A couple of weeks ago we attended a meeting in Lansing with some key people regarding the issue of adoptive families trying to access residential placements or theraputic foster care using their medical subsidy for funding through DHS (Department of Human Services).  This was the second in a series of meetings that addressed the problem of families in crisis being charged with neglect. MI Representative Alma Wheeler Smith attended the meeting along with her assistant, 4 adoptive families in crisis, Atty. John Lewis, 2 DHS personnel, and a representative from the legislature. At that meeting Atty. Lewis requested a moratorium for the families present, including ours. We were hopeful that our need to immediate help would be met. We again found ourselves needing in crisis shortly thereafter, but had heard no promise of relief other than through the grapevine. We thought we’d be stuck in the neglect charges arena again, but due to a quick phone call to the Dpty. Director of DHS from an adoption compatriot, our needs were temporarily met for our son with only an hour to spare.  

The problem we are encountering now is the uncertainty of the system. Once you receive approval for residential, you must agree to allow the child to return home whenever DHS decides – whether or not the child is ready. Oftentimes it is just down to a question of funding. To keep costs down, funding may be withdrawn without considering the needs of the child. This is how many families come to be charged with neglect. They refuse to let their child back into the home because they fear for their family members.  All they are doing is requesting DHS to either extend the residential placement or find a therapeutic foster care placement (trained foster parents with no children in their home) for the child.  In my book, any parent who spends hours pleading for help for their child has already proven they are a parent who seeks to provide for the needs of their child.  Yet, in Michigan, parents who ask for help from DHS in the form of alternate placement often must be charged with neglect in order to get the needs of their child met. It’s one of those ridiculous glitches in the system that ends up destroying families.

I know of a couple who considered divorcing, not because they wanted to, but because they needed to provide a safe home for their children with one of the parents, while the other suffered charges of neglect – for refusing to take a dangerous child back into their home. Protective services had threatened to take all of their children during their standoff. It’s a pretty common occurance, to use such a power play to keep adoptive parents in their place. In the end, the parents signed off their rights in order to save their family from being destroyed. How’s that for DHS’s primary goal of family preservation?

On our medical subsidy contract, it clearly states that medical subsidy payments are made in order to provide and obtain services necessary to achieve or protect the child’s adoption – based on the needs of the child. How on earth does that translate into neglect? Like MI Rep. Alma Wheeler Smith said, we need to redefine the word  “neglect” [for DHS and the Legislation]. I have great respect for Rep. Smith, for she has taken time out of her busy schedule to help adoptive families. Her advocacy work, along with Atty. John Lewis has made a difference in several adoptive families lives and probably will pave the road for system change. Too many adoptive families are not finding the help they need when they run into trouble with their difficult children. They are being charged for neglect when all they want is a safe, appropriate solution for their kids. Until it happened to me, I had no idea what was going on. Please remember to pray for them and the changes that need to be made in the system and legislature.