Recent Michigan policy decisions worsen the impact on kids
LANSING – Child poverty in Schoolcraft County jumped 12 percent between 2005 and 2009 while more than half of Schoolcraft County K-12 children qualify for free and reduced price lunches, the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book concludes.
Michigan’s long economic struggle is reflected in the new Kids Count findings. Children qualify for school-based meals if their family income is 185 percent of poverty or less. Studies confirm that families need income of about 200 percent of poverty – at least $44,226 for a family of four – to cover basic needs without assistance. Poverty also drives up neglect cases.
“The findings show that children across Michigan are still suffering the fallout from our long recession,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, the Kids Count in Michigan director at the Michigan League for Human Services. “Poverty in Michigan is as big a threat to our children today as polio was to a previous generation. Fortunately, we can do something about this. We know that public policy can improve children’s social and economic environment.”
This year’s report, “Health Matters,’’ focuses on child health and the role that the social and economic factors in children’s lives play in good health.
The annual Data Book is released by the Kids Count in Michigan project. It is a collaboration between the Michigan League for Human Services, which researches and writes the report, and Michigan’s Children, which works with advocates statewide to disseminate the findings. Both are nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organizations concerned about the well-being of children and their families.
"Children in poverty often experience hunger, abuse or neglect, extreme stress, depression or anxiety, and other issues impacting their overall health, as well as their ability to learn and grow into successful adults," said Michele Corey, vice president for programs at Michigan's Children. "The best public policies must address the whole child from cradle to career, and this data can help guide these policies."
The report ranks counties on 16 indicators of child well-being (with No. 1 being the best), though data are not available to rank smaller counties on all 16. Trends over time are available for 15 indicators, with nine indicators improving and six worsening.
Michigan saw a small improvement in infant mortality between 2000 and 2009, although African American infants have triple the risk of mortality than that of white infants. There was also a 25 percent improvement in the rate of child deaths over the decade with 318 children (ages 1-14) dying in 2009, down from 471 in 2000.
For study details, visit www.milhs.org.