clothing in rubble
As It Happens / CBC

Next week Thursday at 3pm, and again at 10pm, State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra presents a special hour-long documentary on race, education, and opportunity in Michigan.

While some might say we're "burned out" with talk about race and racism, it remains a timely topic in so many ways. Before we bring it home with Jen's doc on race and Michigan kids, just a wide-ranging look at how race appears in the media last two weeks:

Yesterday the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act. The law is designed to make sure Native American children in the child welfare system stay connected with their tribes.  

Why?  Because for decades, American Indian families all over the country, including in Michigan, were wrenched apart by private and state child welfare workers.

Often with little reason, these workers removed Indian children from their families and tribes and tried to assimilate them into white and usually Christian culture. As barbaric as that might sound, it is not ancient history. 

Judge Alli Greenleaf Maldonado's mother was taken away from her family after her mother, Maldonado's grandmother, died.  She could have been placed with any number of relatives," Maldonado says. "But instead, she was sent to another state to be a domestic worker for a Mennonite minister and his wife."

Maldonado's mother was only four years old when she started working as a maid. Maldonado says it was common practice for young girls to be sent to be domestic workers,  while boys were sent to be farm hands in an attempt to give the children job skills. 

A cartoon about kids in prison might be a winner

Apr 5, 2013

It feels like  juvenile justice is getting more attention as of late, with reform efforts picking up steam.

There's the first federal case to end a school to prison pipeline in Mississippi, and a new book on the brazen corruption of judges who locked kids up in exchange for kickbacks in Pennsylvania.

The concern around kids in the justice system might turn out to be a cultural blip, in danger of being crowded out by national interest in something like gun or immigration reform.

But maybe not. The State of Opportunity team has been sending this short animation back and forth for about a week. Something about it seems to signal society might be willing to change the way we look at juvenile offenders. 

Almost 14,000 kids in Michigan have been taken out of their own homes by the state because of an abuse or neglect allegation.

Those kids then rely upon the state's Department of Human Services (DHS) to keep them safe and put them in an environment where they have a chance to thrive. Most of those kids end up in foster care.

Six years ago the state was sued by the advocacy group Children's Rights over treatment of kids in its care.

The state was back in court today to see where things stand. Everyone agrees things have gotten better since the lawsuit started six years ago, but the court appointed monitor said too many kids are still unsafe.

Wikimedia Commons

Today, there are two speeches on everyone's minds: the speech that President Obama delivered on the steps of the Capitol, and the famous speech Martin Luther King Jr. gave on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. 

But there is another speech I have in mind on this MLK day, and it reminds us both of King's legacy and of the work that is left to do, for President Obama, for us and for our future. 

flickr user r_gnuce

Turkey. Mashed Potatoes. Stuffing. Pie. 

It's just about all I can think about right now. 

Thanksgiving is a special day, but the truth is, I'm extremely lucky. I could stuff my face any day I want. If I'm hungry, I go to the grocery store and buy something to eat.

That's how it is for most of us in America, but not all of us. 

This week, we'll be talking a lot about hunger on this blog. I think a lot of us ignore the hunger issue because we think that it's basically taken care of. If you can't afford food, you can get help from the government, right?

Yes. But that's not the full story. 

Today, Barbara Morrison is a computer security engineer with a six-figure income. But that wasn't always the case. Just a decade ago, Morrison was a single-mother reliant on welfare checks. In a new article for Forbes, Morrison reminisces on her life, showing readers just how challenging life on welfare can be.

The school-to-prison pipeline is going to court

Oct 30, 2012
ynkefan1 / flickr

Educational activists have been saying for years that the s0-called school-to-prison pipeline has gotten out of control.

These folks criticize schools for increasingly outsourcing school discipline to the cops. The children or teenagers in trouble then routinely enter the juvenile justice system, or in some cases go to jail. A recent study from Texas, a state long criticized for these kinds of discipline practices shows black boys and special education students suffer disproportionately from this type of discipline.

Last week, the United States Justice Department stepped into the middle of this issue when it brought a case against Meridian, Mississippi for allegedly violating children's Constitutional rights. The Justice Department actually used the words "school-to-prison pipeline" in it's court filings. It said the Meridian pipeline stepped afoul of those Constitutional Amendments that prohibit cruel and unusual punishment (Fourth Amendment), violating due process rights (Fifth Amendment) and equal protection under the law (14th Amendment).

Michigan, we have a problem

Sep 21, 2012

Following last week’s release of national poverty numbers, the Census Bureau released state specific numbers this week. Besides a drop in the uninsured, it doesn’t look good. 

Our colleagues at Marketplace wrote a comprehensive article about poverty rates across the country. The number that we’re most interested in, though, is the increase in children living in poverty.

courtesy American Enterprise Institute

Charles Murray may not be a household name. But the libertarian author and commentator has had a major effect on our nation's approach to poverty. His ideas helped shape the landmark 1996 welfare reform act. He's also a figure of controversy, particularly for those on the left.