State budget dispute may put foster care in danger

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Some of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s changes to the state budget presented to her by the Republican-led Legislature may jeopardize the future of foster care in Kent County. 

West Michigan Partnership for Children, the county’s foster care system that serves more than 850 kids, is urging Whitmer to restore the $2 million in funding that was stripped from it through an administrative transfer.  

Kent County commissioners were briefed on the severity of the situation during a board meeting Thursday evening.  

“The $2 million is our entire administrative budget,” WMPC CEO Kristyn Peck said. “Without that $2 million, we literally have to close our doors and shut down.” 

WMPC was created in 2017 to pilot the first performance-based foster care system in the state. 

“We’re showing better outcomes already,” Peck told News 8. “We’re only two years in and we’ve already seen decreases in length of stay and we’ve seen an increase in family reunifications.” 

She said shutting down the organization would be a big step backward. 

If WMPC’s funding isn’t restored, the county’s foster care system will revert to the public agency.  

Kent County Commissioner Robert Womack said he understands the importance of the funding as he was briefly in foster care as a child. 

“If you don’t have good administration and oversight, things can recoil and maybe go and be as bad as they used to be,” Womack said. “Not saying that it was terrible, but it has gotten a lot better than it used to be.” 

Nearly every county board commissioner expressed concern over WMPC’s loss of funding, praising the organization for all its accomplished in a short time.  

WMPC continues to call on the governor to restore the funding. County officials will meet with the Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist Friday to plead their case.

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