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Published in Nonprofits

Campaign seeks ‘fair funding’ for nonprofit child welfare agencies

BY JOSH SPANNINGA Sunday, March 28, 2021 01:16pm

The Lansing-based Association of Accredited Child & Family Agencies launched a new effort in mid March calling for equitable funding for child welfare agencies that provide vital services to Michigan families.

The Fair Funding for Michigan Families campaign seeks to bring funding for accredited nonprofit child welfare organizations in line with state-run organizations.

“Fair funding across the system will ensure that we provide Michigan children and families with the care they need and deserve, and research does show that when you start on the front end it pays dividends for Michigan’s children and families and taxpayers,” Judith Fischer Wollack, president of AACFA and CEO of Saginaw-based Wolverine Human Services, told MiBiz.

AACFA is a group of accredited child welfare agencies in Southeast Michigan that was incorporated in 1994 to advocate for the needs of Michigan’s abused and neglected children. AACFA is made up of five different nonprofits and is focused on strengthening the partnership between public and private parties by influencing public policy and funding through the state legislative process.

“Our AACFA agencies provide what we call the full continuum of care. So a variety of us all do different things,” Fischer Wollack explained. “That includes mental health services. That includes foster care and adoption. That includes nonsecured residential facilities for both (juvenile justice) and residential foster cares, and then it also includes ‘secured setting’ maximum security treatment facilities for adolescents.”

On average, foster care caseworkers who work for state-funded agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) make substantially more than those who work for nonprofits, according to the AACFA. This has led to labor shortages for nonprofit accredited child welfare agencies as their funding does not allow them to compete with state pay rates.

Fischer Wollack says state agencies rely on nonprofit accredited child welfare agencies to help them provide necessary services for children and families, but it’s difficult for nonprofits to deliver the same services with less funding. 

Wolverine Human Services has faced recent scrutiny from DHHS, which is seeking to revoke the organization’s operating license for a juvenile correctional facility in Saginaw County over alleged rule violations and physical abuse, according to media reports. Wolverine is reportedly appealing the findings.

While AACFA is based in Lansing, the campaign advocates for fair funding for all accredited child welfare agencies across the state, including in West Michigan.

“We’re not just fighting for the AACFA agencies,” Fischer Wollack said, “we’re fighting for the state of Michigan.” 

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