) and drop out of the foster-care network.
Eighty percent of foster-home placement changes occur
at the request of the foster parents, who cite the fatigue and complexity
of caring for special-needs children, the lack of adequate support
and training for their role, financial reimbursement that does not
always cover care, and the sometimes poor relationship between families
and social workers. These placement changes mean that the children
involvedfrequently those who most need stabilityare
being shuttled from one placement to another.
Meeting the needs of foster parents and children is
considered crucial to retaining capable foster parents and promoting
placement permanency. Pending legislation (HB 5242) would establish
foster- and adoptive-care resource centers. For foster parents,
the centers would coordinate much-needed respite care for them,
assist them in obtaining daycare for their charges, and help agencies
to retain foster parents. Other measures pending would
- prohibit removal of a child from a relative's home,
unless the child is at risk of harm, while the relative is petitioning
for custody (HB 4858);
- require the state to support several focus groups
in which current and former foster children would provide firsthand
input about the effect of foster-care policy on their lives (HB
- require the FIA to provide the same level of financial
and other support for relative care as for foster care (HB 5292).
For adoptive parents, the resource centers would address
the need for more post-adoption support that was borne out by a
1999 statewide survey of 638 adoptive families involving 1,350 adopted
children. Nearly one of four families report needing post-adoption
services it did not receive, including counseling and support groups
for parents, children, and adolescents, respite care, and such education
support as tutoring. More than one-third of the families report
facing a behavioral emergency (e.g., an arrest) with one or more
of their adopted children and finding nowhere to go. Half of the
families did use available post-adoption support and report that
special education services are the most helpful, followed by support
groups for parents and psychological counseling. In 2000, new federal
and state funds addressed some of these needs.
Other measures pending relating to adoption would
make it a misdemeanor to intentionally misidentify a man as a biological
father in order to deceive in an adoption proceeding and prohibit
consideration of age in prospective adoptive parents.
One area that concerns child-welfare advocates is
the need for more spending for subsidies to parents of adopted special-needs
children. The subsidy currently is $1433 a day, depending
on the child's age and need at adoption, and is locked inregardless
of whether the child's problems diminish or worsenuntil the
child is aged 18. Because Michigan has been successful in securing
adoptive homes for these children, subsidy spending has risen steadily,
to $161 million in 2001; the subsidy caseload was more than 20,400
at the end of 2001 and is expected to exceed 24,000 by 2003. Supporters
of at least maintaining the subsidy, if not raising it, make two
points: (1) A subsidy is necessary to achieve a permanent home for
many children because of the expense of raising a special-needs
child (60 percent of families who adopt a special-needs child have
an annual income under $40,000); and (2) many special-needs children
are adopted by their foster parents, and if the adoption subsidy
falls below or becomes more uncertain than the foster care subsidy,
these families will opt not to adopt. Some suggest that part of
the expense of raising the subsidy could be offset by lowering or
terminating it for parents of children whose medical, physical,
or emotional problems have diminished or disappeared before they
Similarly, care by relatives is a desired option for
children needing out-of-home placement, but only under certain conditions
are kinship homes paid the same amount as licensed foster homes.
Some relatives of modest means are willing to care for a child but
unwilling to go through the process of becoming a licensed foster
home, which involves numerous training hours, background checks,
and sometimes housing alterations.
See also Children's Early Education and Care;
Domestic Violence; Youth at Risk.
Research on this policy topic was made possible
by a grant from The Skillman Foundation.
FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Child and Family Services Administration
Michigan Family Independence Agency
235 South Grand Avenue, 5th Floor
P.O. Box 30037
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 335-6177 FAX
Child Welfare League of America
440 First Street N.W., 3d Floor
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 638-4004 FAX
Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange
330 West Michigan Avenue
PO Box 6128
Jackson, MI 49204
(517) 783-5904 FAX
Michigan Federation of Private Child and Family Agencies
309 North Washington Square, Suite 011
Lansing, MI 48933
(517) 485-6680 FAX
Michigan Foster and Adoptive Family Association
2450 Delhi Commerce Drive, Suite 10
Holt, MI 48842
(517) 694-3092 FAX
CONTENT CURRENT AS OF APRIL 1,
© 2002 Public
Sector Consultants, Inc.
Sponsored by the Michigan Nonprofit Association and the Council
of Michigan Foundations