Lesson of the year: get to kids early
State of Opportunity started broadcasting this July, so we only have half a year of reporting under our belts. But we’re going to use the end of the year as a chance to take a look back and try to create a vision for the next year nonetheless.
When we stared this project the idea was that there are some issues we’re just not talking about as a state; and they are poverty, children and how the deck may be stacked for or against a kid from the instant they begin to grow in their mothers bellies. These things will make or break Michigan’s collective future. But we don’t talk about it because it can be challenging, or sad, or just awkward.
We have reported stories this year that do have some of those moments, but we’ve also reported your stories, told you things you might not have known, and connected you with people and places you knew little about.
If you haven’t yet traveled this road with us it’s o.k., jump right on board now.
Over our three years we’ll journey with kids from before they are born until they become adults. But right now we’re focused on moms, babies, and preschoolers.
Here’s where our reporting has taken us so far:
- We’ve learned a ton about kids’ brains and how early matters big. Just how big? Jennifer Guerra reported differences in kids brains caused by a lack of opportunity can start showing up as early as 18 months-old ,and can impact success for a lifetime. And there are four more just as stunning truths where that came from.
- A supported pregnancy can really boost the odds for even the most at-risk kids and their parents.
- If we don’t take risks to maternal and infant health seriously the consequences are dire. Michigan’s infant mortality rate, meaning the number of children who die before they can reach age one, is shockingly high. Jen Guerra brought some of these stories to light in a way that was fascinating, touching, and troubling.
- Preschool, preschool, preschool. Early education matters big. Did I say that already? Dustin Dwyer will be bringing you a documentary on exactly how this works early in the New Year. But we’ve already explored the who, what, why and when about one of the most critical opportunity equalizers.
- And then of course there’s the question of who can expand kid’s opportunities on a large scale. There are politicians who debate it and economists who weigh in on if it’s worth it. Guerra and Dwyer have both delved into the politics and economics of poverty and opportunity with the help from some of the biggest names in their fields.
- Many of our stories have come directly from you. Stories about how a rock club can create change and opportunity for young people in Flint, a portrait of a functional, happy and bright social service agency you might actually want to spend time in, what we can learn about how to raise our kids from military families, and from parents in the most trying of circumstances.
In the New Year we’ll be bringing you more stories like these, a couple more documentaries, and some work from youth journalists in the small town of Stockbridge.
As always this is a proverbial two-way street. We haven’t done much coverage of men and fathers, the best opportunities for kids money can buy, and emerging strategies that can work with at-risk kids. If you have stories about these topics we invite you to share them with us and become a part of State of Opportunity.