Families & Community

The connections that build opportunity.

Since the 2012 election there's been more bipartisan movement on immigration policy than we've seen in a long time. Just this week, here in Michigan, the Secretary of State began issuing driver's licenses to immigrants who qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program. But perhaps lost in the discussion are the many immigrants who continue to achieve their citizenship dreams as the children of parents who are naturalized citizens. Photographer John Moore was at the federal courthouse in Manhattan this week to take portraits of some of the country's newest citizens, ranging in age from 5 to 41. Interestingly, Moore charged his assistant with recording not only the names of the kids, but also their parents' occupations. How will the lives of children living in poverty change with incremental shifts in immigration policy at the state and federal levels? It's something to ponder, but in the meantime, enjoy the faces of these new U.S. citizens.

Kary Gee

Part of the State of Opportunity's mission is to hear the stories of listeners as they experience their local communities. One of the best kinds of community engagement happens when we teach new skills or help others enhance the skills they already have.  What reporter Sarah Alvarez and Michigan Radio intern Logan Chaddee found in working with the 17 young people in Elizabeth Cyr's journalism class is that they have a wealth of insight into interviewing their peers and getting at the "real" story.

Official portrait

 Governor Snyder delivered his budget proposals to the state legislature today. Here are a few highlights relevant to disadvantaged kids in Michigan: 

Michigan League for Public Policy

Child abuse and neglect appear to be increasing in Michigan. A new report from the Michigan League for Public Policy says more than 33,000 children in Michigan were victims of abuse or neglect in 2011. That’s an 18 percent increase compared to 2005.

There is a dispute over the exact size of the increase. 

"We’re not saying that there isn’t an uptick," says Dave Akerly, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Human Services. "We’re saying that from our standpoint, we believe that the uptick isn’t as dramatic as it would appear to be."

He says the numbers in the Michigan League report are a little misleading because a lot changed at DHS between 2005 and 2011. One of the things that changed is how cases get reported.

So, Akerly says instead of there being a huge increase in abuse and neglect, we may just be seeing a more accurate picture of abuse and neglect.

And no matter how you look at that, it’s an ugly picture.

Special State of Opportunity call-in show

Feb 1, 2013

Michigan Radio presents a special State of Opportunity call-in show that examines the importance of pre-K education. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White and panelists will explore why pre-K matters for Michigan's most vulnerable kids, the economic impacts of early childhood education, and how the issue affects the state's future. Join us on Thursday, February 7th at 3pm and 10p, on Michigan Radio.

The link between marriage and success

Jan 30, 2013
Sarah Alvarez

Kids in poverty are much more likely to come from single parent homes. Because of this correlation politicians across the political spectrum (most recently Rick Santorum in his presidential bid) have pushed policies to encourage marriage. The hope is that marriage can alleviate childhood poverty.

The reasons for childhood poverty are complex. They're just as complex as the benefits of marriage and the  reasons people want, or don't want, to walk down the aisle.

Darrin and Narabia Little recently celebrated their tenth wedding anniversary. Darrin Little is a big supporter of marriage and thinks it has lots to do with his children's success. He is also very in love with his wife. Narabia Little is a stay at home mom and is as calm and measured as Darrin is outgoing and energetic.

They both work hard to keep their four lovely and high-achieving daughters happy and on the straight and narrow in Inkster, a community with grim statistics for kids.

They let us listen in as they talk about why their relationship is important to them, and why they think it works.

Guest storyteller: Healing after childhood bullying

Jan 18, 2013
courtesy of Janet Heller

Janet Heller is one of State of Opportunity's many sources in the community. She shares her true story of how childhood bullying has continued to affect her life. You can share your story with us here.

When I was five, my parents moved to a different city.  I began afternoon kindergarten, but the students already knew one another and did not want to play with me during recess.  They treated me harshly.  Bobby pushed me down, and Charles threw stones at me.  Karen told me every day, “You’re so skinny I can see right through you!”  Her name-calling was the hardest for me to deal with because I was thin, so there was a grain of truth in the taunt.  I did not know what to do about the name-calling, and I did not know that Karen was bullying me.

I did not tell anyone until one day, Mom saw me crying after school and asked what was wrong.  I told her about Karen’s taunts.

Mom said, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names can never hurt me.”  This was typical advice to children in the 1950's.

Even though I was very young, I knew that this proverb made no sense:  I felt deeply hurt inside by the name-calling.  What I needed was advice and help in dealing with abuse.  After Mom’s dismissal of my story, I concluded that adults were not interested in my pain.

For LGBTQ youth, homelessness is a big problem

Jan 4, 2013
Kyle Norris

Dan Savage and Terry Miller created the It Gets Better Project to keep LGBTQ youth from committing suicide, and lives have probably been saved. But, not all of the rejection LGBTQ youth face comes from classmates; sometimes the rejection comes from family members and this can mean these kids are out on the street.

Happy Holidays. We'll see you in the New Year!

Dec 25, 2012
19Melissa68 / flickr

Thank you for engaging with State of Opportunity this year. We're taking a break to be with our families and hope you and yours have a safe and happy holiday season.

Check out all of the amazing things we've learned this past year and the amazing people we've learned from.

See you soon.

-The State of Opportunity team

Lesson of the year: get to kids early

Dec 24, 2012

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.