Thousands of people who were in foster care during the infamous water crisis in Flint, Michigan, have not been left out of a chance to secure a chunk of a proposed settlement that will distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in claims through state and federal courts.
In response to a court order last week, Michigan’s child welfare department has begun preparing to disclose to federal and state judges the names and contact information of thousands of people who were exposed to high levels of lead and bacteria in their water when they lived as foster children in Flint, a lower-income, majority-Black suburb of Detroit.
A spokesman for the state Department of Health and Human Services stated Monday that information on about 3,000 current and former foster youth will be submitted.
After attorney fees and other costs, about $431.3 million would be left over for distribution to roughly 100,000 Flint residents and other interests.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of lead exposure for children. Exposure is linked to devastating long-term harm in children, including brain and nerve damage, stunted growth and development, learning and behavior problems, hearing and speech problems, lower IQ and poor school performance.
Lead exposure is considered entirely preventable, but officials in Michigan bungled a project to switch Flint’s water source, and extreme levels of lead leached into the city’s water along with high bacterial readings.
About 80% of the settlement fund will be spent on the claims of people who were minors when exposed to the Flint River water between April 25, 2014 and Nov. 16, 2020. Almost two-thirds of that is to be set aside for those who were ages 6 and younger.
A special master has been appointed to help implement the terms of the settlement, and that includes contacting the foster youth and walking them through the process of filing and documenting their claims.