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Infant Mortality

State of Opportunity will be shining a spotlight on the issue of infant mortality this winter. Check back for news, resources, and personal stories.

row of babies in hospital beds
Tamaki Sono / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Too many Michigan babies are dying.

For every 1,000 babies born in our state, roughly seven won't make it to their first birthday. That's a full point higher than the national infant mortality rate. When you break that down by race, the numbers are more disturbing.

Baby sitting in box
Donnie Ray Jones / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Last year I told you about babies in Finland sleeping in boxes. It's a program Finland's government started in 1938 that provides all expectant moms with a maternity box filled with clothes, bedding, and baby products and accessories, along with a mattress to go in the bottom of the box to create a safe first bed for baby to sleep in.

Paulette Parker / Michigan Radio

Angels Above Baby Gowns takes all those dresses you only wear once and put away, like wedding and bridesmaid gowns, or prom dresses – and turn them into burial gowns for babies. They call them "angel gowns." Then, they give them to parents and hospitals, for free.

Dawn Lafferty started Angels Above two years ago after reading a news story about a mom in the state of Washington whose son died at birth. The mom went home and made a gown to bury him in out of her old wedding dress. Lafferty, who has been sewing since she was 10 years old, says she thought it was a great idea.

Swaddled baby
Scott Granneman / Flickr CC / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Swaddling – the practice of snugly wrapping an infant with a light cloth, with only the head exposed – mimics the warm, cozy environment of the mother's womb. It's reported to promote better sleep for babies.

But a new study in the journal Pediatrics links the practice to an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Donnie Ray Jones / Flickr Creative Commons / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

When I saw a headline about babies sleeping in boxes today as I was scrolling through the news on my phone, I thought it was a joke.

But it turns out it really is a thing.

Since 1938, Finland's government has provided all expectant moms, regardless of economic status, with a maternity box filled with clothes, bedding, and products used in the first few months of a baby's life.

flickr.com/nichd

Colin Parks gets an email alert almost every time a baby in Michigan dies in their sleep.

Parks is head of Michigan’s Child Protective Services, and he tells me he gets far too many of these emails; they arrive almost every other day.

“In Michigan,” he says, “we lose about 140 to 150 infants a year, and that’s a number that’s been pretty static over time.”

It’s been static, even though Parks, and everyone else who works on infant safety has been desperately trying to get the message out. The message is for all babies to sleep alone, on their back and in an empty crib. To simplify, they use a slogan - ABC - alone, back, crib.

Brittany Bartkowiak

We just celebrated Mother's Day, and Father's Day is right around the corner. Lots of people look forward to these special days. But not everyone. For some, Mother’s and Father’s Day is not a happy holiday.

It’s one that can cause a lot of grief.

Gabi Menashe / Flickr

The Michigan League for Public Policy released its latest Kids Count report this morning. The report tries to quantify how our state's children are doing, by breaking down dozens of indicators. My colleague Lindsey Smith has the scoop on the overall trends: some education indicators are improving, while poverty rates and neglect cases are on the rise.

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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