Friday, June 12, 2015

Michigan, Gay Adoptions and Welfare Reform

One of the interesting things about Michigan is that although it has two Democratic US Senators and is a pretty reliable Democratic state in presidential elections it also has a large vibrant conservative electorate. That electorate is not all that happy with some of the recent changes in society. As you may have known if you read our previous post on gays in Michigan and some of the challenges they face around family law, sexuality is not a protected status in the state of Michigan. Theoretically then, there is no current state protection against discrimination against homosexuals in hiring, public accommodations, contracts or housing. Such protection is not in the state constitution or in state law. Those protections exist in Michigan not at all. However Michigan conservatives, religious and otherwise, can see which way the courts and more importantly the larger national electorate are both leaning on this issue. Michigan conservatives don't like it. They also don't like the fact that in certain other states or in Washington D.C. , adoption agencies who refused to place children with gay adoptive parents were forced to either change their policies or close. So yesterday Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed into law a measure that explicitly allows religiously based adoptive agencies to refuse to place children with prospective parents who happen to be gay. So if Pat and Pat show up and want to adopt a child, the agency, should it find same sex relationships (gay marriage is not legal in Michigan) distasteful can tell the two men or two women to take a hike. There's no longer any need to couch rejections in niceties. I think that some conservatives view this both as a rearguard action against a culture they no longer recognize and as a necessary and prudent preemptive strike.

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder signed a controversial package of bills Thursday allowing faith-based agencies to turn away gay and lesbian couples seeking state-supported adoptions. Snyder signed the bills without ceremony, just one day after the Legislature sent him the legislation. The law goes into effect immediately. The ACLU of Michigan vows to challenge it. The new law allows faith-based adoption agencies to invoke their sincerely held religious beliefs in denying adoption placement services to gay and lesbian couples who want to be parents. The agencies would be required to refer gay and lesbian couples to another adoption agency.

In a statement, the Republican governor emphasized the bills puts adoption practices, already in use, into law. Snyder’s office said that adoption rates in Michigan have continued to increase in recent years. In the 2014 fiscal year, 85 percent of children in the foster system were adopted, up from 70 percent in 2011. As many as 13,000 children reside in Michigan’s foster care system at any given time, according to lawmakers. “The state has made significant progress in finding more forever homes for Michigan kids in recent years and that wouldn’t be possible without the public-private partnerships that facilitate the adoption process,” Snyder said in a statement. “We are focused on ensuring that as many children are adopted to as many loving families as possible regardless of their makeup.”

In fiscal year 2014, Michigan spent $19.9 million on contracts with private agencies for adoption services, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It accounted for about 85 percent of the $23.2 million the state spent that year on adoption support services. Seventeen of Michigan’s 62 adoption placement agencies are faith-based, according to the Michigan Catholic Conference.

The ACLU is threatening to sue. Perhaps one of the resident lawyers or other legal experts can explain what the grounds for such a lawsuit might be and how likely it would be to succeed in state or federal courts. The governor also signed into law the "Parental Responsibility Act". Despite what it sounds like this is not a law which sanctions busybodies who are offended at how some other parents raise their children. Nor is this a law which makes it clear that Child Protective Services actually can't take children first and work out parental guilt later. No. This law gives the state the ability to cut off welfare cash to a family if a school age child in the home is chronically truant from school.

LANSING, MI — A parent's failure to ensure his or her child is going to school could cost the family welfare cash under a new law signed Thursday by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. The so-called "parental responsibility act" gives the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services statutory authority to cut off Family Independence Program assistance if a child is chronically truant and interventions fail. Snyder, in a statement announcing he signed the controversial legislation, compared it to the Pathways to Potential program, which has seen the state put caseworkers into schools to work directly with students.

"Much like the Pathways to Potential program, this legislation brings together parents, schools and the state to determine obstacles that keep students from being in school and how to overcome them," Snyder said. "To break the cycle of poverty, kids need an education to position them for future success. We have to do everything we can to see that they are regularly attending school."

If a child who is younger than 16 regularly misses school, his or her whole family could lose cash benefits. If the child is 16 or older, they would be removed from the family group, which could continue to receive some assistance.

It's important to note, that per article, in fiscal year 2104 less than 200 families or individuals were sanctioned for missing school. So I'm not really sure what huge problem this is supposed to solve, other than satisfying the never ending conservative desire to stigmatize and control poor people. There are a lot of problems in the schools but children from families on welfare missing school is really not the most pressing issue to address. As long as we are putting strings on acceptance of public monies should we also place restrictions and checks on the state legislators' family member's behavior? Or should all the social engineering experimentation and moral scolding be reserved for the impoverished among us. Presumably if two parents had decided that NO ONE in their family would eat for a month because a knucklehead sibling had done something wrong, people would want the entire set of children removed from those parents. They wouldn't be cheering the parents for their decision.

What are your thoughts on these issues?
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