By Jack Kresnak
President, CEO Michigan’s Children
The children of Michigan, on average, are poorer than they were in 2000, according to recently released Kids Count report released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The data used for the study are good as of the end of 2007. Given the state’s struggling economy and falling tax revenue projections, children undoubtedly are much worse off now than they were two years ago. The state-by-state ranking places Michigan 27th in child-well being among the 50 states, but our state’s worst ranking (41) is for the percentage of children living in families where no parent has full-time, year-round employment. Thirty-six percent of our children live in such families at a time when the state’s already frayed safety net for families is being shredded by budget cutters in Lansing.
There are hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Michigan children who are at high risk of being neglected, abused, failing and then dropping out of school, or not having access to medical care. These kids are being disproportionately affected by state budget cuts now under consideration in Lansing where abuse/neglect prevention programs, after school programs, and school-based health centers – among other solid programs – are slated to be cut or even eliminated.
During tough economic times, it is even more important for Michigan to invest scarce public resources wisely. Programs that help vulnerable children are a smart investment because they are low cost – especially compared to the long-term costs of say, foster care or incarceration – and because many of those programs are partially funded by the federal government. Those federal dollars allow Michigan to maintain a child welfare system through programs and projects that employ thousands of citizens.
Failing to provide a match to receive those federal funds not only hurts children but also kills jobs in our state. I am talking about people who work for very modest wages helping Michigan’s struggling communities, families and children. Investing in children is not only the moral thing to do, but the economically smart thing to do. We need everyone to contact their state legislators now to let them know that children must be a priority in our state, and that the way we show that they are a priority is by adequately funding proven programs that help keep them safe, healthy and well-educated.
To learn more, go to www.michiganschildren.org