Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Michigan League for Public Policy

The new Kids Count report is out, and things are not looking good for kids in Michigan. You would think with the recession now a few years behind us that economic trends would be on an upswing, but that doesn't appear to be the case. I'll break down the report into three sections: The Good, The Bad, and the Stagnant. 

user penywise / morgueFILE

The blogosphere has been abuzz the last week or so about What Poor People Do (Or Don't Do). The topic of savings often comes up in discussions about the poor, and with those conversations come lots of misconceptions.

I interviewed the Blackman family a couple weeks ago for a piece on climbing out of poverty. Tiffany Blackman has been trying to climb out of the poverty she inherited from her parents, grandparents and great grandparents. Together with her husband, Rodrico, and their four kids, they've managed to climb up one rung on the income ladder, thanks to lots of hard work, education and savings.

In our conversation, we talked about savings and kids. Specifically: Does she talk to her kids about how to save money? Her answer was an emphatic yes.

Here how she does it:

Lynda Giddens / flickr

 Last week the ACLU sent out a press release about a case I was at first convinced was an urban legend. 

It gets referred to as the "Mike's Hard Lemonade case." If you haven't heard about it, the bare facts go something like this:

Five years ago, a university professor took his young son to a Detroit Tigers game and bought him an Mike's Hard Lemonade, not understanding it was an alcoholic beverage (according to his lawyer the guy doesn't watch TV). Somebody called the police and the kid was immediately removed from his father and placed into foster care.  The ACLU sued almost everyone involved, including the judge. The news last week was that a federal court agreed to hear the case against the judge, Judy Hartsfield. She is accused of pre-signing orders to remove kids from their parents without looking at the facts.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Break out the turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce and pie...it's Thanksgiving time!

But a grand Thanksgiving feast is often out of the question for many families in poverty. So the folks at New Hope Baptist Church in Wayne, Michigan are doing their part to help ensure that students from a nearby school don't go hungry this holiday season.

"We just wanted to show some love," says Virgil Humes, the church's pastor. We want to "show them that we believe in helping the community, and those that might not have a thanksgiving meal, we wanted to show them that we can serve them a Thanksgiving meal so that certainly they won’t be hungry."

user: bradbrundage / flickr

For the past four weeks, I haven't been much help to my coworkers here at State of Opportunity. I've been unresponsive to emails. I've contributed nothing to the website. I haven't turned in any stories for radio. I haven't even thought about it. And yet, crazy as it sounds, I've been paid the whole time. 

I wasn't on vacation. I was on paternity leave. My wife and I had our second child exactly one month ago today. Since then, I've provided absolutely nothing of value to my employer. And, even now, I'm only working part time. 

Paid paternity leave, beyond one or two weeks, is crazy-rare in the United States. While federal law requires employers to offer 12 weeks of leave to both mothers and fathers after the birth of a child, the law doesn't say that parents have to be paid for their time away. Some employers, and some state laws, make it so more mothers can be paid during an extended leave after the birth of a child.  Estimates are hard to come by, but some data seems to indicate that less than 10 percent of new fathers take more than a few weeks of leave when their children are born

In a country where paid maternity leave is far from a given, paid paternity leave seems like quite a luxury. But here are three reasons why it should be more common:

Outtakes: How race shapes Detroit

Nov 7, 2013


For a few months now, I've been working on a series about the end of the neighborhood school as most people know it in Detroit . The stories will air next week. 

My question going into this work was how much a failed plan to racially integrate Detroit's schools contributed to changes in the educational landscape. I came away thinking the impact of that case was profound, but in many ways I didn't expect.

Out of the studio and into the streets!

Oct 18, 2013
Juan Munoz's Last Conversation Piece sculpture
cliff1066 / Flickr

State of Opportunity is coming to a Detroit community near you!

We want to hear from local residents on the question: do you see a future for yourself and your family in Detroit? 

Hosts from Michigan Radio, WDET, The Detroit Free Press, and The Center for Michigan will field your comments and opinions on what it takes to make Detroit and your neighborhood a better place to live. 

Baby Veronica case closed?

Oct 1, 2013

Baby Veronica, no longer a baby but a 4 year-old little girl,  was recently placed back with her adoptive parents in South Carolina. The placement happened over the objections of her birth father, with whom she's been living in Oklahoma for that last two years.

What's new with State of Opportunity?

Sep 5, 2013
dvsross / Flickr

State of Opportunity passed its one year mark! Our team of reporters wants to bring you the most thoughtful, provocative, well-researched stories rooted in the lives of real people. You'll notice a shift in our focus as we enter year two of the State of Opportunity project. Our scope is expanding to include children and adolescents in kindergarten through eight grade.

Our colleagues over at MLive report that the Muskegon County Prosecutor's Office has released its "dispositional report" on the July 9th shooting incident that we have been reporting on here. The report includes details of how one of the shooters died, and how Carmesha Rogers was injured while "heroically" trying to rescue children.