Jan. 31, 2013
Report: Michigan child well-being slips
Kids Count offers overall county rankings for first time
[LANSING, Mich.] The latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book underscores the need to act to help children in Michigan with eight of 15 indicators of child well-being showing worsening trends.
For the first time since 1992, when the first state data book was released, the report ranks counties on the overall status of child well-being using 13 out of 15 indicators. This provides a bigger picture of local child well-being and how the county compares with others.
Ottawa, Livingston and Clinton counties were ranked the best for overall child well-being while Clare, Roscommon and Lake counties were the last among the 82 counties ranked. Keweenaw County was not included in the rankings because it lacked data for most indicators.
“We clearly see a connection between higher-income communities and better outcomes for kids, but even in more affluent counties, child poverty and the need for food assistance jumped dramatically,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “No area of the state escaped worsening conditions for children when it comes to economic security.”
More than a half-million children lived in poverty in 2011 (about $18,000 a year or less for a family of three) and more than 33,000 children were confirmed victims of abuse or neglect.
Child poverty went up 28 percent over the trend period; young children qualifying for food assistance jumped by 55 percent and confirmed victims of abuse and neglect, linked to poverty, increased by 28 percent. The period covered in the book is generally 2005 to 2011.
The biggest improvements were the decline of kids in foster care, decreasing from 17,000 in 2005 to 11,000 in 2011, and a drop in fourth-graders not proficient in reading from 40 percent to 32 percent of test-takers in the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.
Mortality rates for infants fell by 8 percent between 2005 and 2010 while the death rate for children/youth ages 1-19 declined 11 percent.
The annual Data Book is released by the Kids Count in Michigan project. It is a collaboration between the Michigan League for Public Policy (formerly the Michigan League for Human Services), which researches and writes the report, and Michigan’s Children, which works with advocates statewide to disseminate the findings. Both are nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organizations concerned about the well-being of children and their families.
“The release of this critical report is the start of a conversation. Each year, the data point clearly to programs and policies to improve the lives of all children, youth and families in Michigan,’’ said Michele Corey, interim president and CEO of Michigan’s Children. “Recently elected public officials have the opportunity to impact the future of our state by committing to these recommended policy changes and others proven to make a difference to child outcomes.”
Policy recommendations to improve conditions include the following:
- Maintain public systems and structures that help families withstand the weak economic recovery by restoring state unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks and the state Earned Income Tax Credit from 6 percent to 20 percent of the federal credit, and raising eligibility and adjusting the sliding scale for child care subsidies to allow more parents access to licensed child care.
- Address health inequities by improving the health and well-being of children in low-income and communities of color, eliminating the causes of high teen homicide rates in African American communities, and supporting the successful implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
- Invest in prevention by supporting evidence-based programs to prevent teen pregnancies, services to families to prevent child abuse and neglect and early childhood care and education.
- Improve education opportunities by reducing class sizes in early grades, offering incentives to recruit and retain teachers in schools with large numbers of low-performing students and evaluating the impact of open school choice, magnet and charter schools on the students they serve as well as on surrounding schools.
The report is at www.mlpp.org. Please note that the online report includes a trend page as well as a background page for each county (click on the blue map for county profiles) as well the Upper Peninsula, Southeast Michigan, Traverse Bay area, out-Wayne and the city of Detroit.
Kids Count in Michigan project is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, local United Ways and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org.
Editors, please note: For general comment on the report and questions about data collection, please contact the Michigan League for Public Policy at (517) 487-5436. For policy implications please contact Michigan’s Children at (517) 485-3500.