Speaking For Kids

Take Action during Child Abuse Prevention Month

April 16, 2015 – April is Child Abuse Prevention Month.  It’s a time to cast a light on the important services and programs that families with many significant challenges need to provide safe and stable homes for their children.  April is also a time when the Legislature is putting together the state budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins on October 1 of this year and ends September 30 of next year.  There are a couple of things related to the budget that we think are important for Michigan residents to realize and to take action on.

First, Michigan relies heavily on federal funds to support our abuse and neglect prevention services.  This is because state investment in those programs has been virtually eliminated as our state was dealing with a structural budget deficit in addition to an increased focus on investing in much needed improvements in the state’s foster care system, as required by the Children’s Rights settlement agreement.  And this investment has paid off, since many of our goals to improve the foster care system have been met (though we still have a long way to go with others).  But with this focus and investment to improve our foster care system, abuse/neglect prevention funding has not kept pace and has in fact declined.  Couple that with our persistent, unacceptable, and rising child poverty rate; it’s no surprise that child maltreatment has been on the rise too.

In light of all of this, a recently approved budget by the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the Department of Human Services actually removed $2.75 million of federal TANF funding currently supporting child abuse/neglect prevention and family preservation programs to replace state general funds in the Family Independence Program – the state’s cash assistance program.  Ensuring that very low-income working families have access to cash assistance is critically important so that they can meet their children’s basic needs.  Ensuring that maltreated children who have been removed from their homes or are at imminent risk of being removed have access to intensive family-focused services is also important so that children can stay or be reunified with their parents and have a stable and safe home environment.  Supporting parents with the tools they need to provide a nurturing and safe home provides the foundation for their children’s future success.

There is still time to influence the state budget.  These budget bills will next head to the full appropriations committees in each chamber before going to the full House and Senate before differences are negotiated.  We can and should be talking to our elected officials about the Senate version that maintains funding for these critical abuse/neglect prevention programs.  It should be noted that the Senate version also maintains FIP cash assistance without reducing state investment in that program.

Another important thing to point out is that the House’s shuffling of federal TANF funds illustrates what will likely happen if the May 5th ballot proposal fails.  That’s right, I’m talking about the ballot proposal to fix our state’s roads.  Proposal 1 provides an opportunity for new revenue – including new state general funds – to fix our roads, increase funding for schools and local municipalities, and reinstate the EITC.  If Proposal 1 fails, the Legislature will likely go back to the drawing boards for the FY2016 budget to see where they can pull out the over $1 billion needed to fix the roads.  If the ballot proposal fails, Michigan’s most challenged children and families will most likely face even more hardships as our state tries to shuffle around federal dollars as state funds are diverted to fix our roads.

During Child Abuse Prevention Month, and on May 5th, please be sure to take action for Michigan’s most challenged families and their children.

-Mina Hong

Bringing More Parents to the Equity Conversation

April 1, 2015 – Here at Michigan’s Children we operate from an equity perspective, ensuring public officials prioritize the needs of Michigan’s most challenged children – children of color and children from low-income families. Equality and equity are commonly confused, so let’s give an example to help clarify the difference. All children can attend public school from kindergarten through 12th grade free of charge. In other words, all children can equally access free public education. For some children free public schooling does not produce the same benefits because of additional challenges they may experience; such as coming to school hungry or struggling to keep up in their classes. For the children who experience challenges, additional supports such as free or reduced lunches, or quality after-school programming could boost their academic performance. Providing these supports for challenged children in addition to free public education represents equity strategies that provide targeted services to students based on what they need so that they can succeed academically.

In order to bring more parents to the equity conversation Michigan’s Children hosted an advocacy workshop at the Michigan PTA’s Annual Convention on Friday, March 27th. Mina Hong and myself facilitated a conversation with the group about the importance of using your voice to advance equity for children in Michigan who experience the most challenges. The Michigan’s Children advocacy workshops aim to get more Michiganders engaged in effective policy advocacy around children’s issues by encouraging people to build relationships with elected officials, and to strategically frame their priorities. But most importantly, we believe it is so important to get more voices involved in policy discussions. The more voices encouraging public officials to make policy decisions in the best interest of children the better!

The group of individuals who attended our workshop got very engaged in our conversation about policy advocacy. Regardless of their policy advocacy expertise level, workshop participants really dove into the details of relationship building with elected officials, and current state budget opportunities. Michigan’s Children loved to see this enthusiasm for and interest in this critically important work. We left the convention with a feeling of satisfaction that we had created a few more child advocates in Michigan.

– Cainnear Hogan

Cainnear is an intern for Michigan’s Children.  She is currently completing her MSW at the University of Michigan – School of Social Work.

Better Supporting Early On Michigan

March 24, 2015 – This is the second blog about an opportunity that Michigan’s Children had this month to strategize action around some very important services that touch the lives of families with babies and toddlers.  In partnership with the Early Childhood Investment Corporation and the Early On Michigan Foundation, Michigan’s Children organized a session to bring together allies and stakeholders to begin to build improvements to the Early On system.  Early On is our state’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) – Part C program that provides early intervention services to families with young children from birth to age three who have developmental delays or disabilities.  Currently in Michigan, the main source of funding for Early On comes from the federal government, which is sorely inadequate to provide appropriate services.  The intent of the session earlier this month was for participants to gain a shared understanding of IDEA Part C and those federal requirements, Early On in Michigan and its ability to appropriately serve eligible children and their families, and to begin identifying opportunities to bolster the system.

The Early On session was one of the first times in recent years that a room of state-level early childhood advocates, staff from the Michigan Departments of Education and Community Health, and local Early On providers had the opportunity to talk about how to advance that system.  It was clear that folks were glad to be having the conversation because it’s not often that you get a room of 45 busy individuals staying to the last minute of a 3-hour long meeting and even sticking around afterwards to continue some conversations in smaller groups.  It was clear from that session that ensuring young children and their families can access appropriate early intervention services across the state was a high priority for those from inside and outside the Early On system.  It was also clear that adequate and equitable services are currently not available and that this must be remedied with additional state investment.  While the group heard from one local community about their fairly robust early intervention services being supported by a sizeable local mileage, local support for Early On varies widely across the state with many communities having no local investment to support early intervention.  And given that there is no state investment for the majority of Early On eligible children and their families, the significant disparities in the adequacy of services available continues to persist.

One of the action steps identified by this group was for the state to look into maximizing federal Medicaid funds to support aspects of the Early On system – much like many other states do but not in Michigan.  While all kids who receive Early On services aren’t Medicaid recipients, a good portion of them are, making this resource a viable option to support some intervention services such as physical or occupational therapy.  Michigan’s Children is leading efforts to explore this option.    However, drawing down Medicaid funds isn’t possible without a match, reinforcing the need for a state appropriation for Early On.  Michigan’s Children in partnership with the Early On Michigan Foundation and others will continue to pursue this route in the FY2016 budget being debated and into the future.

Learn more about Early On by reading our Issues for Michigan’s Children publication.

-Mina Hong

© 2018 Michigan's Children | 215 S. Washington Sq, Suite 110, Lansing, MI 48933 | 517-485-3500 | Contact Us | Levaire