For Immediate Release
April 17, 2018
Michigan kids facing increased rate of abuse and neglect, high poverty, unstable family employment and significant academic challenges
LANSING—A majority of child well-being indicators have stagnated or worsened statewide since 2010, with widening disparities by race, ethnicity and income, according to the 2018 Kids Count in Michigan Data Book released today by the Michigan League for Public Policy.
The 2018 data book outlined raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old as a top policy change to better serve Michigan kids. Michigan is one of only five states yet to do so, and a bipartisan package of bills to change the law has already been introduced and is awaiting action. Youth who are charged in the adult system do not receive adequate education or age-appropriate treatment and services. Kids housed in adult correctional facilities face a higher risk of being physically or sexually assaulted, and are much more likely to recidivate or commit more violent offenses than youth served by the juvenile justice system.
“By passing the ‘raise the age’ bills, lawmakers could make a difference in improving the lives of Michigan’s kids and bettering our state,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director. “Regardless of their offense, 17-year-olds in our state are being punished for a lifetime, facing traumatic experiences, getting a criminal record and missing out on education and rehabilitation services. However, with age-appropriate treatment, many will have the opportunity to be productive and help strengthen their communities.”
The report reveals that poverty and other economic strains remain a significant problem for Michigan kids, especially kids of color. While the rate of child poverty in Michigan has improved by 11.5 percent since 2010, more than 1 in 5 kids in Michigan—including 42 percent of African-American kids and 30 percent of Latinx kids—still lived in poverty in 2016. Additionally, 31 percent of children in Michigan lived in families without year-round, full-time employment.
“The 2018 Kids Count Data Book provides an important counterpoint to the conversation on Michigan’s economic recovery,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, President and CEO for the Michigan League for Public Policy. “While poverty has dropped slightly, it’s still affecting nearly half of all African-American kids, and nearly a third of all Michigan kids don’t have any family member steadily working. As lawmakers work on the budget over the next few months, they must place a greater emphasis on supporting struggling families and their kids.”
Economic and academic struggles go hand-in-hand for many Michigan kids. Michigan ranks in the bottom ten 10 nationally in education for kids with many disparate outcomes for students of color and students in families with low incomes. Nearly 53 percent of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds are not in preschool. About 56 percent of the state’s third-graders are not proficient in reading, including about 70 percent of kids of color compared to 48 percent of White third-graders.
These problems persist as kids age, with 65 percent of Michigan’s students not being career- and college-ready. Significant disparities exist by race/ethnicity and family income: 84 percent of students from families with low incomes do not meet the readiness benchmarks compared to 16 percent of students from higher income families. Policymakers need to think strategically to improve education outcomes.
“As a Flint resident, a policy advocate and the head of an organization committed to improving literacy in my community, I appreciate the importance of Kids Count’s data, analysis and policy recommendations,” said Ja’Nel Jamerson, Executive Director of the Flint and Genesee Literacy Network and a board member of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We know that kids’ reading skills are influenced by a variety of factors. By analyzing data in all the significant aspects of a child’s life, the Kids Count book enables state and federal policymakers and local organizations like ours to see what’s working for our kids, and what barriers they’re facing and how we can break them down.”
With the disastrous Flint water crisis that exposed thousands of kids to lead, Kids Count has placed a greater emphasis on tracking child well-being in Flint, creating a profile for the city for the second year in a row. This is in addition to the Genesee County profile that has been created each year. The Michigan League for Public Policy has also been actively working on community engagement and advocacy in the Flint area to help provide residents with the data and tools to influence and improve public policy.
Since 1992, the Michigan League for Public Policy has been compiling and releasing the annual Kids Count in Michigan Data Book to analyze and evaluate the well-being of children in the state. The 2018 book primarily compares data from 2010 to 2016 and analyzes 16 key indicators across four domains. The report also ranks 82 of the 83 counties for overall child well-being (Keweenaw County lacks sufficient data). The top five counties for child well-being in 2018 are Livingston (1st), Ottawa (2nd), Clinton (2nd), Oakland (4th), and Washtenaw (5th). The bottom five counties in 2018 are Lake (82nd), Clare (81st), Muskegon (80th), Calhoun (79th), and Oceana (78th).
Key policy recommendations:
- “Raise the Age” of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old.
- Strengthen policies that support work, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Allowing families to keep more of what they earn improves educational and health outcomes for kids.
- Ensure access to affordable, high-quality child care.
- Expand home visitation programs to help provide additional support to families, remove barriers that prevent access to prenatal care, and reduce risk for child abuse and neglect
- Provide sufficient funding for early interventions to improve third-grade reading using a birth-to-8 framework and adequately fund public schools, targeting resources in high-need areas and fully funding the At-Risk program.
The 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 Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Frey Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Ruth Mott Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org.