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Report Shows Michigan Moving Backwards in Child Well-Being

Michigan ranks behind all other Great Lakes states in a new national report on child well-being. (Pixabay)
Michigan ranks behind all other Great Lakes states in a new national report on child well-being. (Pixabay)
June 13, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – Children's advocates say Michigan is moving in the wrong direction when it comes to ensuring its kids get the best start in life.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2017 KIDS COUNT Data Book, released today, ranks the state 32nd nationally for overall child well-being, falling behind all other Great Lakes states.

Alicia Guevara Warren, KIDS COUNT project director with the Michigan League for Public Policy, says education is a particular sore spot, with the state ranking a dismal 41st.

"We need to a lot more when it comes to educating our kids. When we look at the disparities that exist for kids of color and for those who are living in high-poverty neighborhoods, we know that race, place and income matter for educational outcomes," Warren says, "and that it's really important to look at ways to improve this."

She adds in Michigan, 71 percent of eighth-graders are performing below proficiency in math, and 71 percent of fourth graders aren't reading at grade-level. The report ranked the state 31st in economic well-being, 17th in health and 29th in the area of family and community.

Warren explains the findings illustrate that many of Michigan's working families are still struggling after the recession. One in five kids is poor, 32 percent of children have parents without secure employment, and 17 percent live in high-poverty neighborhoods.

"When families are living in toxic stress, when they're exposed to communities where there are limited resources and fewer opportunities, it makes it really difficult to do well in school and have better health outcomes," she states. "And really, all of that carries with them into adulthood."

A bright spot for Michigan in the report is that 97 percent of kids are now covered by health insurance, an improvement on the national average of 95 percent.

Laura Speer, associate director for Policy Reform and Advocacy at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, calls that a tremendous achievement that should not be jeopardized.

"This is a real success story, and we want to acknowledge the fact that the country has made a significant investment, and that we have the highest percent of kids with health insurance coverage that we've ever had as a country," says Speer, "and we want to keep those gains."

The report credits key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, as well as investments in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, for the historic number of kids with health insurance.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI