In a rare victory, a grandmother seeking guardianship of her grandchildren beat the Michigan Dept. of Human Services on appeal of her case to the Michigan Court of Appeals.  In re COH, ERH, JRG, KBH, Minors, unpublished per curiam opinion, Issued June 23, 2013, Docket Nos. 3309161 & 312691 (Select the PDF at docket entry 3 for the full opinion.)

The short version of her story is simple.  The grandmother, who was a fit, 50 year old, employed nurse, had an adult daughter with 4 children.  The State of Michigan Department of Human Services brought an action to terminate the parental rights of the daughter, and won.  However, instead of placing the children with family after the termination, they placed the children with a foster family.  Despite the fact that it was clear that the grandmother had a close relationship with the children and had the means to care for them, the court denied her petition for guardianship (and the DHS denied her administrative petition to adopt them.)

The local trial court denied the grandmother’s guardianship petition because the court found that “best interests” of the children were better served by the foster parent placement instead of with the grandmother.

Reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeals slammed DHS and the trial court.  First, the appeals court held that under Michigan law, DHS is required to place children with relatives — not strangers – and utterly failed to even try to place the children with the grandma.  Second, the appeals court held that non-related foster parents, do not have the same standing as relatives, and it was legal error for the court to find that the non-related foster parents were the better “home” over the grandma.  Third, it found that DHS utterly failed to follow the law and put those children with relatives, and they basically jerked grandma around the entire time — although she jumped through every hoop they threw in her way.  For example, she bought a bigger house, got her foster license, and made work arrangements to accommodate taking on those children.

The court of appeals ordered the trial court to make Grandma the guardian.    Incredibly, the real unwritten story was the big money that Holy Cross Services, the DHS contractor handling the case, would have made if DHS had been successful in destroying this family and screwing the grandma.  The contractor would have received $32,000.00 more in fees if the children were left with the foster family, instead of the grandma.   Are foster children for sale in Michigan?  Who knows, but in this case, if grandma had not fought for years against the State of Michigan, its contractor, the county prosecutor, and the trial judge, then her four grandbabies would have gone to the most profitable placement for “Holy” Cross Services.

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