May 12, 2014 – Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day as a mom. While I’ve been a mom for just under six months, there are so many supports that I am grateful to access that have helped my family. Some of these same supports, unfortunately, too many moms in Michigan cannot access because our public policies and budget-making do not prioritize them.
First, I was able to access family-planning services prior to getting pregnant that allowed me to plan for my pregnancy; and when I did become pregnant, I was able to access comprehensive prenatal care. A healthy start in life begins well before babies are born – with women being healthy prior to conception, having the appropriate support to plan for their families, and then to access comprehensive prenatal care when they do become pregnant. Passing the Healthy Michigan Plan last year was an excellent first step for our state to ensure that more low-income adults can access health care. And we know that more investments are needed to support family planning and prenatal care outreach, particularly for Michigan’s most challenged women.
Additionally, and I’ve talked about this before, three days after my son was born, I received a home visit by a registered nurse. Fortunately, our policymakers recognize the value of evidence-based home visiting services, particularly for the challenged families who benefit the most from these programs. Congress provided funds supporting evidence-based home visiting services in Michigan’s most challenged urban communities; and the State Legislature is set to provide a $2.5 million expansion of home visiting services to rural Northern Michigan and the U.P. However, even with this investment and already existing funds for voluntary evidence-based home visiting, we continue to serve only a fraction of eligible families.
And finally, upon my return to work, we’ve been utilizing a combination of high quality child care – with my son spending a couple days a week at a five-star rated child care center and several days a week with his grandmother, who also happens to be a former early childhood educator. Unfortunately, too many families cannot access high quality child care that promotes early learning and development. Michigan is making steps in the right direction to improve its child care subsidy program for very low-income families. First, the state has been awarded the federal Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant that has a focus on improving quality among home-based child care providers. Like me, this is an option chosen by many families. And the Legislature and the Governor support child care subsidy program improvements to better serve Michigan’s lowest-income families. Supporting high quality child care will ensure that more kids are kindergarten-ready and can reduce the academic achievement gap.
These are just a few of the supports that I was particularly thankful for this Mother’s Day – supports that our state is working to expand for Michigan’s most challenged moms. Unfortunately, in many areas, Michigan continues to fall short. The policy changes that were made to the Family Independence Program (cash assistance) and Food Assistance Program (food stamps) have made it more challenging for low-income families to provide financially stable homes, and the children are suffering. Child poverty continues to be on the rise in our state. And, child abuse and neglect prevention programs have been significantly underfunded as evidenced by the unacceptable rise in child maltreatment over the past decade. As legislators wrap up the fiscal year 2015 budget and head back to their communities to campaign for the upcoming elections, we must ask them and all candidates to prioritize the needs of Michigan’s struggling children and families. We must hold them accountable so that all children can have a great start in life.