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  • Michigan Center for Youth Justice

Michigan Leads the Way in Supporting Kinship Caregivers

By: Jason Smith, Executive Director

In a landmark move, Michigan has become the first state in the nation to officially acknowledge kinship caregivers with the same level of financial assistance and licensing requirements as traditional foster care providers. This pioneering reform aims to simplify the process for kin caregivers, allowing them to more readily obtain the aid necessary to support the children in their care. Such measures are especially crucial for those children whose circumstances prevent them from returning home for various reasons, including safety concerns or the caregivers' distress.

In MCYJ’s 2022 report, Locked Up Too Long, we highlighted the urgent need for such reforms. Many young people who come into the legal system may have experienced significant trauma and often have a history with Children’s Protective Services. The report underscores that delays in finding suitable placements can exacerbate their trauma and erode their trust in the judicial system. Additionally, the scarcity of available resources for justice-involved youth as compared to those in the child welfare system creates a significant service gap.

The disparity between the systems means that many youth are left without adequate support when they cannot return home. MCYJ's findings indicate that case managers often struggle to find relatives willing to take in a child without compensation, and there is a critical shortage of transitional living homes and foster parents for these youth, especially those who are LGBTQ+.

The recommendation section of our report calls for expanding resources similar to those available in the child welfare system, incentivizing extended family members and fictive kin, and developing more placement options for older youth, including supervised independent living options.

Michigan's new kinship care rule is an essential step toward addressing the needs of some of our state's most vulnerable young people. By making it easier for kin caregivers to receive licensure and support, the state is helping keep children connected to their families and communities and aligning with best practices that can lead to better permanency outcomes.

By collaborating with kinship caregivers and acknowledging their vital role, Michigan sets a precedent that other states would do well to follow. This move champions the rights and well-being of children and youth at a time when they most need stability and support.

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