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.

Relative Caregiver Day at the Capitol – 9/18/19

Get a feel for the power of our Relative Caregiver Day at the Capitol through this short video of the day.
Michigan’s Children, along with the Kinship Resource Center at MSU and our Legislative Co-Sponsors were proud to welcome more than 50 relative care-givers of all types, the young people they have cared for and the programs that serve them well to the Capitol last week to talk with legislators about the specific challenges and successes they face serving in that critical role to support children, youth and families around the state. They were welcomed by even more legislators, state department leaders, and other agency supporters as they shared their experiences and their recommendations for change. The evidence couldn’t be clearer that children and youth thrive in stable environments and that in so many cases, relatives are this stability. But it is also clear that those caregivers need support.
View the Flier here. and Check out the lunch program here.
Read a story about Brooke VanProoyen a supporter for relative caregivers who understands their impact, An Aunt and Uncle’s Unwavering Love Made All the Difference for a Troubled Teen here.
Read a story about Brittany Barros, a 21-year-old who aged out of the foster care system
and is now caring for her younger sister, Her Sister’s Foster Parent, Brittney Barros Finally Brings Her Family Home here.
New Read our story about how two very different women came to Lansing and how raising their voices has benefited those around them. A Day at the Capitol with Relative Caregivers: Two Women, Two Different Life Experiences, and the Power of Ordinary People with Important Stories to Tell here.
Learn more about relative caregivers and their needs here.
Contact Michele Corey for more information on joining or supporting this growing network.


Young Adults from Foster Care ‘Shadow’ Lansing Legislators – 6/13/19

A dozen young adults, 18-25, with experience in Michigan’s foster care system to the state Capitol on June 13, 2019, for the first-ever NFYI Legislative Shadow Day in Lansing. The young people, 18-25, are joining their lawmakers in the day’s work and sharing recommendations for the state’s child welfare system based on their own experiences. The young people are shadowing their own legislators: State Sens. Curtis Hertel Jr., East Lansing, Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City; State Reps. Sarah Anthony, D-Lansing; John Cherry, D-Flint; LaTanya Garrett, D-Detroit; Kara Hope, D-Holt; Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville; Ronnie Peterson, D-Ypsilanti; Isaac Robinson, D-Detroit; Joe Tate, D-Detroit; and Robert Wittenberg, D-Huntington Woods. Each of the participants in the Michigan Job Shadow Day have strong ties to advocacy work geared to improving outcomes for those currently in foster care and those who will follow them. They have allowed Michigan’s Children to share their stories.
Read a story about NFYI Presents Michele Corey with First-Ever National ‘Fostering Exemplary Change Award’ here.
Read the Statewide Colleagues Praise Michele Corey’s Dedication to Improving Foster Care here.
Read the news release about the Michigan Job Shadow Day here.
Read the stories of the Michigan Job Shadow Day participants below:
Michael Davis-Thomas
Arielle Duncan
Andre Foster
Halley Miller
Matthew Miller
Charday Penick
Lansing Sanchez-Castillo
Heaven Shaman-Page
David Van Horn
Ashley Watkins
Brina Williams
Read more about young people aging out of foster care here.
Read more about the National Foster Youth Institute, who’s Michigan Leadership Corps are leading this effort, here.
Read more about Fostering Success and The New Foster Care, critical partners in this effort, here.


Citizens Review Michigan Efforts Preventing Abuse and Neglect – 9/26/19

Michigan’s Children is working with the Children’s Trust Fund to create opportunities around the state for parents, youth, service providers and other community leaders to share their experiences, barriers, successes, and recommendations for better-stabilizing families impacted by substance use disorders, particularly as they tie to child abuse and neglect. Despite the evidence, common sense and local prioritization this connection, the vast majority of the conversation about opioids and other addictions has been focused on needed changes in the medical profession, for law enforcement and the prevention of deaths. The Citizen Review Panel on Prevention (CRPP) process over the next six months will add to that conversation the reality of children, youth and families in this state, how communities are facing the issue and building needed supports for families; and where they are facing barriers and challenges to doing that through events around the state, as well as an on-line option for participation. As federally mandated review efforts, these panels will result in a report with recommendations to the Governor’s Office, multiple state departments, our Legislators and members of Congress.
Read our story on testimony collected for the CRPP.
Keep in touch with future events and on-line opportunities.


StudentSpeaks Around the State – 3/08/19

For the past several years, the Michigan Association for Community and Adult Education (MACAE) and Michigan’s Children have been facilitating opportunities for policy makers to hear directly from adult learners about their challenges and successes. After a successful round of student-led candidate forums last fall, we began the year with local StudentSpeak opportunities in different areas of the state, giving policy makers the ability to interact with local students and local programs. Decision makers are listening to students talk about the tie between more education and skill and better job prospects and how building their own skills has allowed them to better help their own children.
Region 10 StudentSpeak, Troy Athens High School, 2/25/19
Read the press release here.
Read the speakers’ speeches here.
Read a story about the event speakers and listeners here.
Kent ISD StudentSpeak, Kent ISD Adult Education, Wyoming, 3/4/19
Read the press release here.
Read a story about the event speakers and listeners here.
Region 8 StudentSpeak, Kalamazoo Community Education Center, 3/11/19
Read the press release here.
Read a story about the event speakers and listeners here.
Region 9 MichiganWorks! South East StudentSpeak, Commonwealth Commerce Center, Jackson, 3/25/19
Read the press release here.
Read a story about the event speakers and listeners here. (coming soon!)
Coming Up:
Dearborn Adult Education StudentSpeak, Michael Berry Career Center, 4/23/19


Spotlight on Juvenile Justice Alternatives – 12/10/18

Since the ‘90s, Michigan has funneled thousands of youth under 18 into adult corrections following passage of harsh laws aimed to get tough on juvenile offenders. Today, it is one of only four states – along with Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin – that still allows 17-year-olds to be charged as adults instead of adjudicating them in the juvenile justice system. Despite best efforts, the Raise the Age package failed to pass in this legislative session. Efforts will continue next year with a new Governor and Legislature.
Read our Spotlight on how Juvenile Justice programs succeed.


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.