Families & Community

Families & Community
5:31 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

State of Opportunity special: Do we really have a plan for at-risk kids?

Jennifer White, Carl King and Zoe Clark prepare for a conversation about successful approaches to creating opportunity for at-risk youth.
Credit Michigan Radio

There's widespread recognition that education creates opportunity. But schools are often expected to provide much more than just education for kids struggling with poverty. So what are the effects of that expectation? Are kids getting watered-down educations and watered-down social services as schools struggle to do both? 

Read more
Families & Community
12:49 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

As it turns out, it really does take a village to raise a child

Credit Gabi Menashe / Flickr

Well hello there! How have you been? It's been a while since my last post – three months, to be exact. I've been out on maternity leave and just got back to work and I have to say, I have a newfound respect for single parents.

Read more
Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed April 16, 2014

How do you get a kid out of a bad situation? Start with one person who cares.

Portrait of a family that overcame obstacles. Jamie Alexander, second from right, credits her Grandma Bobbie Lee, far right, with stepping in to help raise the kids when her mom, third from right, struggled through addiction.
Credit courtesy Jamie Alexander

Stories on State of Opportunity are all about ways to help disadvantaged kids find success in life. But when you meet a successful adult who grew up disadvantaged, they have a story that is like many others.

They didn’t get where they are by accident. They worked hard, of course, but usually, they also had some help.  And often, that help can be traced back to one person who decided to make a difference.

Today, we're starting an occasional series about the people who make that decision. We’re calling this series, "One Person Who Cared."  To share your own "One Person Who Cared" story, click here

I met Jamie Alexander a couple of years ago. She’s a social worker for a program in Grand Rapids called Strong Beginnings, which helps African-American moms have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.

But on the car ride to one of her client’s homes, Alexander told me her own story.

"My mom was a drug addict, an alcoholic," Alexander said. "And my dad was not around."

Read more
Families & Community
3:35 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Call-in show: what's the best strategy to help at-risk youth?

Credit Vinoth Chandar / Flickr

This Thursday, we're shifting gears at State of Opportunity.

For our call-in show, we want to talk with you and our invited guests about ways to help at-risk kids break the cycle of poverty. 

People posting to our Facebook conversation so far have been adamant that schools and education are the way to give kids a better chance in life.


Read more
Families & Community
11:41 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Schools as the default solution: The right move?

Credit Erin Nekervis / Flickr

For the rest of this week and next, we're preparing for our upcoming call-in show

We've focused a lot on schools and education because it's such a huge part of children's and parents' lives. After all, after age five, that's where kids spend most of their time and have formative experiences. 

But when it comes to answering the big questions, do we rely too much on schools? What solutions do we overlook when we put all our eggs in the education basket? 

One in four of Michigan's children lives in poverty conditions.

Read more
Families & Community
11:17 am
Mon April 7, 2014

How many parents does a kid need? How about three?

Credit Lorianne DiSabato / flickr

Former State of Opportunity intern extraordinaire Gabrielle Emanuel recently did a story for NPR that resonates with events in Michigan. Emanuel takes a look at states that provide options for families with more than two parents involved in a child's upbringing.

Read more
Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed April 2, 2014

New report says outcomes for African-American kids in Michigan are among the worst in the country

The Annie E. Casey Foundation created an index of child-well being indicators, broke the results down by race, then ranked each state. This chart represents scores for African-American child well-being. Michigan is all the way on the right, third worst in the nation.
Credit Annie E. Casey Foundation, Race for Results report


This week, the Annie E. Casey Foundation released a national report that caught our eye. 

The report is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count series. Kids Count tracks a number of indicators – things like birthweight, school test scores, poverty level, and college attendance.

This new report includes 12 indicators in all, and they’ve been combined to come up with an index score for overall child outcomes. Those scores were then broken down by race, and each state was ranked.

For Michigan, there was a surprise. 

Read more
Families & Community
9:21 am
Tue April 1, 2014

Want to get in on the hot new trend for middle-class parents? Just act like a poor parent

Credit flickr/PurpleLorikeet

Like many other college-educated, NPR-listening, middle-class white parents in America, I've read the latest cover story in The Atlantic, "The Overprotected Kid." In it, Hanna Rosin argues that American parents put too much emphasis on safety, and it's killing kids' creativity and courage. 

The solution Rosin offers is a more adventurous kind of play, a kind of play that is possible in an entirely different kind of playground. The example she gives is an "adventure playground" known as The Land in Great Britain's North Wales:

The Land is a playground that takes up nearly an acre at the far end of a quiet housing development in North Wales. It's only two years old but has no marks of newness and could just as well have been here for decades. The ground is muddy in spots and, at one end, slopes down steeply to a creek where a big, faded plastic boat that most people would have thrown away is wedged into the bank. The center of the playground is dominated by a high pile of tires that is growing ever smaller as a redheaded girl and her friend roll them down the hill and into the creek. 

The Land has already inspired a documentary film, and Rosin isn't the only American who's flown across the pond just to see it.

But here's the thing: You don't have to go all the way to Britain to see creative kids playing independently among piles of junk. Poor kids in America do that all the time. 

Read more
Families & Community
6:00 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Home visiting programs for young children: solid benefits, not so solid funding

Credit flickr/_-o-_

Before Aurora Ducket was even born, her mom Angela signed up for every program she could.

"I did the MOMS program through Spectrum Health," she told me. "I really liked them a lot. They would come to my house. They would listen to the baby’s heartbeat. They would give me pamphlets upon pamphlets of what to expect, different things that I could do." 

Read more
Families & Community
2:59 pm
Mon March 24, 2014

Muslim Voices program using literature to teach shared American values

Dearborn Public Library is part of the NEH-funded Muslim Voices initiative.

Michigan is one of three states testing a program aimed at using literature to start discussions about American Muslims and the shared values of humanity.

The program is called Muslim Voices and will be launched next month at libraries in the Detroit area as part of a three-year program. 

Older children and teens will read books about characters around the world who happen to be Muslim.

Read more