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
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.
The new Kids Count report is out, and things are not looking good for kids in Michigan. You would think with the recession now a few years behind us that economic trends would be on an upswing, but that doesn't appear to be the case. I'll break down the report into three sections: The Good, The Bad, and the Stagnant.
When it comes to making sure kids are at grade level, the U.S. isn't doing so hot. Just a little over a third (36%) of 8-year olds are cognitively on track by the time they reach 3rd grade, according to a new Kids Count analysis by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
When you break it down by income, the numbers are even more staggering: 19% of 8-year olds who come from low-income families (defined as being at or below 200% of the poverty line) have "appropriate cognitive skills," compared to 50% of kids who come from wealthier families.
Lake County in central northern Michigan is the poorest part of the state, with nearly half of all its children living in poverty. That’s according to the latest Kids Count data. So I went north to visit the rural county to see what life is like there for families.
Before I introduce you to some of the current residents of Lake County, there are two things you need to know about the area:
It’s a nature lover’s paradise, with hundreds of lakes and streams and endless acres of forestland.
Lake County wasn’t always poor. In fact, back in the late 1800s, things were relatively booming.
Here to give us a little history lesson is Bruce Micinski, president of the Lake County Historical Society.
"The first big boom would’ve been the Civil War soldiers...they could get 80 and 160 acres of land from the government," says Micinski. "They were trying to give opportunities to these soldiers in starting up farmland in Lake County."
The latest Kids Count data show that roughly 11,000 teens gave birth in Michigan in 2010. Statistically speaking, teen parents are more likely to drop out of high school, and their children are more likely to wind up in prison. But it doesn’t have to be like that. For our State of Opportunity project, a former teen mom named Jacquise Purifoy tells us how she was able to defy expectations.
Here's her essay:
Do you remember your first time? I do. I was 13, and I got pregnant the first time I had sex. I was too afraid to tell my mother, four brothers, and even my daughter’s father out of fear of what would happen. That meant no prenatal medicine, no routine doctor’s visits. The night before I gave birth, I went to basketball practice.
On April 8, 1996, my daughter Jasmine was born while I was still in eighth grade at Joy Middle School in Detroit. In the hospital, my mother, who worked as a bus driver for 30 years, made me promise I would graduate from high school and then college. She told me people would expect me to fail, to keep popping out more babies. So I made up my mind then and there to be more than a statistic. My mother and I shook hands on it in the hospital room.
The Data Book provides an annual statistical snapshot of kids' well-being across all states. Last year, we wrote of the alarming downward trends for Michigan's kids. From 2005 - 2012, Michigan dropped seven spots in the state rankings for overall child well-being, going from 25th to 32nd. In my blog post last year I asked, "When will it turn around?"
Now, we have an answer. In the Kids Count Data Book released today, Michigan's overall rank improved one spot, going from 32nd to 31st. It's not a huge jump. But it's an improvement relative to other states.
When I think of kids in poverty, my mind more often than not conjures up an image of a child in some kind of urban setting. And our stories at State of Opportunity tend to reflect that. We've done tons of reports from Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Flint, Detroit and its suburbs.
Child abuse and neglect appear to be increasing in Michigan. A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy says more than 33,000 children in Michigan were victims of abuse or neglect in 2011. That’s an 18 percent increase compared to 2005.
There is a dispute over the exact size of the increase.
"We’re not saying that there isn’t an uptick," says Dave Akerly, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Human Services. "We’re saying that from our standpoint, we believe that the uptick isn’t as dramatic as it would appear to be."
He says the numbers in the Michigan League report are a little misleading because a lot changed at DHS between 2005 and 2011. One of the things that changed is how cases get reported.
So, Akerly says instead of there being a huge increase in abuse and neglect, we may just be seeing a more accurate picture of abuse and neglect.
And no matter how you look at that, it’s an ugly picture.
The point is that these statistics all tell a story, and the story for kids in poverty is almost always bad. The latest report to confirm it is from the Michigan League for Public Policy (formerly known as the Michigan League for Human Services).
The League is the agency responsible for compiling Michigan's statistics for the annual Annie E. Casey Kids Count report. Kids Count offers one of the most comprehensive set of statistics on child well being. If you want to know how children are doing, particularly children in poverty, Kids Count will give you the answer.