Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Hogan / flickr

"Up by your bootstraps," that ubiquitous phrase that has come to function basically as shorthand for the American Dream, first came onto the scene in 1834.  

Linguist Anne Curzan says at that point, it was basically an insult. It described somebody delusional enough to think they could defy the laws of physics and pull themselves up in the air by the very things anchoring them to the ground. 

You see it on your local TV news every few weeks. Or maybe a small article in the paper.

Another fire. Another bust. Another story about meth.

The statistics tell the rest of the story: Methamphetamine use and production is on the rise in Michigan.

And last year, more children were exposed to meth labs than at any time since the state started keeping track.

Camera Eye Photography / Flickr

It’s not easy for us to think about homeless kids, so many of us don’t. But we should. The Homestretch, a new documentary you can watch on PBS Detroit Monday, April 13th at 10pm or online, is an easy way into this topic.

The Homestretch will shatter your expectations about being young and homeless. It follows three homeless teens in Chicago that you can’t help but root for even though they’re not typical poster children: Roque, Anthony, and Kasey.

Hogan / flickr

If there is one phrase you hear ad nauseam as a reporter who covers poverty, it is definitely some variant of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps." 

Of course it's used as part of the origin story to explain how any number of families from humble beginnings now experience success several generations later. (If it was possible to search facebook comments on State of Opportunity stories by the keyword "bootstraps" the stress would surely cause my laptop to shake and smoke from its USB ports.) 

Why do kids end up homeless? "A crisis of relationships."

Apr 3, 2015
Francesca Luna Barone / Flickr

That’s what Katie Doyle, who runs a nonprofit resource center for kids in crisis called Ozone House, says people don’t realize about youth homelessness. Doyle spoke at a recent, and packed, screening of The Homestretch, a film that follows three homeless teens in Chicago trying to find safe and stable housing.

Brian Paris / flickr

When I was in eighth grade my social studies teacher explained to my class the difference between Democrats and Republicans.

This lesson in American politics is my only specific memory of anything I "learned" in any class that year. For example, I'm sure I learned things in honors biology. But in my memory I see nothing except  for a kid doing push-ups in front of the class because he swore. 

Five takeaways from our reporting on poverty

Mar 20, 2015
Brendan Riley / Flickr

In America, we say we believe every child should have the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they live or how much money is in their parents' bank account. 

But not all kids have access to opportunity, and low-income families are repeatedly at a disadvantage.

State of Opportunity has devoted close to three years investigating the barriers low-income kids face in trying to get ahead in Michigan.

We think it's time for a look back at what we’ve learned so far.

Jennifer Deming / photoswithflair.com

It’s hard to remember now. Naton Brown isn’t sure what year it was. But she was eight years old.

"Yeah, I don’t remember," she tells me. "I just know that I kept on telling my mom I had headaches, and we went to the hospital, but then the doctor said it’s just because they thought I was dehydrated or something."

She wasn’t dehydrated. The headaches kept coming. One day at school, Brown fell down the stairs. They took her to the Emergency Room.

Her mother, Delores Lilly, says that’s when they found the tumor.

mootje mootje / flickr

Last week, a Kids Count report had this shocking statistic to share; almost one out of every 10 kids in Michigan lives in a family investigated for abuse or neglect.

Those investigations start with a phone call or a knock on the door. For parents who find a Child Protective Service (CPS) worker on the other end, it’s a moment that could change everything.

Steve Rhodes / flickr

Michigan has been under a federal court order to improve its foster care system for years. The state wants the monitoring to stop, but there's no guarantee that's going to happen soon. 

Being the focus of federal oversight is probably a pain. There are a ton of reporting requirements, it costs money, and the state gets ordered around a lot. 

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