The kids are not all right

Added December 18th, 2013 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Whatever economic recovery has occurred in Michigan, it has not reached children and their families. Poverty continues to affect one of every four of the state’s youngsters. Over half a million of the children in Michigan lived in families with income below the federal poverty level ($18,000 for a single parent family of 3 and $22,000 for a family of four), according to this year’s annual Kids Count in Michigan overview of child well-being.

Economic security weakened in almost every county between 2005 and 2011, and the more affluent counties experienced the steepest increases: Oakland, Ottawa and Macomb counties saw their child poverty rates almost double over the trend period.

Hard times compromise the capacity of parents to care for their children. As high unemployment persists and the economy generates low-wage jobs in the service sector, families struggle to provide for basic needs. Costs for rent, transportation and food continue to rise. Over 200,000 children lived in families investigated for alleged abuse or neglect in Fiscal Year 2012. The implementation of a central reporting system may have had a role in driving up the numbers, but the impact on families cannot be denied.

Seventy-one of the state’s 83 counties sustained escalating rates of confirmed child abuse or neglect, and in 22 of those counties the rates doubled, tripled or quadrupled between 2005 and 2012. More than four of five incidents involved neglect—defined as failure to provide for basic needs or to protect from harm.

Programs such as the state Earned Income Tax Credit and the child care subsidy that help families to withstand the weak recovery have been cut. The child care subsidy has not been adjusted for inflation in two decades. The average cost of full-time care for a preschooler consumes almost half the net earnings from a full-time minimum wage job.

As the governor and the legislators enjoy their holiday break, perhaps they may spend some time in considering ways to invest the projected $1 billion increase anticipated by Fiscal Year  2015 into programs and policies to address child poverty and prevent child abuse and neglect.

Without a strong healthy educated workforce, how will the state attract well-paid jobs for high-skilled workers? Children who are shortchanged during their growing up years are much less likely to be in good health, succeed academically and get the post-secondary training or education to qualify for those jobs.

— Jane Zehnder-Merrell

One Response to “The kids are not all right”

  1. Sally says:

    Perhaps the state should leave families alone, since they do not really care about helping them. When the state calls poverty….neglect, they have got it wrong. Abuse and neglect that is really the inability to provide financially due to something like the economy or losing a job is not abuse and neglect. Rather than just snatching the child or children and giving them a so called “better” home is not real good thinking on the part of the state. Helping the family to get through difficult times is a much better solution. But, that is not what the state does, it will tear apart a family by placing the children in another family. Of course, this is financially beneficial to the state, as they receive federal funding from Social Security Title IV for placing children into another family. I believe this would be called supporting the state on the backs of children!

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