reACT: Kids Count

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Fri, 01/27/2012

Last week the Kids Count in Michigan Data Book was released by the Michigan League for Human Services revealing startling statistics about the state of children in Michigan.  Read reactions from early childhood advocates from across the state and share your own thoughts below.

Kids Count Fast Facts

  • Childhood poverty rose to 23.5 percent statewide with most counties seeing double-digit childhood poverty rates.
  • Worsening trends included the rate of children confirmed as victims of abuse and neglect, which rose 34 percent statewide over the decade.
  • In 2010, 32,500 Michigan children were confirmed victims with four out of every five suffering from neglect.
  • In 2010, almost half of K-12 public school students (46.5 percent) qualified for free or reduced price lunch, jumping from 36.2 percent in 2006.
  • The percent of children living in poverty jumped from 14 percent to 23 percent between 2000 and 2009.
  • 1 in every 10 kids in Michigan is living in extremely desperate circumstances, living at half the poverty level.


William Miller, executive director, Michigan Association of Intermediate School Administrators/associate director, Michigan Association of School Administrators

The economic downturn continues to take its toll on children and families in the state, 46.5 percent of Michigan students are now eligible for free or reduced lunch, up 10 percent since 2007.  A positive trend is that the high school drop-out rate continues to decline in Michigan.

Jacque Eatmon, coordinator
Kalamazoo Great Start Collaborative

As An African American,  I feel the African American culture continues to experience a disproportionate percentage of health risks.  When I am looking at poor outcomes for our community I am thinking, “ these numbers are even worse in the African American community,”  particularly in the areas of infant mortality, poverty, abuse and neglect. There is no one factor that can be  labeled as the reason; it is multifaceted, caused by many social determinants.   We often like to look at personal choices and behaviors as the root cause of the disparities, but the fact is that inequalities are making us sick.

Melissa Church, parent liaison
Berrien Great Start Parent Coalition

The Kid's Count Data report shows that Michigan has a lot more we can do for our kids. Hopefully Michigan's ranking of 30th in the country will energize our citizens and elected officials to continue to make early childhood programs a priority in terms of funding and new programs. Not only is early childhood about the development of our children, it is also about the development of a world-class workforce who will help rebuild Michigan. 

Althea Wilson, parent educator, Parents As Teachers,
First Steps Washtenaw Program coordinator- Eastern Washtenaw County

According to the Kids Count data, Michigan is facing a problem of poverty among an increasing number of its children and if it is not managed, it will spiral out of control with devastating repercussions for our state.  I think it is good to approach a problem at its source and with the newly launched Office of Great Start focusing on our youngest kids, I think we are off to a great start indeed.  If the findings of the Kids Count report are accurate and the numbers of Michigan children living in poverty are exponentially increasing over time, then we are in need of an office that will examine this phenomenon and the trends that seem to align themselves with it.  It is not surprising that among impoverished families there is a high incidence of neglect and abuse of children.  People need to feel a sense of control.  Control is empowering.  Families who live in poverty are often dependent upon assistance and support from sources outside of their internal locus of control.  Exploiting the vulnerability of children may be a mechanism that some families living in poverty use to feel some sense of control in their lives.  Children with a history of neglect and abuse are less likely to arrive to kindergarten ready to succeed.  If current dashboard objectives do not reflect an intervention for this course what can we reasonably expect from families of poverty?

During economic droughts our fiscal resources need to be stirred up in order for funding streams to begin to flow again.  Governor Snyder is a macro-visionary who is asking that we invest in our children, not because of who they are now, but because of who they will become.  If we do not invest in the safety net that is a strong labor force in the future, whatever strides we make today to recover our economy will be for naught.

La Toya Tung, assistant parent liaison
Oakland Great Start Parent Coalition

The statistics that the Kids Count report confirms may be shocking for many residents of Oakland County, one of the wealthiest counties in Michigan, but for me it serves as confirmation of what I have been observing in my upper middle-class neighborhood for some time now.  Those who were previously well-to-do have fallen on hard times, and are either reluctant to ask for help or do so quietly under the radar for fear that they will be looked at "differently" or judged by their friends or neighbors.  This in turn, creates stress in the household and places undue pressure on parents sometimes leading to abuse or neglect of children.

Poverty or a sharp decline in income, and the daily stresses associated with such a dramatic change, can and does oftentimes sadly result in some parents' gross mistreatment of their children. Hence the importance of providing services that will further strengthen and rebuild relationships in the home, services that will provide parents with the resources they need to get through this difficult period in their lives, and an atmosphere that will create an environment in which people will openly and willingly seek the services they need.

With more of these children being in the age range of birth to 4 years old, it is imperative that we reach these families during this most vulnerable time in their children's development to give them the hope and the chance for a much brighter future. I hope the release of this data serves to open the eyes of many in the community that have had their heads buried in the sand to the need that exists in front of them--right next door.

Amy Zarend, parent coordinator
Monroe Great Start Parent Coalition

I feel that the report, while extremely disappointing, is not at all surprising.  The conditions in which all families are surviving in at this time in our Michigan history are difficult, and children, with access to fewer resources and no voice of their own, are taking the largest hit.  Families struggling for economic security are surely factors in the rise of abuse and neglect cases in the state. Children are left to flounder as their parent or guardian focuses much of their time and attention to just making it through the week or the month.  It is a terribly sad reality that more and more families are finding themselves in positions of financial distress and the children fall by the wayside in the process of their survival.  I hope that this report will shine a light on the true state of our children in Michigan to all those that have the ability to make a difference for them now and for their futures.

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