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February 15, 2024

ABA addressing bias in medical mandated reporting of Black and Indigenous families in Michigan

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2024 — The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law is piloting a new community-based initiative in Michigan to address overreporting by medical professionals of Black, Indigenous and Latino/a children to the child welfare system. Nationally, injuries in Black children are 9 times more likely than those in White children to be reported as abuse despite evidence that child abuse and neglect occur at equal rates across races.

The project is one of several field-initiated approaches funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Children’s Bureau. The funding will enable community-based organizations with strong local ties to meet children and families where they are and provide resources to keep them together by addressing racial bias and inequity in child welfare systems in underserved communities.

The ABA’s work in Michigan, which started in September 2023 and will continue through September 2028, focuses on medical providers as mandated child abuse and neglect reporters. The ABA is partnering with the Children’s Services Administration of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, community-based organizations and impacted individuals to conduct pilots in Detroit and Ann Arbor that focus on the interplay between the health care, public health, child welfare and legal systems as they respond to medical child maltreatment reports. The principles of co-creation, relationship building, narrative change and racial healing will serve as the cornerstones of the Michigan pilots.  

Using a multisystem approach developed by the ABA’s Stop Overreporting Our People (STOP) project, the pilots will address each decision made from the time a medical provider has a concern about maltreatment through child welfare hotline report and investigation to the decision of the judicial officer to remove the child from the home. The Michigan pilots will also focus on how doctors are trained to report maltreatment.

The intervention will occur in three phases:

  • Design and development of interventions for medical professionals; medical schools; child protection intake workers and investigators; and judges
  • Implementation and evaluation in pilot sites
  • Dissemination of results and community healing.

At the conclusion of the pilots, Michigan STOP will share the results of its evaluation and approaches toward racial healing with the local communities and other jurisdictions interested in pursuing similar efforts.

The Center on Children and the Law promotes access to justice for children and families. Our team of attorneys and core staff work on a diverse portfolio of national, regional and local projects in the children’s law field throughout the country. Center projects are unified by two complementary goals: improving legal representation and improving the legal systems that impact children and families.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.