Throughout our 70-year history in northwestern Michigan, our primary work has been to protect and support abused and neglected children. We do this by providing parent education and other in-home services to their families, training and licensing foster families to provide temporary homes for them when it is vital to their safety to live away from their families, and through counseling and other services based on childrens individual needs. We provide these services through a contract with the State of Michigan.
As the State experiences severe, ongoing financial and policy challenges, Child and Family Services increasingly finds that State contracts do not cover the costs of providing foster care services, particularly at the level of excellence to which we are committed. The dollars we raise through fundraising are now directed to meeting those costs--funds that we previously directed to extra opportunities for the growth and development of the people we serve. And still it is not enough.
The broken condition of our state foster care system has drawn the attention of the national organization Childrens Rights. In August of this year, Childrens Rights filed a class action lawsuit against the state of Michigan for its alleged failure to protect the rights of children. The Detroit News recently weighed in with an editorial imploring the state to step up to its responsibility to make vulnerable children and families a priority.
It is time to ask ourselves the question: Are we as a society, despite financial challenges that face us, willing to pay the reasonable costs of providing important human services to children and families in need?
The State of Michigan operates the nations seventh largest foster care system, with about 19,000 children. Yet Michigan ranks in the nations bottom 12 states in the ratio of state and local dollars to federal dollars directed to the care of these children.
Last year, Child and Family Services and other child welfare organizations, under the umbrella of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families, asked the Michigan legislature for an increase in reimbursement rates to address the appalling, chronic underfunding of the care of children in the foster care system.
The legislature agreed that we needed an increase. But the one it approved amounted to 92 cents a day per child.
Now, our financial foundation is in jeopardy.
Why should you care? Why are our services important to you?
There are three gears of the economic engine that drives our state: government, the for profit business community, and nonprofit organizations. The nonprofit sector provides the human services so many of us, our friends, and our neighbors require. But the sector also provides an increasing number of jobs, about 380,000 in Michigan today, making it the fifth largest industry for employment in the state. It brings our communities art and music and land conservation and higher education--things that help create a quality of life that many of us appreciate and seek out for ourselves and our families.
At this time of year, its appropriate to consider, as George Bailey did in the Christmas classic, “Its a Wonderful Life.“ What would things be like if we, Child and Family Services, didnt exist? What would happen if our doors closed as a result of this crisis?
Our community will need to find foster care services for 450 or so children each year.
Dozens of children treated for sexual abuse will no longer have those free services available to them and their families.
Hundreds more people will lose access to subsidized counseling services they need to surmount lifes challenges -- which in hard times affect families even more.
Fewer families will receive the treatment and support they need to overcome the crises they face.
Fewer children with trauma in their past will be able to overcome the cycle of violence, and will be less likely to become productive members of their communities.
Without adequate treatment and support, more abused and neglected children will grow up and turn to violent or antisocial behaviors.
More of them will go to jail. And they will cost taxpayers -- and society -- more money in the long term than the amount we need to weather this storm.
No. Closing our doors is not the answer. We ask instead for your help.
Please help us meet the challenge of providing quality human services to thousands of people each year by remembering us for your charitable giving this year. Please advocate for quality services like those we provide to your legislators. Ask them to make children and families a top priority for state funding.
We simply cant do it without you.
From our family to yours, happy holidays. We hope you will celebrate safe in the knowledge that you made a real difference in your community this year.
The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. --Dietrich Bonhoeffer