Foster Care Review Board honors attorney, professor, judge

Three members of the State Bar were announced Thursday as recipients of the Foster Care Review Board’s 2011 Child Welfare Awards.

Department of Human Services Director Maura D. Corrigan presented the awards at the FCRB’s annual conference in Southfield.

Cheboygan attorney Donna Hansel received Lawyer-Guardian Ad Litem of the Year Award. Besides having represented children in foster care for eight years, she also is a licensed foster parent, having fostered more than 50 children.

Hansel’s nominator, Judge Robert John Butts of the Cheboygan County Probate Court, noted her “exceptional representation” of children, including efforts she made to find a permanent home for three young children whose parents died in a boating accident.

University of Michigan Law School Professor Vivek Sankaran was named Parent Attorney of the Year. He directs the Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School, and also founded the Detroit Center for Family Advocacy.

And, Judge Leslie Kim Smith of Wayne County Circuit Court received the Jurist of the Year Award for her work as a family court judge. The FCRB cited the 24-year judge’s creation of an expedited reunification docket and parent orientation project, which helps increase the number of children reunified with their parents and reduce the time children spend in foster care.

Created by the Michigan Legislature in 1981, the FCRB serves as a statewide system of third-party review of the foster care system. It’s administered by the State Court Administrative Office, and is comprised of citizen volunteers who serve on one of 30 local review boards throughout the state.

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DHS prevails in federal audit appeal

News about former Justice Maura Corrigan, getting busy in her new role as Department of Human Services director:

Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan today announced that the DHS prevailed in a federal appeal and, as a result, passed a 2010 audit of its performance of the
federal IV-E program in Michigan. Title IV-E of the federal Social Security Act covers federal
funding for Michigan’s foster care and adoption assistance programs.

In June 2010, the DHS underwent a federal review of the state’s program operation. The
weeklong review of 80 foster care cases determined whether DHS had correctly determined
eligibility for children under its care and custody. The state was allowed to have a 5 percent error
rate, or four cases.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families
notified Michigan last August that the state did not pass the review because it identified six error
cases. Two of the error cases resulted in a total disallowance of $67,264 in federal funds.
The Michigan attorney general, on behalf of DHS, appealed this finding to the federal Department
Appeals Board in November 2010. The federal board issued a decision Jan. 14 finding for the
DHS. It reversed the disallowance and ruled Michigan is operating the Title IV-E program in
accordance with federal regulations.

“The Department of the Attorney General provided DHS with excellent legal representation in our
appeal of the federal review findings,” Corrigan said. “Moreover, the entire team for DHS and the
State Court Administrators Office deserves our praise for their fine work in conducting the
preparation for the review.”

The federal IV-E program provided about $224.2 million in funds for the Michigan foster care and
adoption programs during fiscal year 2009, the most recent year for which records are available.

Because of the decision, Michigan will not be required to conduct a subsequent federal onsite
review until 2013. The 2010 review was Michigan’s third of the IV-E program since 2004.
Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. of the Michigan Supreme Court commended both Corrigan
and the attorney general for their advocacy on behalf of Michigan’s children and on the proper
operation of the Title IV-E federal program.

“Former Justice Corrigan made the commitment to DHS several years ago that she would work to
assure courts operated in compliance with federal Title IV-E program regulations,” said Young.
“Her tireless commitment and advocacy resulted in outstanding news for Michigan with this
review. The Supreme Court will continue to work with former Justice Corrigan in her new role as
DHS director to continue the same high level of collaboration.”

Young also praised SCAO’s Child Welfare Services Division for its work on the audit and appeal:
“In particular, we should acknowledge CWS Management Analyst Jenifer Pettibone, who played
a leading role on this successful appeal,” Young said. “Pettibone’s work is a fine example of how
the judicial branch has supported DHS, not only in this appeal process, but also in child welfare
work in general.”


Source: State of Michigan

Corrigan to leave court?

The Associated Press is reporting that Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to woo Justice Maura D. Corrigan away from her seat on the Michigan Supreme Court bench, and ask her to head the state’s Department of Human Services.

Corrigan, a conservative, has made children’s and family issues a priority during her tenure on the Court. She is not up for re-election until 2014.

Corrigan has not commented on the rumored appointment.

Read the AP story here.