Monthly Archives June 2017

Advocacy Matters: State Budget Foster Care Wins

June 26, 2017 – Many legislators love nothing more than being able to leverage state investment with other funding to increase the reach of the limited dollars in our state coffers, especially those involved in the state budget process that just got wrapped up last week.  Of course, the largest leveraging that we do is with the federal government, and we rely heavily on those leveraged funds.  Many programs in Michigan get just enough state funding to be able to draw down federal funding allocated to our state – child care assistance, foster care and other child welfare services, and many others.  Of course, federal funds that support many critical programs in Michigan are at great risk right now, but that’s a topic for another blog.

This is about giving credit where credit is due.  At the beginning of the state budget process, when the Governor released his budget recommendations in early February, many pieces stood out to Michigan’s Children, including two that provide support for young people as they age out or leave the foster care system.

First, there was a recommended expansion to the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI).  MYOI is a state legislators dream.  Not only is it a great and effective program that helps young people in foster care build the skills and relationships that they need as adults, but it is also based on a funding model that takes full advantage of private philanthropy, community resources and partnerships and federal funds.  The problem:  MYOI didn’t have staffing around the state, so young people’s geography, rather than their need, was determining their access to the resource.  The ask: increase the state investment to support enough staff to serve youth wherever they live.

The second program is one whose state funding seems to always be on the chopping block, the Fostering Futures Scholarship Fund.  This funding helps young people who have been in the foster care system access higher education.  It is also a legislators dream, because there is a comprehensive private fund raising component around the state for the fund, in addition to its state funding.  The problem:  taking away the $750,000 in state funds that adds to the roughly $180,000 that is raised privately each year would be a huge blow.  The ask: maintain the current state investment in the program.

As the state budget process wore on over the last several months, it became clear that although the Governor was supportive of funding in both programs, there were members of the Legislature who were not.  Some of this was driven by legislative interest in finding state resource for tax cuts and to pay for adjustments to the teacher pension system.  For whatever reason, funding for both was at risk.

So, we got to work.  Michigan’s Children got the word out through our networks, talked about the critical importance of these programs with legislators on key budget committees, and most importantly, encouraged young people who had been served by these programs to get involved.

And, we won.  Both programs will be funded through September 2018 at the levels recommended by the Governor.  We are convinced that the work done by the amazing young people in MYOI, and in college access programs for youth experiencing foster care sealed the deal.  When they were there on their own or with Michigan’s Children, talking directly with legislators, those legislators listened.  The legislators became champions for these programs with their colleagues and joined us in demanding that their funding remained in the final budget.

Thank you to the young people, thank you to the programs that support them, and thank you to the legislators that heard us all.  We will continue to ask for more support for young people experiencing foster care, but we can take a moment to congratulate ourselves on this win as well.

– Michele Corey

Meet Bobby, our Newest Staff Member: Ready to Serve

June 23, 2017 – Whenever possible at lunch, I like to enjoy my sandwich along Lansing’s Grand River river trail, a couple blocks from our office but, beneath shady trees on our stuffy summer days, a world enough away. The breaks help me re-focus and re-center myself for the afternoon grind. These first couple of weeks at Michigan’s Children have been busy, but they’ve hardly felt like work. It’s just so darn exciting to be here! It’s a real privilege to begin my career at an organization with such experience and authority on children’s issues, and even more of a privilege to learn the ropes from Matt, Michele, and Kali, incredibly kind colleagues who have fostered a focused and supportive environment.

I’ve always wanted to work to help future generations achieve their fullest potential. I first gravitated towards education policy, and for the last few years have had a unique seat to some of our most poisonous education debates – school finance, charter schools, standards, testing, and others. The more I worked with people at the grass roots of the system, the more I learned how little we in Michigan invest to meet the holistic developmental and social needs of children, how ideas like parent and community “engagement” are weaker in practice than they are in rhetoric, and how this leads to the savage inequalities many children face. Systems that ostensibly promote opportunity and security for children instead perpetuate inequity and strife. From education to health to family services, there is work to do on many fronts. It’s the solutions to these problems to which I hope to contribute.

Because of the need for child advocates across our state, it’s an honor to join Michigan’s Children, which has fought for children longer than I’ve been alive. Here, we focus on more than just passing laws, we are invested in building channels where anyone who wants to raise their voice for kids is empowered to do so. Achieving our mission requires more than just policy, it requires reframing and re-sparking debates around children’s issues in the public sphere and forging a deep and lasting network of champions for children who can carry the flame on those debates.

So far, my objective from day one has been learning – studying up on home visiting laws, the Lansing political scene, website analytics, the cheapest parking lots downtown, you name it. I’m excited to get to work – to grow stronger, we must reimagine how we engage with our diverse partners, how we tell the stories of the challenges Michigan’s children face, and how we highlight the most innovative and effective ideas across our issue areas so that we are always driving the conversation forward.

I’ve always called this pleasant peninsula home, and have always felt a duty to be a respectful guest, to leave this place more magnificent for future generations. For those of us privileged to call ourselves children of this great place, we have no greater obligation than to leave this land and its many opportunities open, intact, and accessible for our children. I’m up for the job, and I really hope you will join us!

Bobby Dorigo Jones is the new Policy and Outreach Coordinator at Michigan’s Children. When he isn’t working, he’s either following Detroit sports, trying out drink recipes, or playing Gordon Lightfoot on his six string.

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