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Report: More Michigan Kids Face Persistent Poverty

Poverty is one of the strongest predictors of a child’s health and educational outcomes. (Pixabay)
Poverty is one of the strongest predictors of a child’s health and educational outcomes. (Pixabay)
March 21, 2016

LANSING, Mich. – Child poverty continues to plague Michigan communities.

Released today, the "Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2016" shows the rate of child poverty in the state worsened 23 percent between 2006 and 2014.

Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count Project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy, explains there were also increases in the numbers of children eligible for food assistance and child abuse victims.

On the other hand, she adds, some indicators of child well being improved.

"We've seen a 23 percent improvement in the rate of teen birth,” she states. “We're also seeing fewer kids placed in out-of-home care, more students graduating on time from high school.

“And although we continue to see some pretty significant racial and ethnic disparities in our infant mortality rate, the state is starting to close some of those gaps."

The report found child poverty is widespread, rising in 80 of 83 Michigan counties and affecting nearly one in four children.

Warren stresses poverty is one of the strongest predictors of a child's health and educational outcomes.

"If families have fewer resources, they're not able to really provide in the same ways,” she explains. “Their children are undergoing a certain level of what we call toxic stress, which has a lot of impact on how they perform in school."

Warren says the report can help local education, health and children's organizations identify policies needed for healthy children. And it's also a call to action for state lawmakers.

"When we look at the national attention that our state has received because of the Flint water crisis, because of the deplorable conditions in Detroit Public Schools, I think it's safe to say that we really need to be focusing on how we can improve conditions for kids," she says.

Warren points out families can be strengthened through access to affordable child care – and for parents, adult education opportunities, and earned paid sick leave.

At the community level, the report suggests investments in clean air and water, quality schools, child abuse prevention, and health and substance abuse services.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI