9:49 am
Tue October 7, 2014

New policies aim to make a difference for Michigan's kids.

Credit Greyloch / flickr

There have been a few recent developments that meet at the intersection of the Venn diagram made when State of Opportunity meets government affairs.

What matters is how likely these reforms are to make a difference for kids in Michigan. Here's some early stage analysis. 

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4:28 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Will this new law break the connection between foster care and human trafficking?

Falling through the cracks of the foster care system can mean falling into the hands of traffickers. A new federal law aims to change that.
Credit Gina / Flickr

Earlier this week, President Obama signed a bill that could lead to major changes in the child welfare system.

Arguably the most important part of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act is its acknowledgment of something we don't like to think about but is nevertheless true: the strong connection between foster care and human trafficking. 

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9:53 am
Thu September 25, 2014

Michigan child care options pushing low-income families out

Childcare funding for low-income parents has declined over the past few years.
Credit Michigan League of Public Policy

Child care is an absolute necessity for working families -- and their employers. Nearly two-thirds of preschool age children in the U.S. live in homes where both caregivers work. So healthy and reasonably priced child care is essential for parents. 

What happens when affordable, high-quality child care isn't an option?

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3:31 pm
Tue September 23, 2014

Pay now or pay later? The State of Opportunity story

Credit user DarkGuru / creative commons

Pay now or pay later? I feel like that could be the unofficial tag line for our State of Opportunity project.  

The "pay now or pay later" question comes up time and again when we talk about programs aimed at helping kids climb out of poverty. For example: Do we spend the money up front for high-quality preschool for low-income kids, or do we wait until they're falling behind to try and step in to help? Do we offer preventive medical care for low-income kids, or do we wait to treat them until they've developed asthma or heart disease later in life?  

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12:01 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

One weird trick that's proven to help prevent violence in your neighborhood

Credit flickr/thomashawk

Virginia Commonwealth University's  Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development has a lot of research projects aimed at helping young people succeed.

One of those projects is a community surveillance system that tracks ambulance calls, emergency room visits, and other data to track levels of violence across neighborhoods in Richmond, Virginia.

In 2003, researchers from the Institute reported to local community members on a not-so-surprising correlation they'd discovered: Rates of violence were higher near convenience stores that sold "inexpensive, single-serve alcoholic beverages."

A paper published by Institute researchers last year described what happened next: 

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7:42 am
Tue July 29, 2014

Paul Ryan signals change in tone on poverty. Skeptics raise collective eyebrow.

Credit commondreams.org

Paul Ryan is arguably the Republican Party's most amplified voice on poverty. He talks about it often in his role as chairman of the House Budget Committee and spoke famously on Vice Presidential campaign trail.

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10:00 am
Thu May 8, 2014

Are we just one good story away from more effective social welfare policies?

To watch the video click below
Credit YouTube

What happens when you take high school students from a poor school and have them interact with high school students from a rich school? Well, if you're lucky, a little something called empathy develops. 

(Need a refresher on the difference between empathy and sympathy? Check out this animated video of a fox and a bear and an antelope. I guarantee it's way better than just looking up the definitions in a dictionary.)

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1:31 pm
Mon November 18, 2013

Is the idea that education drives inequality an excuse?

Lead in text: 
It's a little on the economist/wonky side, but this column puts together some compelling research that what is driving the wage gap and rising income inequality is not that enough people aren't educated and able to get good jobs. Instead, it might be that too many people are under-employed and that middle class jobs don't pay enough. And then there's this zinger. “There is good reason to resist the proposition that education and technology are solely responsible for growing inequality.It provides political leaders an excuse to cast the problem as beyond the reach of policy.”
Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington and a former chief economist to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Ask a policy maker or most economists what's driving the long rise in wage inequality in the United States, and they'll almost certainly mention technology (along with globalization).
10:38 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Michigan families far below the poverty line as benefit levels drop

Credit Center for Budget and Policy Priorities

At the end of this week food stamp benefit levels are going to fall for the 1.75 million people in Michigan who use the program. A boost from federal stimulus money had bolstered the program, but will expire November 1. There are no plans to use state funds to make up the difference.

Just how much will the cuts amount to? As broken down by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) a family of four will see cuts equaling at least a couple of meals. 

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10:33 am
Thu October 3, 2013

Up to 19,000 kids locked out of Head Start classes because of partial government shutdown

Lead in text: 
Head Start teachers are not federal employees, but Head Start is funded by the federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services pays for thousands of Head Start programs around the country by awarding thousands of grants. Most of the programs that depend on these grants will be fine during the shutdown; their funding is already in place for the year. But in 23 programs across 11 states, the funding is not in place. It was supposed to come through on Oct. 1st, the day the government shut down. NPR's Audie Cornish talked to the director of one of those 23 programs to find out how families have been affected.
About 19,000 children are affected by the government shutdown. Head Start programs across the country are being forced to shut down as they lose funding from the federal government. Audie Cornish talks to Dora Jones, the director of Cheaha Regional Head Start in Talladega, Ala. Her program is closed Tuesday because of the shutdown.