2022 challenged all of us in public service and the advocacy community to work to the best of our abilities in a time of great anxiety and loss. No person or community was spared the experience of seeing a loved one, friend or colleague succumb to Covid-19 in some way. (In Michigan alone, more than 14,000 residents died from coronavirus.) Equity gaps became cavernous for those living at the margins. Home and work life were upended for thousands by a series of school closings, interruptions and job insecurities.
Michigan’s and the nation’s long-standing broken child care system became a front-and-center political issue, perhaps for the first time, among leaders from across society as caregivers worried how they would stay afloat, and working parents grappled with ways to access and afford care for their children. The pandemic exacerbated a problem that even prepandemic cost Michigan’s economy $1 billion a year.
On a personal note, Michigan’s Children rallied in our policy work to shore up social safety net programs and influence significant, once-in-a-lifetime federal and state resources to support the most vulnerable among us. The year broke our hearts in other ways. As many of you are aware, our Vice President for Programs, Michigan Corey, had battled cancer for several years, and passed away in March. Her memory, her legacy for always fighting the good fight for Michigan’s children, youth and families continue to inspire us.
The work we started in 2021 was in many ways a precursor for how we will focus our efforts in 2022. We were instrumental in urging government leaders to apply $1.4 billion in federal pandemic relief to our struggling child care system. Much more needs to be done to invest in systems to help parents, providers and children move forward. We will engage with partners and decision-makers to improve life outcomes for people in other essential areas of our policy work. Among them: quality afterschool care for schoolchildren; educational and economic support for foster youth and those who age-out of the system; neglect and abuse prevention strategies to support families in child welfare; expanded services for runaway and unhoused youth; adult education and skill-building.
As we stand today, the FY2022-23 state budget cycle is opening with over $7 billion in unallocated state funds and federal relief. We plan to raise our voices and empower others to make decisions to address the greatest needs facing our children, youth and families in Michigan. Won’t you join us?
Matt Gillard, President & CEO,