The Michigan Capitol is shown at twilight Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009, in Lansing, Mich. Lawmakers continue work on budget bills that deal with a $2.8 billion shortfall before an Oct. 1 deadline. (AP Photo/Al Goldis)
The director of Michigan's child welfare agency said Tuesday the state has interviewed more than 2,000 applicants for roughly 700 jobs, part of an effort to comply with an agreement to improve foster care and other services.
Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan said that about 400 more foster care, adoption and child protective services workers are expected to be hired by late May. They'll join others already hired to fill vacancies with the department, including more than 200 sworn in late last month
"They're coming on board every month," Corrigan said. "We've had great success with our outreach on the human resources side to colleges and universities."
It appears nearly all of the new hires would simply replace the roughly 700 child services workers who recently retired from the department. Overall, the Department of Human Services lost about 1,300 workers through retirement.
The agency is trying to comply with a 2008 consent decree aimed at improving child welfare programs. A court-appointed monitor gave the department poor marks under former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm, but new Republican Gov. Rick Snyder will be given a chance to comply with the agreement. Snyder has proposed spending an additional $69.3 million on child welfare in the fiscal year that starts in October, although other parts of the Department of Human Services would face staffing reductions.
The New York-based group Children's Rights filed a lawsuit that led to the agreement to improve the state's foster care system. In 2008, the state settled the lawsuit filed on behalf of nearly 20,000 children.
Michigan officials agreed to several changes, including hiring hundreds of people to reduce the caseloads of workers who oversee children in foster care or protective services.
A court-appointed watchdog said late last year that Michigan had failed to achieve "by a wide margin" caseload numbers for workers who investigate allegations of child abuse and neglect.
The watchdog's report also concluded it is taking the state more than six months, instead of the 90-day target, to grant licenses to people who want to take care of children who are relatives.
Corrigan, a former Michigan Supreme Court justice, took over the Department of Human Services in January. She has committed to meeting the terms of the consent decree.