The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Meyers holds foster care listening session


October 21, 2017

Submitted photo

REP. BETH Meyers, D-Bayfield, talks during a session of the Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care. Meyers held a listening session in Hurley Friday on the state's foster care system.


Hurley - State Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield, was in Hurley Friday morning for a listening session at the Iron County Courthouse on the state's foster care system.

The session was one of several Meyers has held in her district in connection with her role on the Speaker's Task Force on Foster Care.

"It was real important for me to hear from my constituents, and it was also important the other members of the task force hear their stories," Meyers told the Daily Globe after the meeting, expressing disappointment the task force had chosen not to travel to the very northern part of the state.

The task force is meeting with constituents about the foster care system and then will try to find ways to alleviate the concerns they hear.

The task force has one more meeting, according to Meyers, before turning its focus on legislative fixes.

While the meeting in Hurley was only attended by a couple county workers, Meyers said that was exactly who she wanted to meet with.

"They're the front lines, they have the information I wanted to hear," Meyers said.

Much of what was raised during the meeting mirrors what Meyers said she was hearing elsewhere in her district.

She said the workers talked about the need for increased funding, and while Iron County only has one licensed foster care provider and one open application, there aren't really enough resources to handle the process for getting more.

"As much as they would like to recruit for more homes, they don't have the time to process the applications," Meyers said. "They want more people to be involved, (but) they're stretching their staff thin to do the thorough investigation it takes for the home inspection."

Along with increased funding, Meyers said the workers also talked about the need for improved trauma and mental health services for the children being placed in the system, as well as the foster care parents and social workers.

While this was highlighted in many meetings, Meyers said the Hurley listening session introduced the concept of secondary traumatic stress.

"When a social worker goes into one of these stressful situations, it can take quite a while to get over some of the things you see, and hear and feel," Meyers explained.

She said the session also raised problems with Iron County being a border community, and said she was told the state line limits some of the services and options available to the county.

While this may be a federal issue, Meyers said she would see if the task force could do anything.

"I sure will be presenting that idea to them," she said.

Meyers also said she met with County Board Chair Joe Pinardi, who talked about the financial burden emergency placements put on the county. The county board voted in July to take out a loan to cover the costs - which included $507,343 and $337,397 spent in 2016 on adult and child placements respectively - as the general fund could no longer absorb the cost.

Meyers said the listening sessions have been beneficial and a good way to determine what parts of the system need to be reviewed.

"Any time you can get out of the capital and into your communities ... and hear from the front-line workers, hear from the people who are bringing children into their homes - hear about their struggles - hear from the service providers, this is all really good stuff," Meyers said. "It's so important for us to hear these stories."


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