Foster care community hosts Michigan governmental candidates for discussion

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Foster care community hosts Michigan governmental candidates for discussion

Ryan Pini

Ryan Pini

Ryan Pini

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor

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The New Foster Care and Michigan’s Children partnered with Oakland University’s Center for Civic Engagement to bring a youth-led candidate forum to Banquet Room B in the Oakland Center on Thursday, Oct. 18  from 7-9 p.m.

With over 13,000 children in Michigan’s foster care system, a statistic which became a popular talking point, the event offered children in foster care, foster care alumni and foster families the opportunity to question those running for office on various policies and issues relating to the foster care system.

The evening began with opening statements from both Garlin Gilchrist Jr., running mate of Gretchen Whitmer, and Tori Sachs, campaign manager for Republican U.S. Senate candidate John James, who each spoke on the importance of supporting the foster care system.

“We have the power today to define tomorrow,” Gilchrist said. “We have the power today to lay that foundation for the future. We have the power today to make the choices to enable the infrastructure that enables the imagination of all these beautiful souls.”

Candidates for Michigan’s House and Senate were then given one minute each to reply to seven questions presented by those within the foster care community.

Panelists included Jeff Pittel, libertarian candidate for Michigan Senate District 12, Kyle Cooper, democratic candidate for Michigan House District 45, Marty Knollenberg, republican candidate for Michigan Senate District 13, Mari Manoogian, democratic candidate for Michigan House District 40, Doug Tietz, republican candidate for Michigan House District 41, Michael Webber, republican candidate for Michigan House District 45, Mallory McMorrow, democratic candidate for Michigan Senate District 13, David Wolkinson, republican candidate for Michigan House District 40, Padma Kuppa, democratic candidate for Michigan House District 41 and Michael McCready, republican candidate for Michigan Senate District 12.

Question topics involved stabilizing families rather than turning to foster care, supporting families with affordable housing and transportation, elevating barriers for foster youth and helping them develop skills to live beyond minimum wage, trauma informed training in schools and more.

Bill Schuette, the Republican nominee for governor of Michigan, arrived amid the panel discussion to present a short speech on his views on the significance of the foster care system.

“I first came to learn about this issue when I was a judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals, and I would read these cases and it’s often about the termination of parental rights and how a child went through often terrible circumstances and needed a good family, a home, peace, hope, some gentleness and most of all some love,” Schuette said.

With the event running a bit overtime, the panelists did not get the opportunity for closing remarks; however, Wolkinson worked a statement into his response to the final question.

“Maybe we should have a pledge, and that pledge should be as follows,” he said. “If elected, we’re going to meet with the social workers and agencies that provide the foster care, we’re going to continue to meet with foster families and foster children, and we’re going to be a voice for the foster children when we get to the legislature.”