Michigan Senate bill would require proof of immient risk for child to go to foster care
Police could remove children from their parents only if they face an imminent risk of serious harm or with a court order, according to a bill under consideration in the state Senate.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), was inspired by a 2008 incident in which a seven year old boy was placed in foster care by authorities after his father, Christopher Ratte of Ann Arbor, mistakenly bought an alcoholic lemonade for him at a Tiger’s game in Detroit.
The boy spent more than a day in foster care before the case was dismissed. His parents, who support the proposed legal changes, are suing the Dept. of Human Services and the city of Detroit in federal court for violation of their constitutional rights to due process.
The Lansing State Journal reports that no group has weighed in with opposition to the proposed changes.
Donald Duquette, director of the Child Advocacy Law Clinic at the University of Michigan, said no state has a lower threshold for removing children into foster care than Michigan.
In Michigan, a child can be placed briefly in foster care without a judge’s order even when the child faces no imminent serious harm. Duquette said other states require police or social service workers to show the child faces serious harm.
“To the credit of the child welfare leadership of Michigan, most were embarrassed by the (Ratte) case and recognize that the child welfare system is plagued by poor decision-making, resulting in both over-and under-intervention in families,” Duquette said. “This is one of the reasons Michigan has so many children in foster care.”
Michigan has 14,700 children in foster care.