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Michigan lags behind neighbors in child well-being

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While Michigan is making some progress in terms of children's well-being, a new report shows it still falls behind neighboring states.

The 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation assesses how kids are doing in the areas of health, education, economic well-being, and family and community.

At the Michigan League for Public Policy, Michigan KIDS COUNT Project Director Alicia Guevara Warren described the state as "in the bottom half" of the list for many measures.

"While we saw some good improvements in economic well-being for kids - around poverty and parents lacking secure employment and high housing-cost burdens - we continue to be ranked 31st," she noted, "which means that other states are also improving at much higher rates than we are."

Michigan ranks 33rd for overall child well-being in the report, which Warren notes is below other Midwestern states. An estimated 21 percent of Michigan kids live in poverty, compared with 19 percent nationally.

The report also warns a possible under-count in the 2020 Census could make the status of Michigan's children even more precarious. Warren explained the state receives more than $4 billion annually from the federal government for the top ten programs supporting kids.

"It has a direct impact on the amount of funding that supports some of our programs that are really needed," she said. "Things like Head Start and Medicaid, and school funding. All of these things are really important to being able to support our kids who need services the most."

About 62,000 Michigan kids live in areas considered hard-to-reach by the U.S. Census bureau. Laura Speer, associate director for policy reform and advocacy at the Casey Foundation, said the census needs to fully fund state and local outreach, and broaden the group of people and organizations who can reach hard-to-count areas and encourage participation.

"There is a lot of fear of whether or not the information in the census might be used against families," Speer cautioned. "So, it's important to make sure that groups like childcare providers, churches, schools and libraries are places where people feel safe to fill out the census form."

The report notes the under-count of young children has worsened with each census since 1980, and in 2010 had a national under-count of 1 million children under age five.

The full report is online at aecf.org.

Vincent Duffy has been news director at Michigan Public since May 2007.
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