Our Kids Count in Michigan Project Director Kelsey Perdue has a saying that has been running through my head repeatedly these days: “Kids make up 20% of Michigan’s population and 100% of our future.”
Right now, I’m trying to think a lot about the future, and that means thinking about how Michigan can better serve kids and families. Throughout these challenging days, weeks and months, our kids continue to show resilience, strength and optimism. They’re being supported by parents, teachers and caregivers as they navigate an entirely different world, and we at the League are working to make sure the tools and systems they need are in place.
On April 29, we released the new Kids Count in Michigan data profiles, which examine data from 2010 through 2019. Obviously the COVID-19 crisis will mean massive shifts in reality for everyone, and these profiles can show us where kids were headed before the crisis and how we can help them move forward in these unprecedented times.
Along with the data, we included a celebration of policy wins and a set of targets for the future. The targets include strategies to: strengthen communities to support youth development; increase access and quality of healthcare so kids can thrive; meet students’ learning needs; and remove barriers to help parents support their kids. As families face an uncertain future, we must do all that we can to protect their well-being through policy work.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has begun doing that with a variety of projects and funds, and we were pleased to see—on the same day our Kids Count data was released—her announcement of a new fund for child care providers.
Child care workers are absolutely essential to our state, especially during this crisis. The Michigan Child Care Relief Fund, by providing a total of $130 million in grants to providers, will make child care more affordable and accessible for families, and allow providers to have the resources to stay safe and stay open when families need them. I hope you will spread the word about this important fund so Michigan’s kids can get the care they need.
Again, we applaud this step in the right direction from the governor. But let’s face it: The COVID-19 crisis is really exposing just how much work needs to be done in Michigan. What we need is a permanent plan to make sure kids, families and workers are safe, healthy and strong. And I know we can count on you to help us push for the policies that will keep kids moving forward.
We’re all facing different dilemmas during this time, and my heart goes out to each of you. I know you’re trying to balance a host of emotions along with your daily responsibilities, and no one is having an easy time of it. But I thank you for joining me in making it a priority right now to focus on Michigan’s future: our kids.