Michigan tax­payers can donate money from their tax returns to the Chil­dren’s Trust Fund, which assists children in the foster care system. | Facebook

Michigan res­i­dents can now use checkoff boxes on their state income tax forms to donate money to pro­grams that assist children in foster care throughout the state. 

Tax­payers can donate $5, $10, or more from their state tax returns to the Children’s Trust Fund or the Fos­tering Futures Schol­arship, two pro­grams that assist children in foster care.

According to Heather Upton, program coor­di­nator for Court Appointed Special Advo­cates of Hillsdale County, there are 97 children in Hillsdale County who are part of the foster care system. Upton said sub­stance abuse issues are the most common reason for removing a child from their home and placing them in foster care within Hillsdale County. 

CASA is not affil­iated with the orga­ni­za­tions on the tax forms, but works with children in foster care and advo­cates for their best interest in court. CASA vol­un­teers offer con­sis­tency for the child and serve as the eyes and ears of the court, Upton said.

Although each sit­u­ation is dif­ferent, Upton said, cases are open for a year to one and a half years on average.

There are 12,500 children in Michigan’s Foster Care System, Michigan Department of Health and Human Ser­vices Public Infor­mation Officer Bob Wheaton said. 

According to Wheaton, the Children’s Trust Fund is a non­profit orga­ni­zation that focuses on child abuse pre­vention, inter­vention, and pro­viding ser­vices to fam­ilies. Although the Children’s Trust Fund works with MDHHS to provide funding for foster care pro­grams to local com­mu­nities all across the state, it is a sep­arate entity that receives no federal funding. 

The Children’s Trust Fund relies pri­marily on fundraising through license plate sales, auc­tions, and the income tax checkoff box dona­tions.

The Children’s Trust Fund has been on the income tax form since 1982, but dona­tions have been decreasing in recent years. Last year Children’s Trust Fund received $72,020 from the checkoff box dona­tions.

Christie Campbell, exec­utive director of Child Abuse Pre­vention and Awareness Hillsdale County said that the Children’s Trust Fund pro­vides CAPA with a yearly grant that allows them to con­tinue their pre­vention work.

“You can donate any amount: it can be $5 or $1,000, it’s up to you. It’s a great time to make a donation,” Campbell said. 

The Fos­tering Futures Schol­arship is a joint effort between the Michigan Edu­cation Trust and MDHHS, said Robin Lott, exec­utive director of MET. The schol­ar­ships are for young adults who were in the Michigan Foster Care System from age 13 or older and have plans to attend a Michigan college. 

The Casey National Alumni Study reported that nationally, 70% of teens who eman­cipate from foster care report that they want to attend college, but fewer than 10% who graduate from high school enroll in college, and of those 10%, less than 1% graduate college. 

The FFS pro­vides $1,500 per semester in financial support. FFS also depends on dona­tions to fund schol­ar­ships. Last year, the program raised $31,000 from income tax dona­tions, but to keep their place on the form, it will need to raise at least $50,000 this year. Orga­ni­za­tions cannot stay on the form if they fail to raise $50,000 two years in a row, Lott said.

Lott said the support of the FFS is important for stu­dents who lack tra­di­tional family assis­tance during college.

Events such as finding a place to stay over school breaks or career guidance can be more dif­ficult for stu­dents who went through the foster care system, Wheaton said. FFS also con­nects stu­dents to a campus coach that can help them get the resources they need, like coun­seling.

“It’s important to support stu­dents overall to help them become suc­cessful adults. They will be the ones running our towns and hos­pitals. They are the vitally important future leaders of our com­mu­nities,” Lott said.