State of Opportunity

Wednesday during Morning Edition and All Things Considered

State of Opportunity is a special project produced by Michigan Radio with major financial support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

The project features documentary reports, first-person storytelling, youth journalists, an online portal, and Michigan Radio’s Public Insight Network.

The goal is to expose the barriers children of low income families in Michigan face in achieving success.

two young kids reading a book
Thomas Life / Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/7SpXkV

What was your favorite book as a kid?

For me, it was Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. I’d take it with me to school, to sleepovers, to the park. I read it so many times that I can still recite some of the poems by heart. 

But for poor children, books aren’t so easy to come by.

parking ticket on car
kdingo / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Traffic tickets are an inconvenient expense. And if they aren't paid within a certain amount of time, you incur costly fees that only make the ticket harder to pay off.

But if you're poor, a ticket can be nearly impossible to pay. And unpaid violations can result in a suspended license or jail time, which means you can't go to work to pay your bills – including the ticket – digging you further into poverty.

Bill Hickey in his garden
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

When you’re in your house, what do you see when you look out your front window? Maybe a big maple tree, a mailbox, your neighbor’s house across the street and the house next to them.

Cindy Dorman wishes that's what she saw when she looked out her front window. But instead she sees a whole lot of blight. "Twenty-one abandoned houses" within a one-block radius of her house, to be exact.

 

the evening news
flash.pro / flickr cc / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The attack in Nice, France.

The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

kid and school bus
Isabelle Acatauassu Alves Almeida / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

We've already reached the middle of July and this summer seems to be flying by.

Many stores already have pens, pencils, and notebooks prominently displayed. Their racks of new backpacks are fully stocked.

And while many parents will be falling back into the same school year routine as years past, others will be sending kids to school for the first time. If you're one of them, how can you make this transition easier for your little one?

1. Start your school routine early

young children in classroom
BLOOMBERRIES / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0 / FLICKR

The first three years of a child's life are really important. Every experience and interaction builds connections in the brain that can last a lifetime. The more enriching the environment is, the better the brain develops. 

For working parents, this means that finding high-quality child care is essential. But quality doesn't come cheap. Day care can cost almost as much as in-state college tuition. The state of Michigan does provide a financial subsidy for child care, but it is reserved for the poorest of the poor. 

Toddler at doctor
Brett Neilson / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Typically, when a mother is covered by Medicaid, her children are automatically covered when they are born.

But many low-income toddlers inadvertently lose their health insurance on their first birthday, according to Kaiser Health News.

Abdul El-Sayed (right) meets with Joseph Mutebi
Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Detroit built its public health departments back in the 1800s, when cholera was rampant.

 

But in 2012 the city gutted that department and privatized it. Now, after its historic bankruptcy, public health is back under city management. But it’s a shell of a what it once was.

 

Preschoolers
Seattle Parks / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

From kindergarten through high school, I attended schools with pretty racially diverse student populations. I've seen that same diversity reflected in the friendships I've maintained throughout my life.

And it turns out those interracial relationships may have actually helped my development.

Construction workers
University of Salford Press Office / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

You may have heard about the gender pay gap that exists between men and women. Simply put, it's when a man and woman share similar professional factors like educational background, amount of work experience, and hold the same position, yet the woman makes less than the man.

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