MDHHS outlines plan to improve outcomes for children and families
LANSING– Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon today outlined his agenda to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the state’s child welfare system.
Gordon’s comments came as he and other MDHHS officials appeared in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan to update Judge Nancy G. Edmunds on state efforts to reform its child welfare system.
“We can do better. We must do better. And we will do better,” Gordon said. “Our staff are deeply dedicated to serving children and families in crisis. They need the tools and the systems to succeed. That’s what we must offer them.”
Today’s federal court appearance was the first since Gordon became MDHHS director in January. The court is monitoring the state’s child welfare system under the Implementation, Sustainability and Exit Plan approved in court in February 2016. Federal monitors today discussed their report on the department’s progress for January to December 2017.
That plan took the place of the Modified Settlement Agreement approved in 2011 that came after a lawsuit filed by the advocacy group Children’s Rights in 2006.
The court also received an independent report that detailed continuing issues with the Michigan Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (MiSACWIS), which MDHHS uses to collect, store, process and produce data related to its federal court commitments. The report from Kurt Heisler Consulting was made public in court.
Gordon outlined several principles for the state’s actions. “We will not defend what we cannot defend,” he said, referring to findings about increased numbers of children who experienced maltreatment while in foster care in 2017. “We will focus on results. We will lead with urgency. And we will use real-time data to improve our practice.”
Despite the limitations of MiSACWIS, Gordon said, the department can begin making better use of data to identify trends and act on the challenges identified in the data. He described work with external experts to improve the use of data.
Jennifer Wrayno, acting executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency, in court outlined specific measures being undertaken by the department to address challenges facing the state’s child welfare system.
“Child welfare staff from MDHHS and the department’s private partner agencies are doing tremendous work on behalf of children who have been the victims of abuse and neglect and their families,” Wrayno said. “We need to better equip them to address child safety and well-being and find children permanent homes more quickly through reunification with their families or adoption.”
Judge Edmunds stated that while she was concerned about the lack of progress during the reporting period, it is time to move forward.
“It definitely is heartening to hear the jumpstart that the Whitmer administration - in particular Ms. Wrayno and Director Gordon - have undertaken to move forward in these important areas,” she said.
She scheduled a status conference hearing for June 27 to receive an update on progress.
The court monitor report released today showed that Michigan had met requirements for movement of six performance standards in the Implementation, Sustainability and Exit Plan. In two instances, MDHHS met standards for at least two consecutive reporting periods, making those standards eligible for exiting further court oversight. Those standards were related to children in foster care receiving an appropriate education and maintaining continuity in education by keeping the children in a familiar or current school or neighborhood.
In four other instances, MDHHS’s performance sustained progress for at least two consecutive reporting periods. Those standards were related to licensing work qualifications and training, the number of treatment foster home beds, the diagnosis process for administering psychotropic medications to children in foster care and proper oversight of psychotropic medication.
Gordon said he prioritized improving outcomes for children and families over exiting from judicial oversight. “We will not talk about exit today,” he said. “And we will not talk about it in the future unless and until we can demonstrate we are doing better by the children we serve on the things that matter most.”
To view the latest federal court monitor report, the full Implementation, Sustainability and Exit Plan, earlier reports and the original Modified Settlement Agreement, visit www.michigan.gov/ChildWelfareAgreement.
Career fair scheduled for March 27 in Fremont
FREMONT – Area residents looking to find a job or a new line of work are invited to talk with local and regional employers this month to do some career exploration.
The Newaygo County Career-Tech Center (NCCTC) is inviting community members to search for a job that meets their needs and skills during its annual career fair.
The Career-Tech Center’s 2019 Job Fair will be open to the public from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27, in The Black Box at the Dogwood Center for Performing Arts in Fremont.
“The objective of this event is for employers in these different fields to network with area job-seekers, explain their business and explore opportunities for them to apply for open positions,” said Gretchen Spedowske, Director of Career and Placement Services at NCCTC.
Job-seekers are asked to bring copies of their updated resumes and to be prepared to interview with human resources representatives from local and regional employers. Attendees also are asked to come dressed to impress.
Roughly 20 employers are expected to be in attendance at the event. Employers will be looking for workers in a variety of areas, including Welding, Mechatronics, Heavy Equipment, Construction Trades, Automotive, Agriscience, Cosmetology, Culinary Arts, Graphic Communications, Information Technology, Business Applied Technology, Criminal Justice, Health Sciences and more.
The Hesperia Area Chamber of Commerce, Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce, River Country Chamber of Commerce, The Right Place and Michigan Works! West Central are partnering with the career center in organizing this event. The job fair will be open to NCCTC students during the school day.
“Each year, we look forward to strengthening our relationships with employers through this event,” Spedowske said. “The job fair is an important effort to help NCCTC students and area job-seekers make an impact on the local economy by helping them find work and, in the case of students, kick start their careers.”
For more information about the upcoming NCCTC Job Fair, contact the Newaygo County Career-Tech Center at (231) 924-8814 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that mandatory ice shanty removal dates are approaching. Regardless of the date, shanties must be removed before the ice is unable to safely support them. In warmer weather, the ice quickly can become unsafe for anglers to retrieve their property.
The deadline for removal from waters in the northern Lower Peninsula is midnight Friday, March 15. Counties in this area include Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Bay, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Clare, Crawford, Emmet, Gladwin, Grand Traverse, Iosco, Isabella, Kalkaska, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Midland, Missaukee, Montmorency, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon and Wexford.
DNR conservation officers also remind individuals going onto the ice to use extreme caution as temperatures begin to rise in the spring. The repetitive thawing and refreezing of ice weakens its integrity, decreasing its ability to support additional weight from people, snowmobiles, ORVs and shanties. Deteriorating ice, water currents and high winds increase the probability of pressure cracks, which can leave anglers and others stranded on ice floes or at risk of falling through the ice.
For more information, watch the Michigan DNR ice safety tips video.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to Michigan.gov/DNR.
If you or someone you know is seeking valuable experience working in wildlife conservation – or just an interesting job that gets you outdoors – consider applying for one of more than 200 summer and fall positions with the DNR Wildlife Division.
The division regularly hires additional staff to work these seasons at DNR state field offices, customer service centers and state game areas. Seasonal staff helps in several areas, such as:
Some seasonal positions currently are open for application, and more will become available in the spring. Learn more about seasonal positions in the Wildlife Division – and other openings throughout the department – at Michigan.gov/DNRJobs; scroll to the Seasonal and Temporary Positions section.
Questions? Contact Jennifer Schafer at 517-284-6163.
Survey launched to learn residents’ priorities for community
A partnership of health, human services, and community organizations have launched a Community Survey to get input from residents of Northern and Central Michigan about their priorities for improving life in their communities.
The partnership, known as MiThrive, is working to improve the health of communities in Northern/Central Michigan through examining data, finding the key issues, and bringing people together for change. MiThrive is working across the 31 counties of Northern Lower Michigan, from Mt. Pleasant to the Mackinac Bridge.
“The survey is a great chance to share what’s important to you, and the kind of changes you want to see in your community. To guide our work, we need as many responses as possible,’” said Tanya Janes, manager of Community Health & Volunteer Services for McLaren Northern Michigan. “Anyone who lives in Northern/Central Michigan can take the survey. Plus, you can have the chance to win one of five $25 gift cards through a random drawing.”
The Community Survey is based on the findings from a 6-month data collection process last year on important issues in the region. The survey will help narrow down the list of issues to the highest priorities, by finding out what is most important to community residents. Examples of these issues include mental health, meeting basic needs of living, access to healthcare, and social isolation.
“It’s been incredible to see how this project has grown, and how far-reaching interest in this project has been. It’s truly a cross-sector, collaborative endeavor,” said Denise Bryan, Health Officer for District Health Departments #2 and #4, together covering eight counties of Northeast Michigan. “With that kind of regional collaboration, we’ll be able to make significant, sustainable progress for our communities.”
The MiThrive project began in early 2018 with a steering committee of representatives from Munson Healthcare, McLaren Northern Michigan, MidMichigan Health, the seven health departments of the Northern Michigan Public Health Alliance, North Country Community Mental Health, Traverse Health Clinic, Area Agency on Aging of Northwest Michigan, and the Northern Michigan Community Health Innovation Region. Since then, participation in the project has expanded to include all major hospital systems in Northern Lower Michigan, and dozens of other community organizations and stakeholders.
“I’m looking forward to our next steps, after we gain a clear idea of our community members’ priorities,” said Kevin Hughes, Health Officer for District Health Department #10, covering ten counties of West Michigan stretching from Oceana to Crawford counties. “Once we have our priorities, we can set both local and regional goals for change. With support from diverse partners, we’ll be able to create feasible action plans and work for real change on issues that are important to our community members.”
The survey is available now at www.surveymonkey.com/r/MiThrive2019 or on the homepage of www.nwhealth.org. The survey is open through March 14, 2019. To get more information about MiThrive, or learn about ways to participate in the project, contact Carrie Field, MiThrive Coordinator at email@example.com.
George Heartwell to speak on the Paris Climate Accord March 14
Former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell will speak at the next meeting of the Citizens Environmental Watch and Action Coalition on Thursday, March 14, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will be held at Brooks Township Hall, 490 Quarterline Street in Newaygo. The meeting is open to the public and the presentation is free.
“The Paris Accord: Looking Back, Running Ahead” will review the global climate change agreement. Even though President Trump has initiated the process to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Agreement, Heartwell states he will share the basis for his optimism that its goals can still be achieved in this country.
“It was the birth of grandchildren - and the recognition that they will live with this degraded environment long after I’m gone - that serves as a motivation for me to do what I can to improve our world for their benefit,” stated Heartwell. “As Mayor I focused on making Grand Rapids environmentally sustainable. This meant making our City completely independent of fossil fuels by 2025; cleaning our Grand River water; reducing water consumption; and conserving electricity in City operations.”
During his 12-year tenure as Grand Rapids Mayor, the city was recognized by the United Nations as the country’s first Regional Center for Expertise in Education for Sustainable Development, and by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as the nation’s most sustainable mid-sized city. In addition, Mr. Heartwell was recognized by the U.S. Conference of Mayors with its Climate Protection Award, and was credentialed by the United Nations to represent U.S. Mayors at the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change in Warsaw in 2013 and in Paris in 2015.
Now a Newaygo County resident, George Heartwell is passionate about protecting the environment through policy and legislation, as well as by daily actions and commitments by community citizens. “Living on the magnificent Muskegon River provides a constant reminder of the importance -and the fragility - of these waters,” adds Heartwell. He is also “proud to serve on the Muskegon River Watershed Assembly Board.”
“We are very fortunate here in Newaygo County to have the expertise and passion of Mr. Heartwell, “states Sally Wagoner, CEWAC Coordinator. “As a member of CEWAC, he is eager to share his knowledge with our community members. I know there are hundreds of youth and adults in Newaygo County who love our natural places, but don’t know what to do to make sure they are protected for future generations. Coming to this meeting and hearing what Mr. Heartwell has done can give hope and a roadmap for what we can do in Newaygo County. “
CEWAC is a program of 3R Education which brings citizens of Newaygo County together at monthly meetings and presentations to learn about local environmental concerns, organizations and activities. CEWAC also seeks to engage youth and all community members to “get outside”, to volunteer for one of our many county conservation organizations, and to know how our legislators are voting to protect our environment. 3R Education is a 501c3 non-profit organization whose mission is to enhance the environmental health and beauty of Newaygo County by educating residents about the 3Rs of environmental sustainability: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
For more information about CEWAC, email: NewaygoClimateMarch@gmail.com.
(Don’t let those snowmobilers have all the fun)
By Charles Chandler
In a previous article about Winter Kayaking, it was suggested that if shelf ice was forming or the river was frozen over then don’t go and stay home. With the White River currently frozen over and a major ice jam on the lower Muskegon, kayaking is still not an option. So if you stayed home as recommended, read a book, spent the Christmas gift cards and a bit more on recreational gear, by now cabin fever is setting in. February is one of those in-between months where it is so easy to slip into that malaise where we give in to the couch, binge-watch TV, and consume too many salty snacks, etc. during the commercial breaks.
A sure cure for winter restlessness is to dig out those insulated pac boots, snowshoes, or cross-country skis and hit one of the many unique hiking trails we have in Newaygo County. It is so easy to extend your recreational year with time well spent on our snow-covered hiking trails.
In my opinion everyone should experience the delight of making the first tracks on one of those snow-covered hiking trails. It is always amazing to see how old man winter decorates our trees and woodlands in the winter. He uses scallops and dollops and filigrees and wads and lumps of snowy cotton candy. It appears that different trees get different treatments. The evergreens hold layers of fluffy snow on their springy branches that appear to have a load limit. As their boughs droop lower until their limit is reached, then you hear that loud whump as they shake their burden of snow, spring up and start over. The oaks all get a white overlay that outlines their bare branches. My favorite winter trees are the young beeches. Their leaves dry in the fall but don’t drop so in winter, when the sun is shining, their leaves reflect the sun and take on golden tan color that stands out in the stark winter snowscape.
Then there is the artwork of the woodsy folks. It is always remarkable to see how busy our woodlands are in the winter. In our other seasons you will rarely see some of these nocturnal creatures however in winter, the snow is literally crisscrossed with their tracks. You will see markings from a coyote, porcupine, raccoon, bobcat, fox, deer, squirrel, rabbit, mice, turkey, small birds, and the elusive grouse. Sometimes you might see mouse tracks that abruptly stop and there will be a delicate outline of the wings of some hawk or owl.
It is strongly recommended that once in your hiking life you take a winter stroll along one of our local trails on a full moon night. Hiking along a trail in our snow-covered woodlands on a crisp winter’s night is a transcendent experience. You can forget about that scary big bad wolf stuff because on those sublime winter nights, you can read your watch by the ambient light. After a time, you will turn your intrusive headlight off and confidently walk on. Sounds are amplified on a snowy night and you will hear the coyote clan yipping along some hidden trail or the owl hooting softly to a companion on up the hill. At night a small band of four or five startled deer will sound like a buffalo stampede as they bound through the woods. Some make a night hike a social event by gathering up some like-minded folks for a meetup and afterwards, gather around the fire ring or a cozy kitchen for storytelling and some hot chocolate or Irish coffee.
There are so many great trails to explore in Newaygo County. You can hike a section of the North Country Trail or try one of the local “loop” trails like Loda Lake, Birch Grove, White Cloud Connector or the trails in the Coolbough Natural Areas. The advantage of hiking a loop trail is that you don’t have to spot your car. Additionally, there are many two tracks that wind through the Huron-Manistee National Forest that are also available for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing. One of my favorite short winter hiking trails begins right behind the Newaygo County Welcome Center located on M-37, at 4684 Evergreen Dr., Newaygo. This trail has everything: a section of the North Country Trail, switchbacks and terrain changes through lots of woods, a spur to the Twin Lakes campground area, porcupine dens, deer trails, a few challenging hills, and if you go on a weekend you can watch the cute bundled-up kids fly or tumble down the toboggan hill. If you are newbies to snowshoeing and want to practice before hitting the trail, try the big open spaces at Henning Park. There are maps for all these trails at the Newaygo County Welcome Center or search on the internet by the various trail names.
As with all Michigan winters, recreational activity safety precautions must be taken to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience. Some practices that we follow are to dress in layers and carry additional warm clothes and water in your backpack. The experts recommend that you never hike in cotton, always wear a base layer of wool or fleece, then button it all up with a windproof breathable shell and warm hats and gloves. We leave the house cold because we know that we will warm up on the trail.
We always plan our winter hiking trips with our short winter days in mind. For example, you should match your hikes with your level of fitness and amount of time allotted to the hike. The time it takes you to hike a mile depends on several factors: your level of fitness, the type and depth of the snowpack, the steepness of the trail and your experience with snowshoes. Most folks can walk a mile on a developed trail in about 20 to 30 minutes or a rate of about 3 miles an hour. When snowshoeing we consider covering 1 to 2 miles in an hour a realistic rate. Think about a winter hike as a sightseeing tour and a great way of getting a fat burning cardio workout. There are many books and articles with tips and precautions to take when making winter hiking or camping trips. The following found on the North Country Trail Association website is one of the best:
So let the warning signs of becoming a couch potato and the restlessness of cabin fever motivate you to get on your gear and take an energizing hike along one of our beautiful snow-covered hiking trails.
Don’t let the snowmobilers have all the fun!
Family Health Care Receives Federal Grant to Improve Children’s Health
BALDWIN– Thanks to the hard work of U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI), Family Health Care has been awarded $100,000 from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help increase access to health care services at its Child & Adolescent Health Centers.
Through this grant funding, Family Health Care plans to purchase a transport vehicle with handicap accessibility at its Grant, MI location allowing students to receive care, regardless of where they are on the school campus. The organization will also focus on healthy living and the prevention of driving under the influence through the use of a driving simulator and community events.
“We hope the driving simulator will help students make good decisions when faced with tough situations,” said Sather. “Our goal is to keep our communities healthy and save lives.”
Family Health Care’s Child & Adolescent Health Centers are located in Baldwin, Grant and White Cloud public schools. Each location plays a vital role in providing medical, dental, behavioral health, vision and other services to students who otherwise may not have access to health care.
“This grant will help us continue a 30+ year tradition of providing needed health care within the school systems,” said Kathy Sather, President & CEO of Family Health Care. “We are excited to bring these new services to our communities and look forward to impacting the wellness of our youth.”
To learn more about the Child & Adolescent Health Centers, along with other services offered at Family Health Care, visit familyhealthcare.org.
The sixth annual STEAM Challenge was Saturday, January 26, at Hesperia Middle School gymnasium and Hesperia High School Commons in Hesperia. More than 70 elementary, middle and junior high school students from out-of- school time programs in Hesperia, Hart, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Walkerville and White Cloud took part. (Photo:TrueNorth Community Services)
70 Students Tackle Natural Disasters for S.T.E.A.M. Challenge
Natural disasters were the themed backdrop for the 70 students from 10 schools taking part in the sixth annual S.T.E.A.M. Challenge regional academic exhibition on Saturday, January 26.
Airplanes, rockets, engineering, the environment, nature, shelter and art were part of the mix, with more than 100 people in attendance at Hesperia Middle School and Hesperia High School. The first- through eighth- graders participating were from the out-of-school time programs Engage! in Hesperia; REACH in White Cloud; and Project FOCUS in Hart, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights and Walkerville.
The students are from Hart Middle and Spitler Elementary schools in Hart; Hesperia Middle and Patricia St. Clair Elementary schools in Hesperia; Three Oaks Public School Academy in Muskegon; Edgewood Elementary and Dr. Martin Luther King academies in Muskegon Heights; Walkerville Elementary School in Walkerville; and White Cloud Elementary and White Cloud Junior/Senior High schools in White Cloud. The schools and programs are located in Newaygo, Oceana and Muskegon counties
S.T.E.A.M. is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. REACH is an acronym for Respect, Excellence, Academics, Community and Health. FOCUS is an acronym for For Our Children’s Ultimate Success. The out-of-school time programs are provided as a community service by TrueNorth Community Services.
Hesperia’s Engage! and White Cloud’s REACH programs are funded through grants from Fremont Area Community Foundation. In Hart, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights and Walkerville, Project FOCUS is funded by federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants awarded through the Michigan Department of Education.
Helpful hints for kids, elderly, and everyone else
Spectrum Health provides tips on keeping the elderly safe in the extreme cold
Most healthy adults can feel when their hands/feet are getting too cold and take appropriate measures to stay warm. Older adults with neuropathy may have difficulty feeling this, and therefore are more susceptible to frostbite. Older adults also lose body heat much quicker than younger adults and this makes them much more susceptible to hypothermia.
5 tips to keep older adults safe in the extreme cold:
· Wear warm coats and well insulated socks, gloves and hats when you are out and about.
· Make sure thermostats are set to 68-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
· Dress in layers. Wear a sweater even while indoors and wear socks with non-slip grips. This will help minimize heat loss and reduce the risk of falling. Wear long underwear or warm pajamas while sleeping as well.
· If you have an elderly neighbor, family member or friend that is living alone, check on them. Check to make sure the furnace is working and that they are stocked up on food and supplies.
· Limit time spent outdoors. It does not take long in these extreme temperatures for hypothermia and frostbite to set in.
Warning signs of hypothermia: cold feet and hands that can be prickly or painful, puffy or swollen face, pale skin, shivering, slower than normal speech, acting sleepy, being angry or confused, moving more slowly, slow and shallow breathing, and loss of consciousness.
Please call 911 if you believe someone is suffering from hypothermia.
Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital provides tips to keep your family safe in the extreme cold
With a layer of fresh snow on the ground, children will certainly want to play outside. However, with extreme cold temperatures and wind chills, parents need to know how to prevent dangerous cold weather exposure and be ready to respond appropriately at the first sign of problems.
Top tips to keep your kids safe:
CAUTION: When the temperatures drop as low as are expected, most schools say -20 wind chill or colder, “the best advice is to keep your children inside and busy with indoor activities,” says Hoekstra.
Clothing: Problems arise when infants and children are not dressed properly. They should be dressed in several thin layers to stay warm and dry. Adequate outdoor clothing includes thermal long underwear, turtlenecks, at least one shirt, pants, sweater, coat, warm socks, boots, gloves or mittens and a hat.
Hypothermia: This condition develops when a child's temperature falls below normal due to exposure to cold. It often happens when children are playing outdoors in extremely cold weather without wearing proper clothing or when clothes get wet. As hypothermia sets in, the child may shiver and become lethargic and clumsy. A child’s speech may become slurred and body temperature will decline.
Call 911 immediately if you suspect your child is hypothermic. Until help arrives, take the child indoors, remove any wet clothing and wrap him or her in blankets or warm clothes.
Frostbite: This condition happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen. This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears and nose. Parents should watch for extremities that may become pale, gray and blistered. The child may complain that their skin burns or has become numb.
If these signs of frostbite occur, parents should:
· Bring the child indoors and place the frostbitten parts of the body in warm water.
· Apply warm washcloths to frostbitten nose, ears and lips.
· Do not rub the frozen areas or use a heating pad.
· After a few minutes, dry and cover the child with clothing or blankets.
· Give the child something warm to drink.
· If the numbness continues for more than a few minutes, call your child’s doctor.
For more information about the Safe Kids program at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, visit www.helendevoschildrens.org/injuryprevention.