- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Child welfare workers will be asked to consider how attached infants and toddlers are to their parents or caregivers when making foster care or permanent home placement decisions, the Michigan Department of Human Services said Wednesday.

The state and the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health also are recommending that infants and toddlers be placed with foster parents who are interested in adoption if the children are not expected to be united with their parents.

Separation from parents can be traumatic and impair emotional, social, physical and cognitive development of very young children, officials said.

“It is every baby’s birthright to experience care that is nurturing and leads to an attachment relationship that promotes social and emotional health,” said Deborah Weatherston, executive director of the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health advocacy group.

Last year, 32 percent of the children entering foster care in Michigan were younger than three, according to the state.

Infants younger than 3 months when entering foster care remain in care 50 percent longer than older children and are far more likely to be adopted rather than reunified with their biological parents.

“We need to use the scientific knowledge about early childhood development to make meaningful decisions about placement, visitation, services and permanent homes for babies,” said Human Services Director Maura Corrigan.

Recommendations released Wednesday in Lansing also include:

- maintaining connections between foster parents, adoptive parents and children if adoptions occur after attachments are developed.

- providing babies with familiar objects from their homes - such as a blanket, sheet or teddy bear - to ease the transition by providing a sense of security.

- providing services by infant mental health specialists as needed.

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