Speaking for Kids, the Podcast from Michigan’s Children

Welcome to the Speaking for Kids Podcast page from Michigan’s Children. Each month we will present a new podcast led by host Matt Gillard, Michigan Children’s President & CEO, on a variety of crucial conversations with people making public policy decisions regarding children, youth and families in Michigan – along with the voices of people impacted by those decisions. Our goal will be to help you strengthen your voice to speak up for the changes we need to improve the lives of Michigan’s kids and families, and encourage champions like you to get involved in the issues we’re fighting for!

Look for us on the hosting sites – Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube. Contact program producers, Teri Banas at teri@michiganschildren.org and Stephen Wallace at stephen@michiganschildren.org, with suggestions for future podcasts.

And if you’re new to podcast listening, here’s a web article that promises to lay it out the basics for beginners, including finding a podcast on your computer using a web browser, or through an app loaded on your iPhone or iPad.

Kinship Care in Michigan: The Case for More Support
Episode 21
September 26, 2023

As advocates from the Michigan Kinship Care Coalition (MKCC) gathering for a Legislative Day in Lansing to address state lawmakers, host Matt Gillard talks to two guests about the changes needed to assist more kinship parents in raising children outside the formal foster care system. Joining him this month are Stephanie Armendariz, senior policy analyst, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, and author of the new research brief, Diverting Children from Foster to Kinship Care: The Issue and the Evidence; and, Deborah Frisbie, co-chair of MKCC’s Policy & Advocacy Committee. The advocacy group Generations United estimates that for every one child being raised by kin who are registered as formal foster parents with government supports and services, there are 18 kids being raised by relatives under informal arrangements and absent necessary services.

Kinship Care in Michigan: The Case for More Support (recording)
Kinship Care in Michigan: The Case for More Support (YouTube)
Diverting Children from Foster to Kinship Care: The Issue and the Evidence (June 2023) Stephanie Armendariz, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (pdf)

Big Wins in Michigan’s FY24 Budget for Afterschool, Adult Ed, Homeless Youth
Episode 20
July 17, 2023

Speaking for Kids podcast host Matt Gillard from Michigan’s Children talks with three top state advocates about the sizeable funding wins in the new FY24 state budget for afterschool programming, services for homeless and runaway youths, and adult education and literacy help. Listen in as Matt welcomes Patrick Brown, Executive Director of the Michigan Adult, Community and Alternative Education Association; Ben Moe, President, Michigan Network for Youth and Families; and Erin Skene-Pratt, Executive Director, Michigan Afterschool Partnership. Hear what these unprecedented and historic funding increases mean for real service improvements and outcomes for youth and families, what made the difference in budget advocacy this year, and lessons advocates can take away from these important new successes.

Watch this episode on YouTube or stream it on Apple Podcast and other services.


Examining the Adopted FY24 Michigan State Budge: Unprecedented Improvements and Missed Opportunities for Children, Youth and Families

As FY24 State Budget Talks Wind Down, Insiders Share What Advocates Should Know

Episode 19
May 23, 2023

Speaking for Kids podcast host Matt Gillard talks inside politics around the FY24 State Budget with two veteran Lansing lobbyists. As state budget negotiations begin winding down to a conclusion next month, Matt welcomes two Capitol insiders experienced in fight for children’s issues to discuss what the new fiscal year’s budget holds for kids and families. What do the latest state revenue estimates mean for programs and services we care about most? And how can advocates follow through on these issues. Listen in as Matt welcomes Andrea Cascarilla from the Government Policy and Practice Group at Dykema, a leading law firm, and Matt Kurta, a long-standing partner with Karoub and Associates.

Find it on YouTube, and streaming sites.

Empowered Youth Speaking Out about Gun Violence

Episode 18
March 24, 2023

Speaking for Kids host Matt Gillard speaks with state Sen. Rosemary Bayer about gun reforn bills in the Michigan Legislature that she and other Democrats have sponsored as the state deals with the aftermath of the mass shooting on the campus of Michigan State University in February. Joining them is MSU Senior Dylan Gebhard, an activist with the Sit Down MSU and Students Demand Action movements. In this podcast, Gebhard discusses how the issue is fundamental for today’s students, who have grown up participating in school shooting drills, and refuse to accept school gun violence as status quo. The entire campus is mobilized around the issue, regardless of race, gender or class, he said. Sen. Bayer, whose district includes Oxford which experienced a mass shooting in late 2021, called gun reform the number one factor for legislators, and urged constituents to stay involved. More and more legislative opponents are finding the issue difficult to ignore because of ongoing student pressure, and the frequent presence of students on the Capitol steps, Bayer added.

Watch this episode on YouTube or stream it on Apple Podcast and other services

How Gov. Whitmer’s Universal PreK Plan Impacts Early Childhood

Episode 17
Feb. 28, 2023

Michigan’s Children’s Speaking for Kids Host Matt Gillard explores Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s “universal PreK plan” to expand access and eligibility to the state’s Great Start Readiness Program to all interested families of 4 year olds. Presented in the Governor’s recent State of the State address, it’s a bold plan that has raised interest and some concern among early childhood providers and advocates. Listen in as Matt welcomes Dawne Bell, CEO of Michigan’s Early Childhood Investment Corporation, one of the state’s leading voices on early care and education, and Jeffrey Capizzano, founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Policy Equity Group. Capizzano is working with Michigan’s early childhood community to evaluate how to implement the proposal in Michigan.

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or here to access the YouTube recording.

Gun Reform is a Children’s Issue

Episode 16
Jan. 30, 2023

Firearm injuries and deaths in the United States have increased in recent years and adversely affect many children and adolescents. Among children 0-19, gun-related violence became the leading cause of child mortality in the United States – exceeding car accidents – just two years ago in 2020. Host Matt Gillard welcomes gun reform activists Imani McKissic and Christopher Smith to the podcast to discuss the Governor’s recent call for legislative action addressing gun violence during her State of the State address. McKissic, 19, now a college sophomore, lost her brother Michael McKissic II in an unsolved drive-by shooting in Lansing when she was 12. In his memory, her family started the to Mikey23 Foundation help mid-Michigan youth learn a skilled trade. Michigan State University professor Smith is the executive director of the Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence working to prevent gun violence through community education and beneficial gun policies.


Child and Teen Firearm Mortality in the U.S. and Peer Countries / The Kaiser Family Foundation

The Impact of Gun Violence on Children and Adolescents / The Kaiser Family Foundation

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

Justice by Geography? Addressing Juvenile Detention

Episode 15
November 18, 2022

Host Matt Gillard is joined on the Speaking for Kids podcast by three special guests to discuss glaring problems that came to light in the Wayne County youth detention system this fall. In a series of investigative reports by the Detroit Free Press, issues surfaced in the ways youths were detained – often for prolonged periods of time and in inhumane conditions – inside Wayne County’s Juvenile Detention Facility this past year. What does it say about the way we rehabilitate – or fail to rehabilitate – youth offenders, and the need for reforms? What should be done to more effectively move youth offenders on the road to rehabilitation for society’s benefit and their own? Joining Matt are Detroit Free Press Investigative Reporter Christine MacDonald, who with co-writer Gina Kaufman, exposed serious failings and licensing violations in the County’s detention facility that led Gov. Whitmer to announce creation of the Michigan Juvenile Residential Facilities Advisory Committee. Also on the podcast with us is parent Dinah Campbell, whose son, now 18, spent seven months at the Wayne County detention facility. Rounding out the panel is Rusty Merchant, of McAlvey, Merchant & Associates, a lobbyist working for juvenile justice reforms in Michigan.

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

What’s in Store for Kinship Care in Michigan?

Episode 14
August 29, 2022

Host Matt Gillard explores an important family issue that’s thankfully gaining greater attention at the Capitol lately. With 54,000 children living in kinship care families in Michigan, Matt discusses the issue of formal and informal kinship care arrangements with two top advocates, David Berns and Erin Peets. Both serve as members of the Michigan Kinship Care Coalition and the Kinship Advisory Council to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. David Berns, now retired was most recently the Director of the Department of Human Services for the District of Columbia. He was also the Director of the Office of Children’s Services for the agency now called the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. It was there that he realized that kinship care is often the best way to keep children safe without placing them in foster care. Erin Peets, a lawyer, is the grant manager at the Elder Law & Advocacy Center, which offers free legal services, education, and assistance to older adults and caregivers throughout Wayne County.

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

Change is Coming: Youth and Michigan’s Justice System

Episode 13
July 27, 2022

This week President & CEO Matt Gillard welcomed two members of the Michigan Task Force on Juvenile Justice Reform to the Speaking for Kids Podcast to discuss a series of 32 recommended reforms that hold the promise of transforming the state’s court system for youth. Jason Smith, executive director of the Michigan Center for Youth Justice, and John Casteel, a former youth involved in the juvenile system, said they were optimistic that the work of the task force will result in a more fair system for young people, with more protections, diversion strategies, and improved opportunities for youth to thrive.

Among the panels’ priorities were helping to keep young people out of detention facilities; reducing the number of incarcerated youth for low-level offenses; providing better legal representation; providing community-based family counseling and mental health treatment; and eliminating onerous fines and fees charged by juvenile courts.

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

Key takeaways

Read the full Task Force report

The Business Case for High-Quality Child Care

Episode 12
May 26, 2022

Michigan’s Children’s Speaking for Kids Podcast with Matt Gillard returns with senior economist Tim Bartik, of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, to address the acute and long-term crisis in child care, its impact on labor markets in Michigan, and what state policymakers should do with billions of dollars in one-time revenue windfalls. Tax cuts or spending on investments with long-term gains, such as child care and preschool? Listen to Bartik’s advice on the opportunities before us, and help advocate before state lawmakers for investments that matter to us, kids and families.

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

Fostering Early Childhood Mental Health: A Timely Talk with
Eminent Researcher, Dr. Walter Gilliam

Episode 11
April 11, 2022

“I look at data for a living, but rarely do I ever do statistical analysis and look at the data and want to cry over it,” Yale University’s eminent child psychiatrist Dr. Walter Gilliam told Michigan’s Children’s Matt Gillard on the latest episode of Speaking for Kids. Addressing recent findings that underscore the incredible level of stress that early childhood caregivers are living with – 56% were screened for diagnosable levels of depression in a recent pandemic-related study – Gilliam and Gillard discuss Michigan’s experience with the state’s infant early childhood mental health consultation program and the significant positive impact it has on our youngest children and their adult caregivers. Once at the forefront of the social-emotional development field, Michigan failed to adequately invest in this particular mental health program, unlike states such as Ohio to the south. Today, Michigan’s Children and advocates are making a strong push to expand infant early childhood mental health services by seeking a $6.8 million investment that would help bring consultation services to beleaguered child care providers across the state.

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

Tax Reform: Which Plan Works Best for Children, Youth and Families?

Episode 10
March 13, 2022

Michigan’s Children President & CEO Matt Gillard sat down with former State Treasurer Nick Khouri to discuss the most recent state tax proposals under debate in Lansing, and the potential impact on state revenues and future investments in programs serving children, youth, and families. Tune in to hear them break down the EITC, Pension Tax, and a possible General Income Tax Cut, and what advocates need to know to continue championing better services for our kids and families!

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

Reforming Kinship Care in Michigan

Episode 9
January 25, 2022

What are kinship families and why are they gaining greater attention in Michigan, most recently among recommendations of a House Task Force on Adoption and Foster Care? Speaking for Kids Podcast Host Matt Gillard, president & CEO of Michigan’s Children, explores the issue with two guests, attorney Shannon Urbon, executive director of The New Foster Care, and Ryleigh Frisbie, a self-described “kinship kid” from Northern Michigan. Join us as we learn about long-awaited supports for kin caregivers, the grandparents, great-grandparents, aunties, cousins and older siblings who traditionally have stepped up to provide loving homes for children experiencing trauma. For the vast majority, however, they’ve done so without financial help and services children require. Hear what might be changing for these Michigan families, and how you can advocate before decision-makers.

Click here to access an audio version of the episode, or find it by subscribing to Speaking for Kids at no cost on a favorite streaming site.

Additional Resource:
House Adoption and Foster Care Task Force Report (PDF) (November 10, 2021)

What ‘Build Back Better’ Will Mean for Michigan with Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Episode 8
December 6, 2021

Senator Debbie Stabenow, the senior Senator from Michigan, joins Matt Gillard in a special Speaking for Kids episode to discuss the prospects for the Build Back Better Act before the U.S. Senate with key provisions for cutting taxes for families (via expanding the child tax credit), universal pre-K, child care, prescription drug prices, and more. She offers her perspective on passing the historic landmark legislation by Christmas and has a special message for the Michigan Legislature. Listen today!

The podcast is available on streaming sites today and can be accessed on our website here.

Additional Resources:
Michigan’s Children Report: Build Back Better Promises Game-Changing Investments for Michigan Families

ReImaging Child Welfare: Discussing the Latest House Task Force Report on Foster Care

Episode 7
December 3, 2021

This month’s Speaking for Kids podcast features an important conversation about Michigan’s foster care system and how recommendations of a new bipartisan task force could raise needed reforms. “Reimaging Child Welfare: Discussing the latest House Task Force Report on Foster Care” brings together three guests with insider knowledge on Michigan’s foster care system, a public policy priority area of Michigan’s Children. Joining host Matt Gillard are Shannon Urbon, executive director of The New Foster Care, and Alexis and Justin Black, Michigan natives who spent portions of their childhoods in foster care. They recently wrote the memoir, “Redefining Normal: How Two Foster Care Kids Beat the Odds and Discovered Healing, Happiness and Love.”

The podcast is available on streaming sites today and can be accessed on our website here.

Additional Resources:

House Adoption and Foster Care Report (PDF) (November 10, 2021)

Redefining Normal (website) with Justin and Alexis Black

What Michiganders Want: Investments in Children

Episode 6
September 28, 2021

Michigan voters say we must invest in children. In the newest episode of Michigan’s Children Speaking for Kids, host Matt Gillard leads an important conversation on the results of a new statewide public opinion poll that finds Michigan voters strongly support greater investments in the state’s 2 million children, even if it means raising taxes. Matt and guests break down what 800 likely 2022 General Election voters had to say about their priorities for kids – overcoming learning loss due to the pandemic, supporting kids’ mental health, and boosting jobs and skills training, among others. They also discuss the key take-aways for child and family advocates working to improve the odds for all children in Michigan. Matt’s guests are Todd Patterson, president of the Washington, D.C. strategic planning firm, Public Progress, and Patrick Brown, Executive Director, Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education.

Listen to an audio version of the podcast here.

Is ’60 by 30’ Achievable for Michigan? The Promise and
Reality of a Postsecondary Education

Episode 5
August 30, 2021

Speaking for Kids, the podcast, explores the statewide drive to urge more Michiganders of all ages to achieve a postsecondary degree or credential from a community college, 4-year university, technical or internship program. With more than 70% of today’s jobs requiring a degree or credential, host Matt Gillard discusses Michigan’s goal to see 60% of the population attain a career-enhancing degree or credential by the year 2030. Joining him are two special advocates for college access: Michele Strasz, Executive Director of the Capital Area College Access Network, and Sydney Newsome-Smith, a Detroiter serving as a youth ambassador for the Detroit College Access Network, and incoming freshman at Michigan State University. They’ll discuss the need to create a college-going culture in Michigan, and the challenges facing college access for many Michiganders, including ways to avoid crippling college debt by finding scholarships and school aid to pay for it.

Listen to the audio version of the podcast here.

Why Michigan Students Need Afterschool More than Ever

Episode 4
July 23, 2021

For every child in afterschool, 3 are waiting for an available program, according to America After 3PM. Demand is growing. But how’s Michigan’s supply shaping up, especially now as student learning has been set back because of the global pandemic? Michigan’s Children President & CEO Matt Gillard welcomes two top afterschool advocates to Speaking for Kids, the Podcast: Fran Talsma, Executive Director of the State Alliance of Michigan YMCAs; and Matt Watrous, Lead Director for Government Relations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Even while federal relief dollars have streamed into Michigan to support programs struggling through the pandemic, Talsma and Watrous detail the benefits of community-based programs in youth development and the necessity for reliable statewide funding to begin expanding opportunities for Michigan’s children and families.

Listen to an audio version of the podcast here.

Decision Time: Lawmakers Discuss Governor’s $1.4 Billion Plan
for Michigan’s Child Care System

Episode 3
June 30, 2021

State Reps. Ranjeev Puri and Greg VanWoerkom, members of the Governor’s Task Force on Child Care, and parents of school-age children of their own, sit down with Host Matt Gillard to discuss the Legislature’s plan to take up the Governor’s $1.4 Billion plan to address the state’s child care system and the 8-bill package of reforms working through the Legislature. An issue that’s plagued working parents for years, child care access and affordability reached a critical point during the pandemic with 100s of thousands of women leaving the workforce in Michigan. VanWoerkom and Puri discuss how the issue has gained bipartisan support and what the prospects are for real change in this and future budget cycles.

Find it on YouTube here.

Transforming Michigan’s Child Care System: A Call to Action

Episode 2
May 12, 2021

With $1.4 Billion in new federal relief dollars targeted for Michigan, state lawmakers and the Whitmer Administration have an unprecedented opportunity to make some real change in the state’s struggling child care system, which is inaccessible for many working families and untenable as a business model for many child care providers. A successful state economy needs a strong child care system for its working parents and their employers. Join us as host Matt Gillard, President & CEO of Michigan’s Children, discusses transforming the state’s child care system with guests Denise Smith, Director of Detroit’s Hope Starts Here early learning framework, and Sheri Williams, owner/operator of Agape Love Child Care Center in Detroit.

Find it on YouTube here.

Rookies Lawmakers across the Aisle: Matt Gillard Talks
with Representatives Abraham Aiyash and John Roth

Episode 1
April 14, 2021

In this inaugural episode, host Matt Gillard sits down (via Zoom) with two freshman lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican persuasion to talk about bi-partisan issues impacting children and families, and what they’re learning from their constituents. In a refreshingly candid interview, the freshmen lawmakers discuss issues of shared concerns: poverty, food deserts, child abuse, kinship care, the struggles families have with child care, and the help their constituents are asking for, in both rural and urban parts of Michigan. Listen in as Aiyash and Roth pledge to work together on issues of shared importance to their vastly different districts in Hamtramck (near Detroit) and the Grand Traverse Bay region.

Find it on YouTube here.