Bundle of joy

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Two days ago, my granddaughter was born, and she has already brought so much happiness to our family (well, the jury may still be out for her older brother).

When I hold her in my arms, I can’t help but think of what the future holds for her. What kind of world awaits her? What will college cost in 18 years? What jobs will be available?

Due to the nature of my work at the League, the joy of this occasion is also marked with an appreciation of the challenges that lie ahead—for my grandchildren and others. I think of the countless little babies across Michigan who are being brought into the same world, but are going to live markedly different and much more difficult lives.

baby handsSo much of a child’s life is determined by the circumstances they are born into and raised in. Many pregnant women don’t have access to the prenatal care they need, affecting their babies’ development. A child’s health is determined by a variety of factors, including where they live, the air they breathe, the water they drink and the food they eat. Too often, these circumstances are affected by income and race.

From there, it is easy to connect the dots to children’s development and their education. And a child’s opportunity, as well as their ability to learn, influences whether or not they will go to college, what jobs they will pursue, and how much money they make as adults. They then become parents, hoping their kids will be better off than they were.

And this is what drives me. This is why, as “Mimi” to three grandchildren, I am still making the trek to Lansing every day to create a better life for all kids and all families in Michigan.

Our work is focused on a two-generation approach that helps kids by improving the conditions that their parents are dealing with. The cost of child care has gotten outrageous, rivaling college costs. Too many workers are still without reasonable family leave or earned paid sick leave, forcing parents to choose between work and vital wages and taking care of their kids. Adults without adequate training or a college degree have a hard time finding a good-paying job, but can’t afford to go back to school.

From our Kids Count work to the state budget, we are working to help kids directly as well. We will keep fighting to prevent child abuse and neglect, ensure all kids have access to healthcare and dental care, and invest in quality education from child care to college.

We all want a good life for our kids and grandkids. And if you work in public policy, all kids are “our” kids. That goes for lawmakers as well, especially those coming to Lansing for the first time. In the coming year, I urge legislators to treat all kids in Michigan like they would their own, regardless of their geography, skin color or income. By creating a better life for babies and families today, we can create a stronger community and economy tomorrow.

— Gilda Z. Jacobs

Michigan improves in overall child well-being, drops to 10th worst state in nation for education

For Immediate Release
June 21, 2016

Contact: Alex Rossman
arossman@mlpp.org
517.487.5436

National 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Michigan 31st in country for kids; state ranks high for children’s health, poor for education performance and poverty

LANSING—Michigan dropped to 40th in the nation for children’s education, according to the 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book from the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. In Michigan, more than half of young children are not in preschool, 71 percent of fourth-graders are not proficient in reading, and 71 percent of eighth-graders are not proficient in math. (more…)

Mass incarceration and the kids left behind

Losing a parent to incarceration can be very traumatic for children. Not understanding why a parent is gone and can’t come home, wondering why he or she might be far away, being frustrated because frequent visits might not be possible all while the other parent undergoes tremendous financial and emotional stress.

In Michigan at least 1 in 10 children has been impacted by parental incarceration. This is one of the highest rates in the country—only Indiana (11%) and Kentucky (13%) have higher percentages of children who have had a parent incarcerated. As a result of mass incarceration and the “tough on crime” movement many children and families have been left behind in communities without adequate support and resources. (more…)

Do kids really count in Michigan?

Over the past year our state has received a significant amount of attention from the Flint water crisis—exposing an entire city to poisonous lead—and the deplorable and dangerous conditions of the Detroit Public Schools. These two incidents alone beg the question of whether kids really do count in Michigan. State leaders have become extremely focused on the bottom line and reducing spending so much that basic needs like clean air, safe drinking water and quality schools have become issues. (more…)

A two-generation strategy to reduce poverty and increase school success

The message was loud and clear at the State Board of Education meeting last week: family income and school success are inextricably linked, and Michigan’s school reform efforts will not succeed if the state doesn’t address that reality.

League President and CEO Gilda Z. Jacobs was invited by the State Board and new Superintendent Brian Whiston to address what it would take to make Michigan a top ten state for education. The Board is seeking input from education and business groups, advocacy organizations, teachers and parents—with the goal of developing a much-needed plan for action. (more…)

Schools out! Why some kids aren’t as excited for summer

As we counted down the last days of the school year, most of us were excited planning our summer vacations and camps. At the same time, too many kids were wondering how they were going to eat over the summer – something most of us take for granted. (more…)

Michigan Must Ensure the Safety of Young Children in Child Care

 

Child care is a fact of life for the majority of Michigan parents, yet federal audits and studies have shown that because Michigan does not have enough child care inspectors, parents cannot rest assured that the care they choose is safe and meets even basic state licensing standards. To ensure basic health and safety, all child care centers and homes in the state are required to be licensed or registered, whether or not they accept low-income children receiving a state subsidy.

Nearly 60% of young children in Michigan live in homes where all parents are working, and more than half are in care at least one time each week. Without safe and stable child care, parents cannot work to support their children, and employers face threats to their bottom line from employee absenteeism and turnover.

Michigan’s Failure to Protect Children Exposed in Federal Audits

In unannounced visits, federal auditors found:

  • Half of the child care home providers and all of the centers that they visited had not done all required criminal record and protective services background checks on employees and other caregivers.
  • Centers that were not safe for children because of such violations as a blocked fire exit, hazardous substances within the reach of children, recalled cribs and unsupervised toddlers.

In national studies, Michigan was given a D grade because even though the state’s licensing regulations are adequate, it fails to ensure that providers are actually following the rules. Child care homes received a grade of F because Michigan is one of eight states that does not inspect homes before registration, and state law could allow for inspections only once every 10 years.

The Problem: Too Few Child Care Inspectors and High Caseloads

  • Too few child care inspectors: Federal auditors point to the insufficient number of child care inspectors as the primary weakness in Michigan’s licensing system. Michigan currently has 70 child care licensing inspectors, with caseloads of 153 child care settings for every inspector. By contrast, the national average is 98:1, and the recommended standard is 50:1.
  • Thorough inspections are needed to ensure child safety: Currently, the on-site inspection of a child care center takes between five and 15 hours, depending on the amount of travel time required as well as the size of the center and the existence of any safety violations. Child care home inspections take between three and 10 hours. In addition to on-site inspections, workers must complete incident and other reports, review and approve corrective action plans, conduct investigations on facilities operating without a license or registration, and respond to complaints. Because there are 70 inspectors spread out over 83 counties, travel times can be as high as 60 minutes one way in south central lower Michigan to 120 miles in northern lower Michigan. In the Upper Peninsula, workers may need to drive up to 200 miles one way to complete an inspection.
  • Changes in federal law will increase workload: 
    • With high caseloads, Michigan cannot meet its current responsibilities to ensure safety for young children in care.
    • By Nov. 2016, the state will be required by federal law to step up its oversight to include a pre-licensure inspection for all centers and homes, as well as a yearly unannounced visit.
    • In addition, annual inspections of unlicensed providers receiving a state subsidy will be required. The Office of Great Start has testified that it cannot meet the new federal standards with its current staff.

The Solution

The governor’s 2016 budget includes $5.7 million in federal funds to hire new licensing inspectors and bring caseloads to the current national average of one inspector for every 98 child care settings. Because of declining child care caseloads, Michigan has additional federal Child Care Development Fund dollars to spend on quality improvements next year. Federal funds that are not spent will be returned to the federal government and reallocated to other states. No state dollars will be needed to provide this extra protection for Michigan’s children.

 

Making kids count in the state budget

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Conditions for Michigan’s kids are progressing in some areas of child well-being but in others…. well, let’s just say we’ve got some major work ahead of us, particularly when it comes to economic security. That’s the upshot of the newly released Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.

Fortunately, the budget plan spelled out by Gov. Rick Snyder last month does a good job in a tight budget year of addressing inequities by making some investments that will drive improvements for Michigan’s kids.

Most welcome is a $49 million initiative, including $24 million for child care quality improvements, to increase the chances of more children reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

(more…)

Promoting Early Literacy in Michigan

 

We all can agree that children should be provided the supports they need to become literate by the end of the third grade. Most students who fail to reach this critical milestone fall further behind and often drop out before earning a high school diploma. Low-income students are at higher risk of low literacy skills than their peers from higher-income families and well-resourced schools.

INVEST: States that have seen the most dramatic improvements in early literacy have made substantial investments in early interventions. Without additional funding, schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students are hampered in their efforts. For example, the substantial gains in reading proficiency among Florida students were aided by $165 million to support reading specialists and summer programs.

CURRENT SITUATION IN MICHIGAN: Roughly 40,000 of the state’s third-graders did not demonstrate proficiency in MEAP reading in 2013, and 10,000 of those had scores at the most elementary level (4)—NOT proficient.

 

EARLY INTERVENTION IS PREVENTION: Let’s begin by strengthening existing systems for maternal and infant health, child lead poisoning prevention, early intervention for children with disabilities or developmental delays and improved access to subsidized high quality child care. Expanded access to preschool for 3-year-olds and dental care for Medicaid-eligible children would also enhance readiness.

POVERTY: The clear connection between poverty and academic achievement must be addressed. Raising the state Earned Income Tax Credit and strengthening family supports will improve achievement. Parents in low-wage jobs with minimal benefits need family-friendly policies at work and in government programs.

 

Why kids count

Recent news reports celebrate the decline in the unemployment rate and the quickened tempo of the recovery. But four years into the recovery, Michigan’s child poverty rates remain consistently high.

In 2013, one of every four children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level (roughly $18,800 for a single-parent family of three and $23,600 for a two-parent family of four), according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, released today. (more…)

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