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Families say they are being torn apart and blame the privatization of Michigan’s foster care system

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Families say they are being torn apart and blame the privatization of Michigan’s foster care system

Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Posted: 10/31/2011
Last Updated: 4 hours and 26 minutes ago

(WXYZ) – Michigan families are being torn apart–and critics blame the privitization of the foster care system. Families desperate to care for loved ones say they are spending thousands of dollars to fight a hostile bureaucracy to get children out of state hands.

7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo looks at some heart-breaking cases and how a system meant to save tax dollars may be costing you and harming kids.

For Lori Scribner, her grandkids are everything.

“The oldest girl she really enjoyed making pies with me,” says Scribner.

When she found out her grandkids were put in foster care after the state declared their parents unfit, court records show she quickly came forward.

“I have been telling them I want them all along,” Scribner says.

The private agency contracted by the state to oversee the case said she needed a bigger home for her four grandkids. She bought a five-bedroom ranch with a pool. The agency said she needed to earn more money. So, the registered nurse came out of semi-retirement and went back to work full-time.

“So I could support the kids, I understood that,” Scribner says.

Scribner says she jumped through every hoop, and says she has spent $50,000 in legal fees and other costs fighting for her grandkids. But she still faces the prospect of never seeing them again.

“There was nothing I could do that they would let them come,” she says.

The state pays private agencies to handle most foster care adoption cases. They are supposed to make placing foster children with family a priority. But 7 Action News has found some private agencies fail to do this and appear to manipulate the process to favor their clients–couples hoping to adopt. This can cut kids off from family forever.

Maureen Gordon says she has been fighting a system that seems set on breaking family bonds. A private agency approved another couple to adopt her great niece who is in foster care.

“I feel like I have been living under a bully mentality,” says Gordon, who is very familiar with foster care. She is a social worker and she and her husband, who live in Oklahoma, foster-parented dozens of kids and adopted two.

“My credentials are impeccable,” says Gordon, who has spent about $30,000 trying to get her niece and has no plans to stop.

“I’m not going away. She’s coming home to her family,” she insists.

Roxanne Moody says she was met with strong resistance when fighting for her grandson Bradley.

“To think that I may never see him again, it’s hurtful,” says Moody.

She also hired a lawyer and says she spent $15,000 in legal fees. The private agency finally approved her to adopt—another child. But Moody didn’t want just any child.

“I just want Bradley,” she says.

The Department of Human Services oversees the private agencies it contracts to handle most foster care adoptions. DHS wouldn’t talk to 7 Action News because Scribner and Gordon’s cases are being litigated.

The private agencies wouldn’t talk about the cases citing adoption confidentiality laws.

So why were Scribner, Gordon and Moody denied their loved ones when the law and child welfare policy are clear that family able and willing get first priority?

“The private agencies simply have an affiliation, a familiarity, a working relationship with their foster family, they recruited…and they want to help those people get a child,” says attorney Elizabeth Warner.

Warner represents families in these disputes. She says private agencies have an allegiance first to their clients — couples looking to adopt… not the best interest of the foster child.

“They may say they are doing this for the children, but in reality you can tell when a case is being managed by an agency…,” says Warner.

Warner and other experts told 7 Action News they have seen widespread problems with private adoption and foster care agencies. They say they don’t follow policy, stonewall families and manipulate cases to get the outcome they want.

“It’s some pretty blatant tactics to try and shut the doors to relatives who want to adopt…,” Warner says.

On Wednesday night at 11, 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo will tell you what happened to these families and the children they love.

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Written by dawneworswick

November 1, 2011 at 1:27 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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