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New Child Protective Services audit shows improvements, and some lasting issues

LANSING -- A new audit of Child Protective Services says that the service has improved since a scathing 2018 report — but investigators say that problems still persist.

The agency, under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services, opens tens of thousands of investigations per year, including nearly 68,000 in a recent 12 month period.

The original 2018 report found that the department did not complete required criminal background checks in over half of investigations and failed to begin nearly 20% of investigations in the state-required 24 hours.


Of the 17 issues raised in the 2018 report, 15 have been partially or fully resolved.

But the report also found several areas of the department to have deteriorated since 2018. In most cases, investigators are no longer required to make face to face contact to determine a child’s safety within 24 hours of a complaint — instead, they must begin some sort of work on the case within 24 hours and make contact within 72 hours.

In cases of possible imminent harm, investigators must commence work within 12 hours and make contact within 24 hours.

Rep. Tom Kunse, a critic of state agencies and government spending, says the department hasn’t made enough improvements since its 2018 report.


“It’s a big organization, and it takes a long time to make a turn. I understand — it’s been six years, and you’re telling me we still are not complying with state law? To me, that’s unacceptable,” he said

Kunse, R-Clare, also took issue with the department changing its policy on what members of a household must receive a background check in an investigation.

While the department conducted checks in a higher portion of cases, it no longer requires checks for all household members or those tasked with childcare, excluding non-perpetrator parents.

The audit found that among non-background checked adults, nearly half had criminal convictions, including felony assault and child abuse.


“Instead of doing the right thing, they just said, no, we’re gonna make it so we don’t have to do that,” Kunse said.

Elizabeth Hertel, director of MDHHS, said in a letter to auditors that the report was biased against the agency and failed to highlight improvements made since 2018.

She said the report dealt more with administrative details rather than the agency’s mission of protecting children. The agency receives around 200 cases per day, which Hertel says are handled more effectively than they would have been in 2018.

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