Learning from Youth and Families

Learning From Youth
For nearly 20 years, Michigan’s Children has been creating opportunities for young people to come together with policymakers to share their experiences, resulting directly in policy improvements.
Learning From Families
Since 2014, Michigan’s Children has utilized forums and other opportunities for families to share their stories with policymakers with the goal to improve policies impacting children and families.

Wayne State Foster Care KidSpeak – 8/13/18

Michigan’s Children and our partner, Wayne State Champions Aspiring to Make Pathways to Success (CHAMPS), were joined by a panel of federal, state, and local officials at our 5th co-hosted KidSpeak® on the many experiences of young adults who have transitioned out of the foster care system. Seven young adult speakers testified to the listening panel about their experiences in the foster care system, noting effective s and highlighting barriers to stability and success. The youth made recommendations to strengthen the foster care system for youth involved of all ages. Connecting the unique stories and experiences of the young people were some broad themes for needed reform.
Read our story covering the day’s events


Family Led Primary Candidate Forums – 7/25/18

Michigan’s Children’s Sandbox Party’s first two candidate forums of the 2018 campaign season took place from shore to shore on July 25. First, we went to the Zeeland Early Childhood Center, where parents of young children posed questions for eight candidates for state House and Senate. Then we traveled back to The Children’s Center in Detroit where a room of parents and other concerned community members listened while candidates for Congress and the state Senate explained why they were the right people to lead policy efforts in their area. Their questions focused on issues of child care, transportation and housing, mental health and education and more.
Read our story covering the day’s events
Read Michele’s Blog Take-Aways From the Day
Participating Candidates at the Zeeland Early Childhood Center
Participating Candidates at The Children’s Center


FamilySpeak: Building Family Literacy and Michigan’s Workforce – 2/15/18

To celebrate National Parent Leadership Month, Michigan’s Children joined the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education (MACAE) to host a FamilySpeak for adult education students. The student ambassadors outlined how adult ed not only provides adults with basic skills, it also supports the learning and literacy of the entire family.
Read the stories and bios of the student ambassadors
Watch two videos of the student ambassador speeches on Facebook (filmed by Kristina Matthews)
Read our MACAE FamilySpeak Report
Read our Family Literacy Budget Basics
Read our 2018 MACAE FamilySpeak Press Release


CommunitySpeak: Raising the Voices of Youth, Families and Great Service Provision in Southeast Michigan –  8/23/17

Michigan’s Children, in partnership with the Judson Center in Royal Oak and the Children’s Center in Detroit, hosted a day of legislative tours of the two service centers, where policymakers from all levels of government had conversations with parents, youth, and service providers about their experiences with foster care, education, and physical and mental health challenges and offered their recommendations for reform.
Read the highlights of the conversation and who attended
Read our press release
Read Our Blog Reflections 
Learn more about the Judson Center and Children’s Center


KidSpeak: Champions for Change in Foster Care  8/7/17

In early August, we joined Wayne State University’s Transition to Independence Program (TIP) for a KidSpeak from young people who have been involved with the foster care system. Young people praised the Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care program,
but asked for smoother transitions between programs, training for foster parents and decreased workloads for caseworkers, and housing support.
Read about what the youth had to say and who attended


Spotlight on Foster Care Series – 5/30/17

Outcomes for young people in foster care are unacceptable and caregivers in that system often lack basic supports for the children and youth in their care. State investments that better supporting caregivers and young people in foster care are paramount. That’s why Michigan’s Children is featuring a series during May – Foster Care Awareness Month – that highlights recommendations from those who have experienced foster care first hand.
Read Ashley Watkins’ Spotlight on Essential Supports for College Access
Read Julie Schnell’s Spotlight on Powerful Voices and Partners
Read Brandon Youngblood’s Spotlight on the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative (MYOI)


FamilySpeak: Foster Care Caregivers – 2/28/17

Representatives Runestad and Kosowski and Michigan’s Children brought caregivers together with legislators and other key policymaking partners for constructive, solutions-oriented conversations about the child welfare, foster care and adoption system through a FamilySpeak forum at the State Capitol Building on February 28, 2017.
Read the News Advisory.
Read Dorene’s Story: Need for More Timely Mental Health Services.
Read the Nehring’s Story: Involve All Allies to Determine Best Interests.
Read more about what parents recommended and who was listening.
Read a story about the testimony and listener panel reactions.


FamilySpeak: Supporting Adult Education – 2/15/17

Michigan’s Children and the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education brought together parents and other caregivers of young children, legislators and other key policymaking partners for constructive legislative solutions-oriented conversations to support family literacy, basic skill building and paths to secondary and post-secondary credentials through a FamilySpeak forum at the State Capitol on Wednesday, February 15, 2017.
Read Second Chances Essential for Success, that highlights one of our FamilySpeak speakers.
Read Family Takes Opportunity to Succeed, that highlights one of our FamilySpeak speakers.
Read more about what parents recommended and who was listening.
Read a story about the testimony and listener panel reactions.
Read the full testimony given.
Find Adult Education and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs around the state.
Read how to support family literacy in the current state budget discussions.


Youth Lead At National Conference – 10/4/16

Young people, supported by twelve innovative organizations, led all workshop session offerings on Tuesday afternoon at the National Dropout Prevention Network annual conference in Detroit. They shared with the audience of educators, researchers and others from around the nation the barriers that prevented them from succeeding, supports that made the difference and recommendations for changes in policy and practice. This was the first time that the conference planners had experienced youth leading in this way, and they are committed to keeping it up, wherever they are holding their conferences.
Learn more about the highlighted programs and some of the young people participating.


Michigan’s Children hosts WSU KidSpeak on Foster Care –  8/8/16

Youth with experience in the foster care system at Wayne State University came before a panel of local, state and federal decision-makers at a Michigan’s Children-sponsored KidSpeak in August 2016. Joining Michigan’s Children in sponsoring the forum were the Wayne State University Transition to Independence Program, the Wayne State University School of Social Work, the Wayne State University Law School, the University of Michigan School of Social Work and the Student Advisory Center of Michigan.
Read more about the forum.
See who participated on the Listening Panel, and supported the youth who spoke.


Youths Dealing with Mental Health Challenges Find Hope in Peer Support – 6/29/16

The stigma associated with a mental health diagnosis is difficult enough for adults to grapple with, but those experiences can be particularly overwhelming and isolating for youths. In this profile, we write about Krissy Dristy and her team of specialists who are helping youth navigate a complex system by learning to advocate for their own health.
Youths Dealing with Mental Health Challenges Find Hope in Peer Support.


Alternative Ed Students Meet with State Schools Superintendent Brian Whiston – 5/6/16

Forty students from the Alternative Education Program at Houghton Lake Community Education traveled to Lansing in May to have a private meeting with State Schools Superintendent Brian Whiston. They spoke passionately in favor of the need for programs’ like theirs that provide a different path to a high school diploma than traditional four-year high schools.
Read the Story of Brian Whiston and the Houghton Students here.


Spotlight on Parenting Series – 4/18/16

Supporting parents and others raising children is one of the best investments Michigan can make to ensure all children have the best outcomes in school and life. That’s why Michigan’s Children is featuring a series during March – Parenting Awareness Month – that details work of important partners across the state in areas such as Early On, adult education, foster and adoptive care, and parent reunification.
Read Spotlight on ‘Parents as Partners’
Read Spotlight on Reunifying Families through Baby Court
Read Spotlight on Parenting and Family Literacy
Read Spotlight on Parenting Support through Early On Michigan


A Conversation with Young People at the 2015 Michigan Pre-College and Youth Outreach Conference – 11/16/15

Michigan’s Children hosted a panel discussion at the 2015 Michigan Pre-College and Youth Outreach Conference that brought together a handful of youth with inspiring stories of overcoming daunting odds to work through the demands of high school and seek a better future with a college education.
Read about this important conversation and learn from the experts in youth access..
Read about the organizations supporting the young speakers..


FamilySpeak: Building Family Literacy Through Adult Education – 10/28/15

Together with the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education, we are bringing together parents, legislators and other key policymaking partners for constructive legislative solutions-oriented conversations to support family literacy, basic skill building and paths to secondary and post-secondary credentials through a FamilySpeak forum at the State Capitol on Wednesday, October 28, 2015.
Read our joint press release.
Read A Mother’s Story about Adult Education, that highlights one of our FamilySpeak speakers.
Read more about what parents recommended and who was listening.
Read a story about the testimony and listener panel reactions.
Read our Family Literacy Issues Brief.


Ending Bullying in Michigan: Press Conference – 10/26/15

Michigan’s Children and the School and Community Health Association of Michigan (SCHA-MI) joined researchers from Wayne State University’s School of Social Work to release a new report, listen to the voices of young people who have experienced bullying in their own lives, and offer suggestions for addressing the trauma that children who bully bring to school and those who are victimized.
Read our take on the press conference and next steps.
Read the WSU report, Adolescents’Reporting of Bullying and Peer Victimization In School: What Do They Report and How Can We Respond? 
Read our joint press release.
Read Report Shows Bullying Remains Despite Required Policies,by Gongwer.com.
Read 1 in 4 students faces bullying in schools, report says, by Mlive.com.
Read Michele Corey’s commentary in the Detroit News on Nov. 5, 2015.


Lansing Capitol Caregivers FamilySpeak – 9/23/15

Caregivers from foster care, adoption and kinship care filled the Speaker’s Library at the state Capitol for a special FamilySpeak before state legislators and policymakers. The event was co-sponsored by Michigan’s Children, the Michigan Statewide, Foster, Adoptive and Kinship Family Coalition, the Michigan Federation for Children and Families, the Michigan Kinship Coalition and the Kinship Care Resource Center.
Read more about what the families said and who was listening.
Read Michele’s blog.
Read our reflection after the forum.
Listen to a post-forum interview with Michigan’s Children Vice President for Programs Michele Corey and state Rep. Jim Runestad on WKAR’s “Current State” broadcast.


Wayne State KidSpeak – 8/10/15

Michigan’s Children, Wayne State University’s Law School and School of Social Work, the Transition to Independence Program (TIP Wayne State), the Michigan Youth Opportunity Initiative (MYOI) and the Foster Care Alumni Association of America-Michigan Chapter were recently joined by more than two dozen local, state and federal decision makers.
Read more about the forum.
Read more about WSU’s innovative partnership supporting summer employment for young people in foster care.
Read participant Amber Thomas’ voice on the issue of transportation and the recommendations she shared with Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity team.


Kalamazoo Forum Follow-Up – 2/23/15

Now that the election is over, Michigan’s Children and our candidate forum partners are building relationships with the winning candidates, now our elected officials. Senator Margaret O’Brien, Representatives Jon Hoadley and Brandt Iden, and House Majority Leader Representative Aric Nesbitt’s staffer Jennifer Humphries met with a group of Kalamazoo young people to start getting to know each other’s concerns, interests and priorities for work throughout the year. This is the first quarterly meeting between area young people and their state legislators.
Read more about the forum.


Oakland County KidSpeak – 1/26/2015

The Foster Care Alumni of America-Michigan Chapter, Michigan Youth Opportunity Initiative, Michigan’s Children, Oakland County Board of Commissioners, the Park West Foundation, and our hosts, Oakland County Commissioner Janet Jackson and former Commissioner Mattie McKinney Hatchett, State Representative Jim Runestad and State Senator Dave Robertson held the 2nd annual Oakland County KidSpeak on Monday, January 26, 2015 in the Oakland County Commissioners Auditorium.
Eighteen young people currently or formerly served by the foster care system, spoke to over three dozen local, state and federal elected officials, and other key decision makers about their challenges, and all made recommendations for changes in policies and programs to make the system work better for others.
Read more about the forum and see who sat on the listening panel.
See the #OCKidSpeak2015 Twitter coverage.
Read Michele’s blog from 2/6/15.
Learn more about current policy issues.
Read Rep. Runestad’s statement after the KidSpeak.
Read Rep. Tedder’s statement after the KidSpeak.
Read about how these youth voices have had a real impact in Southeast Michigan.


Youth-Led Candidate Forums – Fall 2014

Through the 2014 Election season, Michigan’s Children worked through our Sandbox Party to listen to what candidates were saying and tried to engage more informed voters. However, we didn’t often hear candidates talk about many issues that matter to children, youth and families. To remedy this, we partnered with Michigan Radio’s powerful State of Opportunity project to conduct a series of forums in different areas of the state led by young people asking the important questions to candidates for Michigan Legislative districts. Post-election, we continue to work with our organizational partners to provide information and opportunities to continue to connect with elected officials in their communities. The forums were so successful in engaging candidates and young people that we will be expanding the reach of our forums in the next election year. Read more about the 2014 forums:
Grand Rapids
Mt. Clemens
Read Michele’s blogs about the forums from 9/29/14 and 11/3/14


Wayne County FamilySpeak – 10/13/2014

On October 13, 2014, Michigan’s Children in partnership with the Policy Committee of the Black Child Development Institute – Detroit Chapter, organized a FamilySpeak forum focused on two-generation strategies at the National Black Child Development Institute’s annual conference.  The FamilySpeak featured organizations in Detroit and Wayne County that serve families with children in a holistic manner; and the families and programs involved spoke before a 30-member listening panel made up of local- and state-level policymakers.  Much thanks to the following organizations who participated in this important forum:
Read this Issues for Michigan’s Children publication that provides an overview of key policy implications coming out of this FamilySpeak forum and the blog recap.


FamilySpeak: A Focus on the Life Guides Program – 9/22/2014

On September 22, 2014, Michigan’s Children launched its FamilySpeak forum in partnership with the Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan and the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education (MACAE).  Modeled after our signature KidSpeak® forums, FamilySpeak forums provide a venue for families who have struggled for a variety of reasons to speak before a listening panel of policymakers and decision-makers.  At the annual MACAE Conference, Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan’s innovative multi-generation program called Life Guides was highlighted in a FamilySpeak forum before a 15 member panel of local- and state-level policymakers.  The Life Guides Program works with families in Allegan and Kalamazoo Counties, making a twenty year commitment to their efforts to move towards economic self-sufficiency and build educational and life success for themselves and their children.
Read our Focus on Michigan Communities publication to learn more about the Life Guides program and how public policy can better support two-generation strategies like this one.  And, learn more about the launch of our FamilySpeak forums.

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