Families & Community

Families & Community
12:06 am
Wed July 30, 2014

Crime in Flint is down, but violence is still taking a big toll on young people

Officer Jesse Carpenter, left, and staff of the Haskell Youth Center in Flint.
Credit Haskell Center

The Haskell Youth Center is on the front lines of violence prevention in Flint. They don’t use a complicated formula; there are just plenty of positive activities and positive adults.

On any given day there are about 200 kids spread throughout the game room, the cafeteria, and a gym where the basketball games never seem to stop. 

Haskell is a refuge of sorts. Violent crime is pervasive in this city, with almost 800 such crimes reported since the beginning of the year. That’s pretty extreme. But just as true outside of Flint is the effect violence can have on young people.

"It feels like a storm that's always around – that won't go away," says 18-year-old Rico Colfer. He's been coming to Haskell since he was nine years old. He now works at the center when he's not in school, studying for what he hopes will be a career in graphic design. 

Colfer says his house has been broken into three times. He says the stress takes a toll on him and on those around him. "Every time it happens it hurts me because I see my mom cry," he says. "She works hard to get us the best stuff to have, and they just come and take it."

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Families & Community
4:43 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

How does Michigan stack up when it comes to child well-being? Are you sure you want to know?

Credit User: Guillermo Ossa / Stockvault

The Annie E. Casey Foundation looks at statistics that should tell us something about how kids are faring across the country and in Michigan.  

The foundation looks at things like poverty, teen pregnancy and health insurance coverage to name a few.

If it seems like these reports are always coming out, well, that's partly true. The sheer number of indicators to analyze means that reports trickle out throughout the year. 

Update: Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Yesterday, we looked at 2012's statistics for Michigan.

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Families & Community
3:38 pm
Fri July 11, 2014

Read nice things about Detroit

Downtown Detroit
Credit flickr/sbeebe

Today is a big day in the bankruptcy proceedings for the city of Detroit.

Votes are due from creditors on whether to approve the city's restructuring plan. The Detroit Free Press reports the results of those votes should be made public in about 10 days. 

In the meantime, you can expect plenty of think-pieces reflecting on the anniversary of the bankruptcy filing, and what it all means. 

Aaron Foley, of Gawker Media, officially fired the starting pistol yesterday, with a piece that began: 

Get ready, folks! It's time for another progress report on America's most forlorn and depressed city, now even deeper in the throes of bankruptcy than ever before.

July 18 marks the day Detroit filed for bankruptcy, which means you'll likely be inundated with one-year anniversaries on the topic in the next week. The Freep's going to do it. The News is going to do it. Rumor has it you're going to read about it in The New York Times Sunday magazine this weekend. So we decided to get our analysis out a little early.

Foley's take is worth a read, if for no other reason than that he actually lives in Detroit, which is often not the case with other journalists writing about the city (ahem).

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Families & Community
6:00 am
Mon July 7, 2014

A Michigan library lives the "it takes a village" idea

Ypsilanti library branch library manager Joy Cichewicz passes out free lunches to the her young patrons. In this youth section, everybody is always in motion.
Credit Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

“I’m here all day,” eleven year old Charlie told me proudly.

Charlie and dozens of other kids have set up camp in the youth section of the Michigan Avenue branch of the Ypsilanti District Library. The space, a self-contained set of rooms down one flight of stairs just to the right of the main entrance of the library, challenges the idea of a library as a quiet and orderly place.

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Families & Community
7:00 am
Wed July 2, 2014

When you live in poverty, a lot can get in the way of graduating

Keisha Johnson (left) graduated from a 15-week computer tech training program, something she's been aiming for since 2012.
Credit Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Let's face it, a lot of people take graduation for granted. It's just one of the many steps on the path to a career. But for some, it’s not that easy. I've been following one young mom for the last couple years as she tried – and failed – to complete a jobs training program. But as you're about to read, the young mom finally did it.

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Families & Community
6:08 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

What we know and often ignore about violence in Michigan

Credit Dennis Hill / flickr

Because I cover kids and poverty, by necessity I have a high tolerance for news and information others might categorize as depressing.

But I freely admit not all information is equal for me. Information about the effect of violence on children wears on me in a way most of my other work doesn't.

We're putting together a special about how violence affects kids in Michigan, so I've been looking at a lot of these kinds of stories and studies lately. Here are just a few of the themes I've seen over and over in my research. 

It's contagious

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Families & Community
12:44 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

See the maps from the 1930s that explain racial segregation in Michigan today

Screen grab from scan of a 1939 Home Owners' Loan Corporation map of Detroit.
Credit scan from urbanoasis.org

We know racial segregation exists in our communities. We know this segregation is rooted in history. And yet, sometimes we allow ourselves to believe that segregation is somehow a natural thing, that it happened all on its own. But segregation in the United States did not happen happen that way. The racial divisions we see in our neighborhoods today are the result of deliberate actions taken in the past. 

Those actions, rooted in racism, were carried out by both individuals and institutions. We don't have to guess at their origins. We have the documentation.

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Families & Community
12:06 am
Wed June 25, 2014

How Jackson, Michigan managed to reduce teen pregnancy and infant mortality with only $8,000

Members of Jackson's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative get together to congratulate graduating seniors and welcome new peer educators into the program.
Credit Sarah Alvarez / Michigan Radio

At 3:30 p.m on a recent week day, I showed up to the College and Career Access Center in Jackson Crossing. It’s a strip mall, where right next to an army recruitment office sits what amounts to a storefront guidance counselor’s office. It’s accessible to anyone in the community, of any age.

Each of the county’s 13 school districts made a tough choice to give up their discretionary funds to pay for it, and hire a few college and career advisors they could share to help them reach their goal of getting 60 percent of Jackson’s residents to have a college degree or career credential by 2025.

When I showed up there were 16 people waiting for me, from the Superintendent of the Intermediate School District to the County Commissioner to the editor of Jackson’s newspaper. They were all there to tell me about what’s going on in Jackson.

“We roll deep in Jackson!” Kriss Giannetti explains. Gianetti is one of the founders of a group called Jackson 2020. Over the last three years they’ve been working together to tackle some of Jackson’s toughest problems.

While we talked, a steady stream of people walked into the center to talk to the college and career advisors or use a computer bank to our left. They were getting help with things like financial aid questions and career training. Recent high school graduate Courtney Reese was one of them. Reese is moving to Washington State this month to go to community college there, but she says she won’t stay too long.

“I’m definitely coming back here,” she says emphatically.  “We have a lot of self-pride. There’s people with "517" tattoos on them and they’re showing Jackson pride. And I just think that’s really cool. Especially with the reputation we have.”

The cavalry isn't coming

Jackson does have a reputation as a city with plenty of issues, or, as I heard said more than once “truths.” It’s not unlike most, if not all, Michigan cities trying to resurrect themselves from decades of economic depression.

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Families & Community
11:15 am
Fri June 20, 2014

It's Friday. Here's a video of Detroit school children singing. Just because.

Credit screen grab from DAASDetroit YouTube channel

Because Detroit is still in bankruptcy. Because there could be a deal to get out, but nothing is guaranteed. Because even if there is a deal, life is still hard for too many Detroiters. Because infant mortality. Because schools.

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Families & Community
5:37 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

U of M's long-running economic mobility survey to add new generation of kids to the mix

Credit user: jdurham / morgueFILE

We're data geeks here at State of Opportunity. And there's a treasure trove of data (and more to come!) housed at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) has been around since 1968 and is the longest-running household panel survey in the world. We're talking tens of thousands of data points from more than 70,000 individuals over more than four decades. 

Researchers have mined PSID data for all kinds of economic mobility studies. My colleague Dustin Dwyer blogged about it back in 2012 before he went to a U of M conference where social scientists presented their findings using PSID data across three generations: 

I've already had a chance to look at some of the papers that will be presented, and there are some tantalizing findings. Jean Yeung of the National University of Singapore and two co-authors from New York University looked at the black-white achievement gap across three generations. They found evidence that discrimination in the grandparent's generation had an impact on children's outcomes decades later.

Other papers look at the effects of extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins – to see how they affect economic mobility in other countries.  

And now there's a new generation to add to the mix. All of the children in the original cohort will have reached adulthood by this year, so PSID researchers will collect information on this new generation of kids ages 0 to 17. 

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