Recent CA&N Media Articles, Cases and Resources

Some recent media articles and resources relating to child abuse and neglect.  If you have items that you think would be helpful to include in this occasional post, please forward them to me at the email in my signature block.

These stories were chosen because of their perceived relevance to the child welfare community.  MiPSAC is not responsible for the views expressed in any of these articles, nor does it take a position for or against the positions expressed in the articles.  They are presented merely to provide a sampling of what the media is saying about child welfare.

Charlie Enright, JD, MSW
4907 Foster Rd.
Midland, MI  48642
(989) 832-9628
[email protected]

Grand Rapids Press, March 9th: “Editorial: Lawmakers should support legislation to amend the Child Protection Law to require the Department of Human Services (DHS) to notify the Children’s Ombudsman about the death of a child under state supervision.”  Full editorial

Saginaw News, March 9th: “Department of Human Services report: Three fired from Wolverine Human Services in threats, incidents against juvenile residents.”  Full story

Detroit Free Press, March 6th: Reports recently issued by national groups have been critical of the Michigan child welfare system.  The Free Press published two op-eds.  One written by Judges James Alexander and Kenneth L. Tacoma and the other by Don Duquette.
Duquette Op Ed – –  Alexander & Tacoma Op Ed

University of Michigan offers scholarships specifically for youth who have aged out of the foster care system.  Blavin Scholarship can ease way from foster care to U of M.  Full Story

Detroit Free Press, March 6th: Editorial: Lawmakers should raise state’s dropout age to 18. Full editorial

Detroit News, March 6th: “Editorial: Make school relevant to fight dropout rate.”  Full editorial

Grand Rapids Press, March 6th: “Editorial: Reforms to the Friend of the Court that improve efficiency and services are in the best interest of children.”  Full editorial

Saginaw News, March 5th: “Midland County Commissioners have approved the first contracts under a pilot project grant of $299,607 for Baby Court.  The Department of Justice, Office for Civil Rights, established the initiative with a grant. Midland along with Genesee and Wayne counties are part of the three-year pilot program.  Jerry Kole, Midland County trial court administrator said 15-20 Midland children, aged 0-3 years will be involved each year.  Program provides an option other than termination.”  Full story

Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, March 5th: “[The] Michigan Department of Corrections … is expected to decide whether to relocate some 275 higher-security-level, mentally ill adult males to the W.J. Maxey Boys Training School.” | Full story

The first Johnson Children and The Law Workshop addresses the capacity of children to participate in legal decisions affecting their welfare. The 2009 series of workshops is now complete.  Workshop videos are now posted on the U of M Law School web site. Workshop Link

Macomb Daily, March 3rd: “Editorial: Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox has issued a plea to craigslist to take quick action to protect children from online sex predators.  Full Editorial

Jackson Citizen Patriot, March 2nd: Jackson area officials are hoping to secure a $268,067 grant to support a program that facilitates supervised visits between parents and children.  Weber said she hopes to serve at least 180 families over three years with the help of the funding. About 37 families are currently involved in the program, she said.  The program has been managed by the Council for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect since 1988, but it will be directed by Catholic Charities if the grant is approved.  Full Story

Muskegon Chronicle, Feb 26th: The mother calls it discipline. Authorities call it abuse.  Whichever side of the argument you fall on, rest assured, biting a child will land you in jail. Full Story

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Johnson; February 26th; from Wayne County
The five-year old daughter alleged her father sexually abused her. The trial court held a “tender years” hearing.  Four witnesses – a therapist, a nurse, the child’s mother, and the child’s grandmother testified the child’s statements were unsolicited and were not the result of direct questioning.  On appeal, the father argued the mother was a “bitter, delusional schizophrenic who coached” the child into making her statements.  The court of Appeals affirmed the trial courts decision to terminate the father’s rights to the child.  Full Text Opinion

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Beuford: February 24th; from Wayne County
The respondent-father waived the issue of whether the trial court erred in finding a statutory ground for termination of his parental rights.  The father’s parental rights were terminated. He argued the trial court erred in its best interests analysis because there was no evidence contradicting the expert testimony of a psychiatrist at the Clinic for Child Study that the termination was not necessary. The court disagreed. The court noted the trial court erred in finding termination was not contrary to the child’s best interests rather than by affirmatively finding termination was in her best interests. MCL 712A.19b (5) was recently amended to provide a trial court must now find termination of parental rights is in the child’s best interests. However, there is no specific burden on either party to produce evidence of the child’s best interests – the trial court should weigh all the available evidence. Neither the statute nor the court rule requires the trial court to make specific findings on the best interests issue. Thus, despite the evidence of the child’s bond with respondent, based on the record as a whole, the court was not left with a definite and firm conviction the trial court clearly erred in its best interests determination. The trial court’s order terminating respondent’s parental rights was affirmed.  Full Text Opinion

2009 Children’s Bureau Discretionary Grants
Program Office: Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, Children’s Bureau. The following funding opportunity announcement(s) has/have been published:

Due Date for all Applications: April 27, 2009

  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Child Protective Services (More Info click here)
  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Child Welfare Organizational Improvement (More Info click here)
  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Adoption (More Info click here)
  • Funding Opportunity Title: National Resource Center for Youth Development (More Info click here)

Information on applying for Children’s Bureau Discretionary Grants is available on the Children’s Bureau’s Web site
If you have questions, please call the ACYF Operations Center at 1-866-796-1591.

Detroit News, Feb 27th: “An undercover investigation shows Craigslist is not protecting children from predators, Attorney General Mike Cox said in a letter to the Web site’s CEO.” | Full story

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Bridges
The trial court erred by terminating the respondent-mother’s parental rights to the two minor children where the evidence failed to clearly and convincingly establish she caused any injury to M. She is the mother of MP and JB, the two involved children. Her third child, M. died at 10 weeks. Child abuse was strongly suspected. No evidence existed respondent ever intentionally harmed M. or otherwise inflicted the contusions noted at the time of the autopsy. The ME (Medical Examiner) conceded based on the evidence available to him he could not rule out a homicide took place, but he had more questions than answers. The cause of M.’s death remained purely speculative. The speculative record simply did not support the fact respondent probably caused his death. Further, the ME specifically denied detecting any evidence of acute or chronic abuse, and none of the other witnesses supplied evidence even remotely consistent with a conclusion respondent had ever abused M. According to the ME, the contusions found on M.’s chest, arm, and face were consistent with the events surrounding a frantic effort to grab and hold the child while performing CPR, and did not cause or contribute to his death. Nothing in the record supported an inference any of the contusions contributed to his death in any manner. The trial court inferred the bruising on M.’s body resulted from injuries inflicted by respondent, and identified as the sole basis for this inference the absence of any “plausible” explanation for the bruising supplied by respondent herself. However, because the ME and the detective admitted the bruising could have occurred during resuscitative efforts, respondent’s failure to supply an alternative “plausible” explanation did not even support a reasonable inference she caused the injuries. Although her invocation of the Fifth Amendment permitted the trial court to draw an adverse inference, the existence of an adverse inference did not relieve the petitioner-DHS of its burden to produce clear and convincing proof of the ground for termination. Even assuming respondent’s failure to testify resulted in a presumption her testimony would have been unfavorable, “[t]he burden of producing evidence of a fact cannot be met by relying on this ‘presumption.'” Thus, an adverse inference drawn from her invocation of her Fifth Amendment right did not shift to her the burden of proving she did not cause the bruising, and did not relieve the DHS of the need to prove a ground for termination by clear and convincing evidence. Reversed and remanded.  Full Text Opinion

Detroit News, Feb 26th: [A] Detroit Public Schools board member, whose parental rights to five sons already are essentially severed, failed to regain custody of his 2-year-old daughter.  Full Story

Ann Arbor News, Feb 26th: Editorial: WISD steps are right for abuse allegations.  Full Editorial

Detroit Free Press, Feb 23rd: Editorial: State shouldn’t be so quick to separate families.  See related Op Eds above, dated March 6th.  Full editorial

AP/Detroit Free Press, Feb 21st: Courts can oversee a custody dispute between lesbian parents who adopted in Illinois even though Michigan doesn’t formally recognize gay relationships, the state Court of Appeals said.  Full story

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished) Feb 17th
Case Name: Crain v. Schultz
Under the facts of the case, there was proper cause to trigger the trial court’s obligation to determine custody through a review of the statutory best interest factors. Defendant submitted evidence plaintiff made false allegations of sexual abuse of the child by defendant to CPS on two occasions, which resulted in CPS and police investigations. Significantly, the child was subjected to a number of forensic interviews and a sexual assault examination. The record also demonstrated plaintiff threatened the child’s psychologist and teachers. CPS ultimately substantiated a claim of mental injury of the child by plaintiff. While a trial court cannot speculate about facts that may arise in the future, it need not “await some negative effect on a child before undertaking an examination of the child’s best interests.” The court of appeals agreed with the trial court’s statement the false allegations also demonstrated inappropriate behavior toward defendant, and clear attempts to prevent him from visiting the child. The trial court found plaintiff “has gone out of her way to destroy any relationship that the child might have with [defendant].” The court found these facts were relevant to factor (j), the willingness and ability of the parties to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent, and were of a magnitude to have a significant effect on the child’s wellbeing. The evidence presented by defendant amounted to more than minor allegations of contempt or visitation complaints. Affirmed. Full Text Opinion

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