History of Michigan's Children
In the early 1990's, the staff and trustees of the Skillman Foundation became increasingly aware of child advocacy as a means of influencing public policy for children and families. The Foundation dedicated resources to evaluating the need for an independent child advocacy organization in Michigan.
In 1991, a number of stakeholders, including potential funders, members of the advocacy community and university researchers confirmed the need and a Steering Committee was established.
This Steering Committee included leaders from business, philanthropic and civic groups, with leadership from Dr. Valora Washington of the Kellogg Foundation and John Lobbia of Detroit Edison. The Steering Committee addressed programmatic focus and board/organizational development issues.
In late 1992, bylaws and a business plan were drafted for Michigan's Children, the organization's first President was hired, and a Board of Directors was constituted. The first meeting of the Board of Director's was held on April 5, 1993.
The original funders of Michigan's Children included the Skillman Foundation, the C. S. Mott Foundation, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Frey Foundation, the Gerstacker Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Christ Church Episcopal and the Detroit Neurological Foundation.
The organization's first President was Cynthia Wilbanks, followed by Robert Spencer as interim President in 1995. She was followed by Sharon Claytor Peters, who served as President & CEO from 1996 through 2007. She was replaced by Jack Kresnak who served from 2008 through 2012. After Jack's retirement, Bill Long served as Interim President & CEO for several months; and now the veteran on the current staff, Michele Corey, serves as Interim President & CEO. Michele joined Michigan's Children in 1998.
In the late 1990's, Michigan's Children began to expand its programming. The Kids Count Community Advocacy Project added Michigan's Children's unique role with Kids Count through the development of a database of city and township-level data and close work with communities to ensure that the data are actually used locally to improve outcomes for children and families.
More recent community advocacy efforts have expanded to hone in on the critical children's policy needs in communities of color around the state.
During the late 1990's, Michigan's Children continued to strengthen its reputation as a source of reliable information about policy issues affecting children and families in the state. Publications such as Focus on Michigan's Children, action alerts, and in-depth reports addressing issues affecting children and youth were published.
Moving into the new millenium, the time sensitive nature of legislative activity has been addressed with up to the minute electronic communication on the website and a free e-bulletin service to assure instant notification of advocacy opportunities throughout the state.
Michigan's Children's first KidSpeak®, a public forum to empower youth voices, was held in October of 1996. That program has subsequently grown as part of an effective youth initiative, the Youth Policy Leadership Program (YPLP).
That same year brought the launch of the Budget Watch project, to ensure that communities can participate in the Lansing budget debates that so greatly influence local child well-being.
Throughout the 1990's, Michigan's Children was successful in influencing legislation in several instances. Among those victories are: budget language requiring the state to develop an outreach plan for transitional child care for families leaving welfare for work, budget language requiring the state to develop a new child welfare training plan, budget language to secure state funding for services for children of prisoners, and increased funding for a range of prevention services.
Several of these victories were achieved in collaboration with other statewide and local organizations or coalitions.
Since 1992, Michigan's Children has sharpened its focus and expanded its programs and services. Michigan's Children has established a solid reputation as a source of reliable and timely information, as well as a support to child advocates in the state's communities.
Our priority is prevention strategies focused on two key development stages for children -- early childhood and adolescence -- with a focus on reducing racial, ethnic, and income related inequities that we see across our state.
Our vision "a Michigan where all children thrive" will be our guide as we enter into our third decade.