Monday, December 13, 2010

Kent County pushes back against mandate that allegedly costs taxpayers $4 million year

Rick Wilson | The Grand Rapids Press

GRAND RAPIDS — In what legal experts say could be a precedent-setting case, state officials recently answered a lawsuit filed by Kent County alleging the Michigan Department of Human Services violated state law in refusing to pay for services required under a 2008 federal court order.

The 2008 Children’s Rights settlement required the state to increase monitoring of children in foster care after a series of high-profile abuse cases, including the 2005 murder of 7-year-old Ricky Holland by his adopted mother. The settlement reached by the state without input from Michigan counties will cost Kent County taxpayers an estimated $4 million yearly, county officials allege.

Sara Bartosz, senior staff attorney for New York-based Children’s Rights Inc., said her group’s primary interest is that the reforms are accomplished in a timely manner according to the 2008 federal court order. She declined to comment on whether Kent County’s programs are more effective but said she is well aware programs here follow a different model than others around the state.

“It’s absolutely familiar to me that Kent County is different from the rest of the state,” Bartosz said. “It was listed in a DHS appropriations bill as a county that should move more toward privatization. FULL STORY

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