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Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Michigan is one of three states testing a program aimed at using literature to start discussions about American Muslims and the shared values of humanity.

The program is called Muslim Voices and will be launched next month at libraries in the Detroit area as part of a three-year program. 

Older children and teens will read books about characters around the world who happen to be Muslim.

HBO films

Katrina Gilbert is working single mom of three kids. Her life in Tennessee  documented was for over a year by HBO films, in collaboration with the Shriver Center

The film is streaming free online until March 24.

State of Opportunity is closing in on its second anniversary. The project officially began in April 2011, with the first stories hitting the air in July of that year. 

Now we're about to cover issues faced by kids as they approach young adulthood. But first we're taking a look back at some of our early stories to figure out what we want to continue to explore and what we've missed. We want your ideas too; scroll down to the end of this post for details.

We've also put together some audio that paints a picture of what's at stake if childhood poverty around the state remains as pervasive as it is today, with one in four Michigan kids living in poverty. Here they are, the voices of the kids and families working to get ahead.


We're looking for tax stories! (Not boring ones)

Mar 3, 2014
R.Kurtz / flickr

We're getting ready for a new project here at State of Opportunity. We're excited about it.

We'll take the experiences of families in towns and cities around the state and turn them into useful news – the kind of news that usually travels between two people when they talk about the way things really work.

Part of what makes this project work are stories and insights from you and the people you know.

Right now, we're looking for stories about taxes.

  • If you've ever been the victim of tax fraud or identity theft at tax time, we want to hear about it.
  • If you've ever worked with a low-income taxpayer clinic to fix a tax problem, we want to hear about it.
  • If you volunteer at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site and help people prepare their taxes, we want to hear the your best tax advice.

Movie review: Short Term 12

Feb 25, 2014
#shortterm12project / Instagram

Destin Daniel Cretton's film Short Term 12 (2013) brings to light a number of issues around kids in foster care. We've written here in the State of Opportunity blog about teens who are aging out of foster care and the challenges they face moving into adulthood with a tenuous support system. But, Short Term 12 does a great job of delving into the issues of trust, confidentiality, and uncertainty children face when removed from parental care and entrusted to other adults. Those adults may or may not be fully capable of caring for themselves, much less the needs of at-risk kids.  

graffiti of a quadratic equation on a concrete barrier
lanqui / flickr

My most recent radio story focused on some of the adults in the child welfare system. These adults, like the children involved, can feel lost and powerless.

Right after hitting the "publish" button on the post, I took a look at a link my colleague Dustin Dwyer had sent me on the other side of the coin, the kids stuck in the system. We've brought you some of these stories, but with more than 13,000 kids  in Michigan's foster care system, we should continue to tell more.

The piece is written by Thomas Rios, a freelance journalist who is also an alumnus of the foster care system. It's definitely an opinion piece.

Nancy Sims / Flickr

Michigan’s foster care system is the sixth-biggest in the country, with more than 13,000 kids around the state. The system has been plagued by problems over the last several years. 

Court monitors, appointed after the state was sued over the treatment of children in its foster care system, say the system has improved over the past few years, but it still falls short when it comes to keeping kids safe.

The court has also said the state needs to reduce the time children are in the system while they wait to be adopted or reunited with their families.

For every one of these 13,000 kids, there is a specific story behind what landed them in foster care in the first place or how their life unfolded afterward. The same can be said of their parents or the adults who stand in for parents. Many of these adults can feel just as trapped in the system as the children.

Vanessa Moss is one of those adults.  She had guardianship of some of her grandchildren for years. In all, she took care of four of her grandchildren. She stepped in because the children’s mother, Moss' daughter, has had serious mental and physical health issues.

When Moss began caring for her grandchildren, she didn't know much about, or want much to do with the child welfare system.  

"I don’t want my grandkids in the system." Moss says tearfully. "The only thing I wanted to do for my daughter was keep her kids all together."  

geoffrey canada
Tom Fitzsimmons / Center for Public Leadership

Just a few minutes ago Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) said he'll be stepping down as CEO of the organization. Anne Williams Isom, Chief Operating Officer since 2009, will take over.

The event was held at one of the schools and had the setting and feel of a traditional school assembly. Elementary students sang "lift every voice" accompanied by a teacher on a plugged-in keyboard.

charlie and his family
facebook

This story has been updated to reflect new information. 

Our State of Opportunity project has been following the story of a little boy named Charlie. His dad was scheduled to be deported this week and his school was scrambling to figure out how to support him.  But today things changed. Charlie’s dad, Jose Luis Sanchez-Ronquillo was granted a stay of removal this afternoon. That means he has another year to make the case he should be allowed to stay in the United States.  

Until today, in the neighborhood surrounding this Ann Arbor elementary flyers have been urgently circulating, passed out by parents and others trying to stop the deportation. At the center of all the activity is one seven year old boy who up until today thought he was going to lose his dad.

infographic showing almost half of people working low wage jobs have some college experience
Economic Policy Institute

Sure, there are lots of good reasons to go to college. People can emerge on the other side of these four (ish) years more independent, more enlightened, and more connected. 

But let's talk about jobs. For all the other benefits that come along with a college education, the possibility of getting a good job after it is important when the price tag averages at least $10,0000 a year. (That's at a public community college. A public four-year university is around $19,000 a year).  College is still sold as the primary tool for economic and social mobility.

But is it really? It's true that college graduates are likely to climb up the income ladder-up to 5 times more likely

It's also true that there are many people who paid to go to college and are stuck working low-wage jobs.

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