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‘Protecting children is at the heart of what we do and their welfare must always be front and center,” once said outgoing Michigan Department of Human Services Director, the Hon. Maura Corrigan.

As 2014 draws to a close, we’d like to extend a special thank you to Corrigan. She has always been a special friend to our children and youth in foster care and to our of faith communities.

She retires at the end of this year. But her dedication, tireless devotion and strong foundation of improvements of our child welfare system will continue to make positive differences in Michigan.

Corrigan actively championed the creation of new partnerships among our faith communities, MDHS, and child welfare agencies. These partnerships have reaped significant rewards already in the recruitment and retention of foster/adoptive families, mentors and volunteers.

Many of our faith communities now raise awareness and invite involvement and donations on behalf of our most invisible, vulnerable and voiceless children.

Currently we have approximately 12,800 Michigan children in foster care with 293 still without an identified adoptive family. Yet we have far more caring and compassionate people in our congregations of all faiths who have great potential to make positive differences in the lives of all these children.

Corrigan has been proactive to involve our faith communities throughout the state in foster care concerns.

Here are just a few examples:

Through her support and advocacy, our Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care has grown as a volunteer grass-roots endeavor to 12 FCC statewide regions with more than 20 co-leaders to inform and help connect some 200 congregations with one of the 30 child welfare agencies.

Through this network, these congregations have provided needed goods, services, financial help, meeting places and recruitment for more adoptive/foster parents, mentors, volunteers and advocates..

The creation of two full time positions at MDHS for the Faith-Based Initiative for Recruitment and Retention of Foster/Adoptive parents. Key leaders are Trina D. Richardson and Stephanie McCann. They provide vital follow-up and help with all congregations in Michigan.

Corrigan has also laid the groundwork for a statewide infrastructure at MDHS to reach out to all of our faith communities in every county.

The establishment of the Adoption Navigators and Foster Care Navigators programs that help potential foster/adoptive parents take those important next steps to provide a safe, loving home for a child in foster care. These are experienced foster/adoptive parents themselves who have regularly participated with our FCC and offer personal help and direction when needed. Members of these dedicated teams can be reached at 1-855-michkids and 1-800-589-MARE (6273);

In this season of goodwill and gift giving, let us remember with gratitude the many gifts this tireless friend of our most vulnerable children has given.

The Rev. Kate Thoresen, coordinator, Faith Communities Coalition on Foster Care

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