The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced Thursday that it will replace the computer system it uses to track child welfare cases, just five years after its implementation at a cost of $231 million.
Speaking to reporters, MDHHS Director Robert Gordon didn’t provide specifics about the new system but said it would come at a “significant cost.”
In a statement, MDHHS spokesperson Bob Wheaton wrote that the Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (MiSACWIS) system, as it currently exists, will be gradually replaced, and that the agency will soon “begin the process of developing a request for proposals to deploy the new system.”
The announcement comes after an evaluation released in March recommended that the system should be abandoned entirely. Former federal Department of Health and Human Services analyst Kurt Heisler found in that report that the system suffers from “an unmanageable backlog” that “negatively affect[s] outcomes for children and families.”
In March, U.S. Eastern District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered MDHHS to determine by June whether the state would replace or gradually improve the system, leading to Thursday’s announcement.
MDHHS has been under a federal consent decree for its child welfare infrastructure since 2008, after the advocacy group Children’s Rights sued the state alleging its poor state of affairs violated the law.
The department announced several new tweaks to the agreement in addition to the replacement of MiSACWIS in a statement today, including “eliminating the state’s time-consuming compliance reviews of cases as much as two years old, focusing efforts to prevent child maltreatment on the activities most directly related to stopping it, and shifting efforts for older youth from documenting planning activities to getting youth into effective programs.”
The Kids Count study released earlier in June by the Annie E. Casey Foundation showed that Michigan still ranks in the bottom half of the nation by most measures of child welfare.