Bizon’s foster care reforms head to House

LANSING, Mich. — The state Senate on Wednesday approved legislation to help support children in foster care or those who are entering foster care.

The bills focus on the placement of foster children with families in the community. Recent changes to federal law will restrict the state’s access to federal funds unless certain new guidelines are followed.

“The best thing we can do for kids is keep them in strong families,” said Bizon, R-Battle Creek. “This legislation will encourage the state to support healthy, loving family relationships and high-quality foster facilities that truly care for children.”

Bizon sponsored Senate Bills 466, 468 and 539. The legislation would update state law regarding the placements of children in the child welfare system to comply with the federal Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), enable the state to qualify for increased federal prevention funding, update background check requirements for all employees of child-caring institutions consistent with the provisions of the FFPSA, and require the Michigan State Police to notify child-caring organizations when a previously fingerprinted employee experiences a new criminal arrest.

The FFPSA will restrict the state’s ability to claim federal funds for a child placed in a residential facility unless the facility is one of the following:
• A Qualified Residential Treatment Program as defined by the act;
• A setting specializing in providing prenatal, postpartum or parenting supports for youth;
• In the case of a child 18 years old or older, a supervised setting in which the child is living independently; or
• A setting providing high-quality residential care and supportive services to children and youth who have been victims of sex trafficking or at risk of becoming sex trafficking victims.

In addition to Bizon’s measures, SBs 467 and 469, sponsored by Sen. Marshall Bullock, would expand the ability of a local foster care review board to grant a variance to licensing rules for foster family and foster family group homes, and would add an appropriate reference to the Probate Code for hearings that include the review and determination of a Qualified Residential Treatment Program placement.

Earlier this year, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey appointed Bizon to the National Conference of State Legislatures Family First Policy Forum. The organization met in August to discuss the FFPSA and share implementation strategies.

SBs 467 – 469 and 539 now head to the state House of Representatives for further consideration.