12:06 am
Fri October 24, 2014

If learning starts at birth, teacher training has to start earlier too

This daycare center in Detroit is one of the places where teachers are undergoing training as part of a new initiative.
Credit Sarah Carr / Michigan Radio

Sarah Carr is editor of The Teacher Project, an education reporting initiative at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism dedicated to covering issues facing America's teachers. While in Detroit she put together this story for State of Opportunity.

In Detroit and across the country, pre-school instructors are being asked to teach more formal academic skills so their students can get off to a strong start in school and life.

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3:22 pm
Thu October 23, 2014

How we're failing to stop, or even see, modern slavery in Michigan

Credit flickr/the_justified_sinner

There were four children, brought to the U.S. under falsified records. They came to live with a man in Ypsilanti. He said he brought them to the U.S. to give them an education, and improve their lives. The children said the man beat them regularly. He beat them with whatever he could get his hands on: a broomstick, a toilet plunger, an ice scraper, even a phone charger. They were beaten and deprived of sleep whenever they failed to do their "chores."

The Detroit Free Press carried the story of how federal prosecutors tried to get the man put in prison on charges of "forced labor" – basically, modern slavery. And of how his conviction on that charge was overturned. Forcing a child to do "chores," and even beating them when they failed to do so, isn't enslavement, the federal appeals court decided. It's just plain child abuse. 

Today, the man, Jean-Claude Toviave, was charged with child abuse, this time in state court, rather than federal court. 

The four children may yet see justice served against the man who allegedly brought them to the U.S. to a life of torture and abuse. But the case highlights the flaws in a justice system still struggling to keep up with the heinous and often hidden crimes associated with human trafficking. 

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Families & Community
10:43 am
Tue October 21, 2014

We want your ideas for State of Opportunity's Infowire!

Credit Garry Knight / flickr

Infowire stories are a little bit different from traditional news stories. The point of Infowire is to fill an information gap. That means a perfect Infowire story would start with a question. Where do you find X in Michigan? Why doesn't X service work the way it's supposed to? Why isn't anybody doing anything about X issue? I then dig into these questions and try to put together a story.

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Families & Community
12:45 pm
Fri October 17, 2014

Rethinking mentorship: Let the kid find you instead of the other way around

Mentors make a big difference in kids lives, according to an abundance of personal success stories and lots of research. Programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters seem like a perfect idea.

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7:40 am
Tue October 14, 2014

Infowire: Getting high-quality mental health care for kids in Michigan depends on where you live

Credit Internet Archive Book Images / flickr

Parents that have a kid with a serious mental illness are well acquainted with frustration. Annie Kitching is one of these parents. 

In addition to the challenges of parenting a mentally ill child, Kitching, who lives near Lansing, also ran into a lot of roadblocks trying to find mental health care that could make a difference for two of her kids. Kitching adopted these children, a brother and sister. Before their adoption they had been severely abused, and that abuse took a serious toll on their mental health.

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5:30 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

Is how we talk about race worth talking about?

Is there more to teaching kids "how to get along"?
Credit Barnaby Wasson / Flickr

Browsing the comments on Facebook in response to Dustin Dwyer’s piece on race makes it clear we are all over the map on how we talk about race. Some tread lightly around these issues and things like privilege and oppression. Others believe racism doesn’t exist anymore. And some people don’t like talking about it at all.

How much of this depends on how we are taught to talk about race?

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Families & Community
11:47 am
Thu October 9, 2014

Actually, here are 13 stories from us about people working to stop "black on black" crime

Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Yesterday, I reported a story about a community meeting. The purpose of this meeting was to help parents and children in Grand Rapids avoid potentially violent encounters with police. The meeting was organized by the Grand Rapids chapter of the NAACP, and most of the people who attended were black. The issue of police violence is relevant to the black community, in particular, because black people are more likely than other racial groups to be subjected to the use of force from police officers. Especially deadly force.

So, that's an issue, and it's one we think is worth covering. 

But several people who commented on the story online wanted to know why no one was paying attention to what they deemed a far greater threat to young black people: so called "black on black" crime. In one comment, this was deemed a "less publicized problem."

These comments struck me as odd, because I know we've done plenty of stories on that topic in the past, and I've been to plenty of community meetings meant to address community violence, including "black on black" crime. 

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Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed October 8, 2014

Teaching black kids about the police: "They have legal authority to kill you."

Attorney Stephen Drew gives "survival tips" for police encounters during an event hosted by the Grand Rapids chapter of the NAACP.
Credit Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

The gymnasium at the Baxter Community Center in Grand Rapids started filling up a little before six Monday night. Dinner was provided. Parents and kids loaded up Styrofoam plates, then sat down with their meals at the rows of tables. It was a full house.

As the meal finished, napkins folded on plates, a man in a dark grey suit took hold of the microphone and began his presentation.

In front of him were families. Parents. Children. Young children.

The man talked for a while. Eventually, he got to this:

"They have more power than you do," he said. "They have guns. They have legal authority to kill you."

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9:49 am
Tue October 7, 2014

New policies aim to make a difference for Michigan's kids.

Credit Greyloch / flickr

There have been a few recent developments that meet at the intersection of the Venn diagram made when State of Opportunity meets government affairs.

What matters is how likely these reforms are to make a difference for kids in Michigan. Here's some early stage analysis. 

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4:28 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Will this new law break the connection between foster care and human trafficking?

Falling through the cracks of the foster care system can mean falling into the hands of traffickers. A new federal law aims to change that.
Credit Gina / Flickr

Earlier this week, President Obama signed a bill that could lead to major changes in the child welfare system.

Arguably the most important part of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act is its acknowledgment of something we don't like to think about but is nevertheless true: the strong connection between foster care and human trafficking. 

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