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CONNECT Act: Creating a Better Path Forward for Dual System Kids

About 55 percent of children in the juvenile justice system had at one time also been involved in the child welfare system. (Pixabay)
About 55 percent of children in the juvenile justice system had at one time also been involved in the child welfare system. (Pixabay)
July 18, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Proposed federal legislation could help create a better path forward for some of Michigan's most vulnerable children.

It's called the CONNECT act, which stands for Childhood Outcomes Need New Efficient Community Teams. It's co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan and is intended to foster greater coordination and data sharing between child welfare agencies and the juvenile justice system.

Kristen Staley, deputy director of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency, says the act could help prevent these so-called dual status children from falling through the cracks.

"So they both have received sort of child welfare services either for being a child who experienced abuse, neglect or entered the foster care system in some way, and then has also come into the juvenile justice system for an arrestable offense or some sort of other type of delinquency act," she explains.

The measure would authorize grants to improve cooperation and data collection between state agencies. It's estimated that nationally about 55 percent of children in the juvenile justice system had at one time also been involved in the child welfare system.

Staley notes the grants could be particularly helpful in Michigan, where many state agencies are county focused.

"Not a lot of people share their data or their information,” she points out. “There's a lot of reasons for why people aren't sharing. There's confidentiality reasons. There's different systems that weren't set up to talk to each other many years ago, but hopefully we are taking a turn towards collaboration."

She adds the CONNECT act could help child-serving systems work together to address the some of the systemic root causes of at-risk behavior, and create programs to target the needs of vulnerable youth.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI