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A Kent County program advances to help foster children

Peters tries her best to support her children, including her daughter Lisha Jane Featherman. She had never planned to have a family. In her late 30s, she wanted to do more for her adopted community, so she took in foster children. Now, she has two adopted kids and four foster kids.
Dawnee LeBeau for NPR
Peters tries her best to support her children, including her daughter Lisha Jane Featherman. She had never planned to have a family. In her late 30s, she wanted to do more for her adopted community, so she took in foster children. Now, she has two adopted kids and four foster kids.

Nearly five years after its introduction in 2017, a Kent County is program designed to improve foster care outcomes will move from a pilot program to a contracted services with the state.

The West Michigan Partnership for Children is the first and only community-based and performance-based foster care model in Michigan. Since October 1, 2017, it has been Kent County’s foster care administrator overseeing roughly 2,225 children. WMPC collaborates with Bethany Christian Services, Catholic Charities West Michigan, D.A. Blodgett-St. John’s, Samaritas, Wellspring Lutheran Services, among others.

Five years ago, WMPC described its aim this way, “WMPC will pilot a performance-based contract, utilizing a case rate that incentivizes permanency while allowing for flexibility and creativity in funds. Staff will use software that allows for predictive analytics to project successful outcomes and flag cases that are at risk.”

It also formed an advisory committee reviewing in-home and out-of-home child welfare service performance.

It found the evidence-based child welfare model is working. In a news release, data collected indicates 30% fewer children experience foster care in Kent County. There has been 85% fewer incident of maltreatment in care. 53% fewer days youth lived in institutional or residential care settings. An Implemented Enhanced Foster Care has supported 373 youth. Finally, it launched investments in race equity and inclusion initiatives for foster care.

WMPC will transition from pilot program to permanency in late September entering into a three-year contract with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services providing state funding.