Across the country, minority children are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. This puts these children at greater risk of dropping out of high school and being unemployed, homeless, or incarcerated as adults. In Michigan, the state has established a demonstration project in Saginaw County to address the problem and improve the lives of young people. The project is supported by grants from the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice.
The PPA Team: PPA President Dr. Paul Elam is the project manager. He is a leading expert on child welfare and juvenile justice. Among his credentials, he was project manager for the Michigan Child Welfare Improvement Task Force and the Michigan Coalition for Race Equity in Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice. PPA researchers have provided juvenile justice data analysis for the Michigan Department of Human Services for several years, including a focus on disproportionate minority contact (DMC).
A Collaborative Approach: PPA embraces a collaborative approach to improving public policy. It helped create—and provides strategic support to--a broad-based steering committee that includes the family court, prosecutor’s office, law enforcement, human service agencies, educators, youths and families, and faith-based organizations.
Our Work: PPA devised a three-pronged DMC reduction plan that includes training, programming, and systems change. More than 300 people have received cultural competency training, and evidence-based programs are being implemented. PPA researchers produced a data book that documents the overrepresentation of minorities in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and informs the work to reduce it.
The Results: Thanks to PPA’s research, Saginaw County has a clear understanding of its local DMC challenges and a unified effort to address them. With PPA’s guidance, Saginaw has built a diverse and cohesive steering team, secured funding, gathered information, and improved the skills of staff. The work in Saginaw could serve as a model for other communities across Michigan.