Justice

Justice

We hear about the need for "wrap around services" for small children, but what about young adults who just need one more chance? Our publishing partner, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave, has an article this week about a successful Kalamazoo-based youth diversion pilot project. Working in conjunction with the juvenile justice system, a local spoken word program, Kinetic Affect, is piloting a program that they hope will be replicated in other communities. As Kirk Latimer, one of the program's founders told Second Wave, "The judge isn’t ready to give up on them and neither are we."

Adopted children, largely from international adoptions, are being put into harm's way by adoptive parents often at their wits end. As Megan Towhey of Reuters finds, there are many internet-based forums where adoptive parents can advertise children they no longer want, and other people who want the children offer to take the children.

In the slew of recent Supreme Court decisions there are people feeling like winners (LGBT married couples perhaps) and losers (voting rights and workplace discrimination advocates among them). American Indian tribes also had a decision come down in Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl that could profoundly affect Indian children and families.  

It's hard to decide how to process the recent spate of kids-going-to-jail-for-doing-things-kids-do stories.

Over the past week or so, outrage has swelled over the story of one 18-year-old being prosecuted for having sexual relations with a 14-year-old who went to her high school (they're both girls, so there's concern that what's being prosecuted is sexual orientation).

clothing in rubble
As It Happens / CBC

Next week Thursday at 3pm, and again at 10pm, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra presents a special hour-long documentary on race, education, and opportunity in Michigan.

While some might say we're "burned out" with talk about race and racism, it remains a timely topic in so many ways. Before we bring it home with Jen's doc on race and Michigan kids, just a wide-ranging look at how race appears in the media last two weeks:

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act. The law is designed to make sure Native American children in the child welfare system stay connected with their tribes.  

Why?  Because for decades, American Indian families all over the country, including in Michigan, were wrenched apart by private and state child welfare workers.

Often with little reason, these workers removed Indian children from their families and tribes and tried to assimilate them into white and usually Christian culture. As barbaric as that might sound, it is not ancient history. 

Judge Alli Greenleaf Maldonado's mother was taken away from her family after her mother, Maldonado's grandmother, died.  She could have been placed with any number of relatives," Maldonado says. "But instead, she was sent to another state to be a domestic worker for a Mennonite minister and his wife."

Maldonado's mother was only four years old when she started working as a maid. Maldonado says it was common practice for young girls to be sent to be domestic workers,  while boys were sent to be farm hands in an attempt to give the children job skills. 

It feels like  juvenile justice is getting more attention as of late, with reform efforts picking up steam.

There's the first federal case to end a school to prison pipeline in Mississippi, and a new book on the brazen corruption of judges who locked kids up in exchange for kickbacks in Pennsylvania.

The concern around kids in the justice system might turn out to be a cultural blip, in danger of being crowded out by national interest in something like gun or immigration reform.

But maybe not. The State of Opportunity team has been sending this short animation back and forth for about a week. Something about it seems to signal society might be willing to change the way we look at juvenile offenders. 


Almost 14,000 kids in Michigan have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids then rely upon the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive. Most of those kids end up in foster care.

Six years ago the state was sued by the advocacy group Children's Rights over treatment of kids in its care.

The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Everyone agrees things have gotten better since the lawsuit started six years ago, but the court appointed monitor said too many kids are still unsafe.

Wikimedia Commons

Today, there are two speeches on everyone's minds: the speech that President Obama delivered on the steps of the Capitol, and the famous speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. 

But there is another speech I have in mind on this MLK day, and it reminds us both of King's legacy and of the work that is left to do, for President Obama, for us and for our future. 

flickr user r_gnuce

Turkey. Mashed Potatoes. Stuffing. Pie. 

It's just about all I can think about right now. 

Thanksgiving is a special day, but the truth is, I'm extremely lucky. I could stuff my face any day I want. If I'm hungry, I go to the grocery store and buy something to eat.

That's how it is for most of us in America, but not all of us. 

This week, we'll be talking a lot about hunger on this blog. I think a lot of us ignore the hunger issue because we think that it's basically taken care of. If you can't afford food, you can get help from the government, right?

Yes. But that's not the full story. 

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