Michigan receives grant to expand Baby Court programs

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 12:34 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WNEM) – The State of Michigan has received a grant that will enable the expansion of local programs that aim to keep families and young children together.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) received a five-year grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to provide funding to support Infant-Toddler Court Programs (Baby Court) in Wayne county and two other counties yet to be determined. The grant will also support the sustainability of Baby Court in more counties beyond the funding period, the state said.

The Baby Court program is for children 3-years-old or younger and their families if the children are at risk of entering or are already in foster care due to abuse or neglect and could be reunified safely if the family receives services. The program involves collaboration with the court and several child and health service organizations.

Although children age 3 and under only make up 14 percent of the Michigan population, that age group makes up 27 percent of victims of child abuse or neglect in Michigan’s child welfare system.

“The best thing for children is to remain with their parents whenever possible – especially in their early years when their development is critical to their long-term health and well-being. If we work together to provide resources to families, we can keep them together safely and prevent the trauma that too many kids experience,” said Demetrius Starling, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency.

Baby Court proceedings are designed to be non-adversarial. All families receive support and mental health aid specific to their needs. Research shows this program helps states meet safety, permanency, and well-being standards, the state said.

Angela Klusek, of Detroit, had her son placed in foster care when he was an infant.

“Moms with addictions are looked at like evil people who don’t love their kids and that isn’t the case. I thought [the system] would be out to get me and I’d never get my kids back. People in Baby Court listened to me. I got the resources I needed to stay clean and had systems in place after my case was closed. My case was closed in less than a year,” Klusek said.

“We have found that immediately involving Baby Court has helped tremendously with stability for our babies. Infants and toddlers are our most vulnerable children. They are unable to speak for themselves and tell us what their traumas and needs are. Our Baby Court has been the voice of our most vulnerable children and we continue to be grateful for its support by this community,” Midland County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge Dorene S. Allen said.