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MICHIGAN’S ADULT ABUSE LAW: IS IT WORKING?

MICHIGAN’S ADULT ABUSE LAW: IS IT WORKING?. MARY C. SENGSTOCK, PH.D., C.C.S. PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY PRESENTATION TO COUNCIL FOR ACTION ON AGING AT HENRY FORD VILLAGE APRIL 12, 2013. WHAT IS MICHIGAN’S LAW?. Mandatory Reporting …

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MICHIGAN’S ADULT ABUSE LAW: IS IT WORKING?

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  1. MICHIGAN’S ADULT ABUSE LAW: IS IT WORKING? MARY C. SENGSTOCK, PH.D., C.C.S. PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY PRESENTATION TO COUNCIL FOR ACTION ON AGING AT HENRY FORD VILLAGE APRIL 12, 2013

  2. WHAT IS MICHIGAN’S LAW? • Mandatory Reporting … • Of Suspected Cases of Adult Abuse … • To Adult Protective Services Workers... • State Dept. of Human Services… • Required of All Professionals… • In Health & Social Services Fields

  3. OBJECTIVE OF LAW • Identify Elderly & Other Vulnerable Adults … • Who May Be Victims of Abuse or Neglect: • Physical Abuse (Assaults) • Physical Neglect • Financial Abuse • Exploitation

  4. STUDY OF MICHIGAN’S MANDATORY REPORTING LAW: FUNDED BY BLUE CROSS & BLUE SHIELD OF MICHIGAN FOUNDATION (2006-2008) • Evaluate Its Effectiveness • Uncover Any Difficulties With the Law • Recommend Possible Improvements … Suggest Changes

  5. 2 SOURCES OF DATA • Report of Governor’s Task Force • A Committee of Experts … • Report Submitted August 23, 2006 • Focus Group Interviews … • With APS Workers • Who Administer Policy & Receive Reports • And Mandated Reporters • Health, Social Service, Community Center, Police, Fire

  6. WHAT THE STUDY FOUND:GOVERNORS’ TASK FORCE REPORT • Major Conclusions: • Need “Focal Point” (Single Agent, Approach) • Major Types Seen: Physical Abuse, Severe Physical Neglect • Major Types Ignored: Moderate Neglect, Self-Neglect, Financial Maltreatment • Need For More Attention to These Types • How Many Have Seen Report? • Available on Mich. Gov’t Web Site • Very Little Attention Paid to It

  7. WHY ARE THESE AREAS NEGLECTED? • Who Are the Major Reporters? • Medical Personnel; Medical Social Workers • What Is Their Likelihood of Observing These Types of Abuse? • [Neglect] … Self-Neglect … Financial Maltreatment • What Is Their Likelihood of Even Observing the Symptoms of These Types of Abuse? • What Is Their Likelihood of Having Any Means of Assisting Victims of These Types of Abuse?

  8. WHAT IS NEEDED TO RECOGNIZE THESE TYPES OF ABUSE/NEGLECT? • Neglect & Self-Neglect: • Access to Workers in Home Health Care Services • Community Center Workers; Police & Fire Dept. Workers • Financial Maltreatment: • Access to Financial Agencies (Banks, Credit Unions) • Workers in Community Centers, Police, Fire • Workers in These Agencies: • See Relatively Few Cases of Elder Abuse • Not Knowledgeable About Mandatory Reporting • Confused About Specific Reporting Requirements • Very Distrustful of APS Agency & Workers

  9. DATA FROM FOCUS GROUP INTERVIEWS:PERSPECTIVES ON APS • General View (Health, Social Service Agencies): • APS Workers Try Hard But It’s Not Very Effective • APS Is Overworked & Understaffed • Reporting Rules Are Confusing • County in Which Abuse Occurred • Type of Facility (Home vs. Licensed Care Facility) • They Could Get Things Done for Free But They Won’t (e.g., Take Guardianship Cases to Court) • Community Workers (Senior Center, Police, Fire): • “It’s a Waste of Time – Like CPS – Big Waste of Gov’t Money” • Can’t Depend On Them to Do Anything • “I Just Called Our Agency Lawyer & Got It Done.”

  10. OVERWORKED? APS STAFFING LOSSES • 1998 – 649 2003 – 368 • 1999 – 531 2004 – 353 • 2000 – 541 2005 – 353 • 2001 – 538 2006 – 328 • 2002 – 540 2007 – 328 • 2011: 1st Adult Services Staffing Increase in 12 Years (384)  None to APS! • 30% Increase in Caseload since 2000 • 100 APS Workers Handle 16,000 Referrals/Yr • New Population: Little Old Ladies  Drug Addicts • Political: Give Them New Computers!

  11. CONSEQUENCES OF INADEQUATE STAFFING • Fewer APS Workers to Handle Cases • Longer Time for APS Responses to Reports & Inquiries • Many Workers Forced to Handle Larger Case Loads • Fill in For Released Workers or Those On Leave • Necessarily Fewer Cases Will Be Substantiated! • Fewer Training Programs Can Be Conducted • APS: We Need Training re Determining Mental Incompetence • Mandated Reporters: Need Training re APS Rules, Authority • ALL NEED OPPORTUNITIES TO NETWORK!

  12. LACK OF SUPPORT FROM OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES: COURTS • EX: Guardianship Requests • APS Has NO Easy Tie To the Courts (APS Pays Court Fees & Has the Same Waiting Time As Other Agencies) • Meeting With Chief Judge of County Court Re Waiting Time • Agreed APS Guardianship Cases Would Receive Priority • Agreement Never Transmitted to Workers Handling Court Docket  Delays Continued

  13. LACK OF SUPPORT FROM OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES: GUARDIANSHIP • Complaint of Medical Workers: “APS Won’t Go to Court to Assign Guardians – Even Though They Do It Free.” (False) • APS Pays Normal Court Fees & Same Assignment Priority • General Recognition: Guardians Are NOT Responsible: • Guardianship Agencies; Attorneys As Assigned Guardians – Often Judges Prefer – Because They Know Court Routine • Senior Center: Guardians Misusing Funds  Court Case • All Wards Placed in Same Nursing Home, Miles from Family • One Trip Allows Guardian to Sign for All, Never See Patient • Message on Atty Cell Phone: “This Is Atty Jones: Re My Clients: You Have My Permission for Any Medical Tests”

  14. LACK OF SUPPORT FROM GOVERNMENT AGENCIES: ADMINISTRATION • Widely Recognized Need: Registry of Repeat Offenders – Similar to Registry for Offenders With Children • Comment from APS Worker: We’ll Never Get A Registry – It’s Too Expensive to Maintain” • State Human Services Official: “I Don’t Have Time for APS. I Never Do.” • Control of Policy in Legislature, Administration – APS Workers Have No Control

  15. IMPROVEMENTS GONE WRONG: EXPECTED HELP FROM A LEGAL AGENCY • Extended Effort to Obtain Legal Help With APS Cases • Finally Reached Agreement with a Legal Aid Agency • Initial Meeting With Attorney Assigned to Work With APS • His Announcement: “I Could Get Really Excited About This Project If It Involved Children. Children Are My 1st Priority. Adults Are Way Down There.” • Effort Went Nowhere • APS Complaint: Courts, Attorneys Have NO Respect for APS Professional Skills

  16. GENERAL LACK OF INTEREST IN ADULT ISSUES • Adult Victims Not a Priority for Anyone • Attorney: “I’d Be Interested If It Involved Children.” • Agency Official: “I Have No Time for APS.” • Rules Allow Emergency Change of Residence for Children – Not for Abused Adults • CPS Has a Standard Form for Reporting – Not Available for APS • Registry Exists for Abusers of Children – No Concern for a Registry for Abusers of Adults • General Agreement Among ALL Agencies – APS, Health, Social Services, Senior Centers: • “If [APS Cases] Were Children, a Lot of People Would Pay Attention. Where It’s Adults, People Shrug & Say They Should Take Care of Themselves.”

  17. SPECIAL PROBLEM: IDENTIFYING, MANAGING FINANCIAL MALTREATMENT • Who Is In a Position to Observe Financial Maltreatment? • Rarely Seen By Medical, Social Services Personnel • Often Seen By Senior Center & Police & Fire Personnel • Problem: Most Frequent Observers of Financial Abuse … • Are Those Who Have Very Little Faith in APS … • Are Not Likely to Report Abuse to APS • Need To Enlist A Wider Variety of Mandated Reporters • Community Center Workers – Police/Fire – Bankers – Lawyers

  18. ANOTHER SPECIAL PROBLEM: IDENTIFYING SELF NEGLECT • Medical & Personnel (Most Common Reporters) Not Likely to Observe Self-Neglecters • Failure to Seek Assistance Is One Aspect of Self-Neglect • Need to Recruit Workers Likely to Observe Such People: • Community Workers • Attornies • Bankers

  19. CONCLUSION: MICHIGAN APS IS IN TROUBLE • APS is Understaffed & Overworked • Many Mandated Reporters Have No Faith in the System • Those Who Do Believe in the System Are Aware of its Numerous Problems … • Know There Is Little Support for APS In Important Circles: • Human Services’ Own Executives • Courts & Legal Agencies • Michigan’s Financial Status Makes It Unlikely That Greater Resources Will Be Available for APS Any Time Soon

  20. WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE? ...WHAT CAN BE DONE? • APS Workers – & Mandated Reporters: • Need More Training (APS Guidelines; Mental Competency, Guardianships), Networking Opportunities • APS DESPERATELY NEEDS MORE SUPPORT … • From Higher Administration … Legislature … Courts … Legal System • Vulnerable Adults Are Entitled to More Attention By the Agencies Assigned to Assist Them!

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