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Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

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.

Logan Chadde

Over the past few weeks, amongst the holidays and the snowstorms, there has been a surprising amount of news about early education funding in the state.

Most recently, Governor Snyder signaled he's going to ask for more preschool funding in his budget this year. That money would be in addition to the $65 million in funding for preschool the state the legislature approved  last year.  

"It should not have to hurt to be poor."

Dec 24, 2013
Jeff Kubina / Flickr

For the next few days we're featuring stories of ordinary listeners who read or heard a story on State of Opportunity and decided to give some of their resources or time as a result. We know many of you have done the same. If you've got a story to share or an idea of how people could help let us know here. If you need ideas of what you could do, check out the resources page. We'll update it with  listener suggestions as they come in.

Listeners who contact us to follow up on stories come from different experiences with volunteering. Sure, everyone helps out friends and family in one way or another, but to reach out and help a complete stranger---for some it's not something they'd ordinarily do, but they take the leap and do it anyway. But for others, service is a way of life.

A "little nudge" from one listener's family to another

Dec 23, 2013

For the next few days we're featuring stories of ordinary listeners who read or heard a story on State of Opportunity and decided to give some of their resources or time as a result. We know many of you have done the same. If you've got a story to share or an idea of how people could help let us know here. If you need ideas of what you could do, check out the resources page. We'll update it with  listener suggestions as they come in.  

When Jennifer Guerra spoke with the Hood family of Hillsdale, MI, their oldest child Emma was enrolled in preschool. But, the family was having trouble finding a spot for two-year-old Gracie in Early Head Start.

There was a lot riding on Gracie being able to start school: her mom, Amanda, was ready to finish school and bring much needed income into the family. Amanda was frustrated, "It just annoys me that we want to do something with our lives and we want to better ourselves and we want to get ahead, but we don’t have a way to."

One listener's family, who asked to remain anonymous, felt compelled to help. The family contacted Jennifer and, through her, made contact with Amanda Hood to help pay for Gracie's preschool.

For the next few days we're featuring stories of ordinary listeners who read or heard a story on State of Opportunity and decided to give some of their resources or time as a result. We know many of you have done the same. If you've got a story to share or an idea of how people could help let us know here. If you need ideas of what you could do, check out the resources page. We'll update it with  listener suggestions as they come in.

Amanda Eding can't remember the specific moment when she felt it was time to move beyond getting upset at the State of Opportunity stories she heard on her radio. The stories about kids in the child welfare system touched a nerve. "Some of the stories I would hear, I would think this is such an injustice!" she says, almost laughing at herself. "Sometimes I would get mad, and sometimes, I would cry."

Kathy Ponce / Flickr

For the next few days we're featuring stories of ordinary listeners who read or heard a story on State of Opportunity and decided to give some of their resources or time as a result. We know many of you have done the same. If you've got a story to share or an idea of how people could help let us know here. If you need ideas of what you could do, check out the resources page. We'll update it with  listener suggestions as they come in.

We wrap up our State of Opportunity coverage for the year with a conversation between two women whose paths crossed after hearing a story on the radio. One of the women, Keisha, lives in poverty with her three young children. The other one, Judy, lives a very comfortable life in Ann Arbor with her husband. The two share the story of how they met a year ago, right around the holidays. The transcript is below. 


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