Foster parents reap the rewards

By VANESSA McCRAY Traverse City Record-Eagle

cfslogoTRAVERSE CITY -- Shelley Sorensen delivered a message for those thinking about becoming foster parents.

"Don't think that you are not going to be able to do it," she said. "If they are at all considering this, they need to give it a shot."

The Elmwood Township house she shares with husband George Stacy, four adopted children and four foster children brimmed with activity on a recent evening. Outside, boys rode bikes down the long driveway. Inside, a child explained the color-coded chart Sorensen keeps to track the kids' daily behavior. Providing a foster home is not easy, but it is rewarding, the couple said.

Recent reforms to Michigan's child welfare system and family stresses caused by foreclosures and job losses mean more adults are needed to take in foster children. The nonprofit Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan, founded in 1937, places foster youth and works for permanent adoptions. Currently, it has a roster of about 170 foster families but anticipates a need for 200 or more.

Adoption option available locally

By Audrey LaFave - Escanaba Daily Press

dianecaseyESCANABA - Residents considering adoption have a community resource in Catholic Charities of the Upper Peninsula.

Catholic Charities, based in Marquette, have satellite offices in Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Iron River, Houghton, Calumet and Sault Ste. Marie. Diane Casey, branch manager for the Escanaba office, said the first step in adopting locally is to call her office.

"I do home studies for anyone in the U.P.," said Casey. "A home study is an assessment for any family that would like to adopt a child. You have to have a home study in order to adopt."

FYI • March 20, 2009 • No. 6

FYI • March 20, 2009 • No. 6
The next FYI bulletin will be issued April 3, 2009

• Welcome Adoption Options!—Federation staff and Board are pleased to announce the newest Full member of the Federation—Adoption Options! Adoption Options is located in Midland, led by President DeLois T. Leapheart. The agency provides adoption, community-based services, education, family services and foster care. Please welcome DeLois to Federation membership; she can be reached by email at or by phone at (989) 839-0534.

• Senate Appropriations DHS Subcommittee issues boilerplate for FY 2010—Earlier this week, the Senate Appropriations DHS Subcommittee, chaired by Sen. Bill Hardiman, approved its FY 2010 DHS budget (SB 248), and sent it on the full Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration. Several of the funding cuts proposed in the governor’s version have been restored, including before- and after-school program grants, the 0-3 program and teenage parent counseling program. Among the savings called for in SB 248 is: $2.5 million saved by relocating Maxey Training School youth; $3 million saved by closing the state’s remaining medium security juvenile justice facilities and community juvenile justice center; youth in those facilities would be relocated to private residential treatment facilities; and $16.3 million saved by reducing the number of additional FTEs called for in the governor’s budget. We have a copy of the 90-page bill; if you’d like a copy, email, and she will send one to you in the mail.


Human services chief seeks to aim high in hard job

By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN • Associated Press • March 8, 2009

ahmedLANSING — Ismael Ahmed is not a man who dwells on the negative.

When the 61-year-old took over as director of the Michigan Department of Human Services 18 months ago, he found an agency under fire for not preventing the death of 7-year-old Ricky Holland at the hands of his foster parents and for failing to get more welfare recipients into jobs. Morale was low, caseloads high.

• RICKY HOLLAND'S STORY: Read the 14-part Free Press series on the Ricky Holland case

But Ahmed is starting to get a handle on the agency's woes, and on giving better service to those it helps.

He drew more than 5,000 people to a statewide poverty summit, is working with other state agencies to get better job training for the poor and is making sure more low-income families get food stamps and cash assistance in the down economy.

"We have a clear mission ... to protect vulnerable children and families," he said in a recent interview. "Everything proceeds from that."

FYI • March 6, 2009 • No. 5

FYI • March 6, 2009 • No. 5
The next FYI bulletin will be issued March 20, 2009

• Adoption contract negotiations make progress—Earlier this week, Federation adoption contract agency representatives met with DHS officials at the call of Deputy Director Stanley Stewart. Vickie Thompson-Sandy reported that the meeting, run by Kate Hanley, went well and that the group did determine the need to cost out some of the components of the contract, i.e., staffing and the CWTI training requirements. Kate was also receptive to input about concurrent planning. Work being done to compare some national trends and how this could be incorporated into the contract. The Federation issued yesterday afternoon an email noting the need to collect data from its adoption members. We are very appreciative of the user-friendly costing template provided by Brian DeVos and Dona Abbott at Bethany for this purpose; very clear instructions are included. Responses are needed by Tuesday, March 10. Janet noted that this negotiation process is setting a great precedent for other contracts and is an effort that needs to occur well before contracts are due to be issued.


Free Press wins awards for photojournalism

freepPosted by JAMES THOMAS • FREEP.COM WEB EDITOR • February 28, 2009

Detroit Free Press photographers Kathleen Galligan and Regina Boone won the 2008 Barry Edmonds Michigan Understanding Award for their "The Boys of Christ Child House" series. The award is given annually by the Michigan Press Photographers Association as part of its Pictures of the Year contest.

"The Boys of Christ Child House" documents three years in the lives of several kids awaiting adoption in Michigan's foster care system. The project contains scores of Galligan and Boone's photographs, and nearly an hour of video assembled by the Free Press staff. It was published by the Free Press in November 2008.

• SEE THE PRESENTATION: The Boys of Christ Child House

The Edmonds award honors photojournalists whose work attempts to improve human relations by helping people appreciate their differences and their commonalities.

'America' inspires local fund-raisers children in foster care to benefit


americaWant to do something special for Saturday's debut of Lifetime's "America"? The cable movie, which was filmed in and around Detroit, has inspired two local fund-raisers this weekend.

The St. Peter's Home for Boys will have a screening that starts at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

The Detroit residential facility for displaced boys was one of the locations used in "America," an adaptation of an acclaimed teen novel that follows a young man's journey through foster care.

St. Peter's also provided some cast members. One of the therapists at the home, LeShone Hall, plays a therapist in the movie and several of the boys who live there served as extras.

Philip Johnson, 17, who was discovered by Rosie O'Donnell at Small Plates restaurant in Detroit and cast in the title role of America, is expected to attend the St. Peter's benefit with his family.

The Detroit teen has received good reviews from publications like Entertainment Weekly, which described his performance as raw and moving.

"We're going to make it a whole big red carpet thing," says Gregory Everett, executive director of St. Peter's. "We'll have lights, cameras. We want to have a little bit of Hollywood in Detroit."

General admission is $25, but there also are tickets for $50, $75 and $100 that include perks like photos with cast members. For tickets, call 313-846-6942 or e-mail

Local youth featured in new TV movie

A special red carpet screening of "America" will take place at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Saturday, Feb. 28, from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Proceeds will help raise money for St. Peter's Home For Boys. For ticket information and to RSVP, call Everett or Norma Andrews at (313)-846-6942 or e-mail

Michigan Chronicle
By Patrick Keating

Red carpet screening set at Wright museum

gregeverettThe film stars Rosie O'Donnell as a therapist and Ruby Dee as the first foster mother of the main character, a boy named America, who has endured both abuse and neglect in the child welfare system.

According to executive director Gregory Everett, the facility was contacted several months ago, before filming started, by a site location manager affiliated with Sony pictures and Lifetime Entertainment who wanted to do research on residential programs in Detroit. He said the filmmakers learned about St. Peter's by Googling residential agencies in Michigan.

FYI • February 20, 2009 • No. 4

FYI • February 20, 2009 • No. 4
The next FYI bulletin will be issued March 6, 2009

• Congress extends SCHIP—Last week, President Obama signed a bill to reauthorize the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) through September 30, 2013. This federal program, in partnership with the state, funds the MIChild program as well as the Adult Benefits Waiver program. An updated summary of the final bill provisions, including a comparison with the 2007-approved bill and the recently-concurred in House bill is available at

Foster Youth – Need Money for College?

mgalogoIf you are a foster youth that wants to attend college this fall and feel that you don’t have the money to pay for it – this is the event for you!

Come to College Goal Saturday and receive help completing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By completing this form, you will find out how much student financial aid you will be able to receive towards your college education.

There is no cost and you do not have to register so please come and see how much money is really available for you to attend college!


Wayne State University
David Adamany Undergraduate Library
5155 Gullen Mall
Detroit, MI 48202-0340

University of Michigan – Flint
Murchie Science Building
Room 109
303 E. Kearsley Street
Flint, MI 48502

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