MLPP Blog: Factually Speaking

Mass incarceration and the kids left behind

Added April 28th, 2016 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

Losing a parent to incarceration can be very traumatic for children. Not understanding why a parent is gone and can’t come home, wondering why he or she might be far away, being frustrated because frequent visits might not be possible all while the other parent undergoes tremendous financial and emotional stress.

In Michigan at least 1 in 10 children has been impacted by parental incarceration. This is one of the highest rates in the country—only Indiana (11%) and Kentucky (13%) have higher percentages of children who have had a parent incarcerated. As a result of mass incarceration and the “tough on crime” movement many children and families have been left behind in communities without adequate support and resources.

According to a new KIDS COUNT report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities, more than 5 million children in the United States have had a parent incarcerated at some point in their lives, including 228,000 in Michigan. With the recent interest to reform corrections policies, the report’s recommendations emphasize that children’s needs must not continue to be overlooked.

Incarceration destabilizes a child’s life in many ways. It causes stress and can have long-term effects on a child’s well-being. The report points to the trauma of being separated from a parent that when combined with a lack of sympathy or supports can increase mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. Losing a parent to incarceration can leave single mothers or grandparents with unexpected financial responsibilities—on top of the emotional strain—which can make it harder for the caretakers left behind to provide emotional support to the affected children.

Casey Incarceration Report_Michigan_Percent

Additionally, when fathers are incarcerated, the average family income drops by 22% leaving families unable to afford necessities, like food, utilities, rent and medical care for their children. The loss of income is only exacerbated by high court-related fines and fees, telephone calls, and costs to travel to visit since oftentimes the parent is incarcerated far away from home. The report cites research that found that if incarceration rates had not increased so significantly between 1980 and 2004, then the U.S. poverty rate would have fallen by 20% rather than remain steady.

The report points to three broad goals with specific recommendations in each:

  • Ensure children are supported while parents are incarcerated and after they return;
  • Connect parents who have returned to the community with pathways to employment; and
  • Strengthen communities, particularly those disproportionately affected by incarceration and reentry, to promote family stability and opportunity.

Michigan has the opportunity to make changes through sentencing reforms to control the prison population, increased funding for prisoner education and training, support for “ban the box,” removing our 17-year-old children from the adult prison system, improved reentry support and by facilitating access for affected families to financial, legal, child care and housing assistance.

Bottom line: as discussions to reform the criminal justice system continue, the needs of children must be prioritized as systems make decisions about sentencing parents in order to minimize the impact that incarceration has on children. All kids should have a fair chance to thrive.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

Economic recovery leaves Michigan children behind

Added July 21st, 2015 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

Michigan is the “comeback state,” so we’ve heard. But, for whom? Michigan has more children living in poverty now than it did in the last full year of the Great Recession. Not only that, but since 2008, there are more children whose parents lack secure employment and more children living in concentrated poverty. Children and families in Michigan are being left behind in the economic recovery. (more…)

Schools out! Why some kids aren’t as excited for summer

Added June 29th, 2015 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

As we counted down the last days of the school year, most of us were excited planning our summer vacations and camps. At the same time, too many kids were wondering how they were going to eat over the summer – something most of us take for granted. (more…)

Third grade reading initiatives must include reducing poverty

Added June 15th, 2015 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

In March, following his budget recommendation to invest $48.9 million towards a comprehensive state plan to improve third grade reading, Gov. Snyder created a workgroup to study the issue and develop recommendations. The bipartisan group released its report last week and should be commended for identifying strategies that recognize the importance of early childhood development, connect the issue to poverty, and realize the role that parents play, plus they seem to have abandoned the idea that retention policies are helpful. (more…)

Support family homes to get kids out of shelters and group settings

Added May 19th, 2015 by Stacey Range Messina | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Stacey Range Messina

An alarming number of foster kids in Michigan live in group homes and emergency shelters. Nearly half of whom have no clinical need to be there, and far too many are staying well beyond what is legally acceptable, according to today’s Kids Count policy report Every Kid Needs a Family: Giving Children in the Child Welfare System the Best Chance for Success, from the Annie E. Casey Foundation

The reasons? A lack of community services to allow children to stay safely in their homes and an inadequate supply of kin or foster homes. Agencies should be encouraged to provide more services in home and community settings. Family supports shield children from the further trauma of being placed in out-of-home care. (more…)

Children’s Health Insurance Program in jeopardy

Added March 25th, 2015 by Jan Hudson | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jan Hudson

More than 40,000 Michigan children could be at risk of losing their healthcare coverage if Congress doesn’t act and approve funding to continue the Children’s Health Insurance Program. A compromise was reached last Friday between House Democratic and Republican leaders to extend funding for two years with the current policies. While this is not perfect (a four-year funding extension under current policies would have been preferable), it is better than the proposal developed by the House and Senate chairs of the committees responsible for CHIP. The House committee chair is Michigan’s Representative Fred Upton who now will have the opportunity to support the compromise and be a champion for 40,000 Michigan children. If the compromise passes the House, efforts are expected in the Senate to strengthen the funding extension to four years under current policies. (more…)

Michigan needs a comprehensive approach to third grade reading

Added March 24th, 2015 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Reading proficiently by the end of third grade is a critical benchmark for future academic success, so Michigan policymakers have been seriously considering strategies to improve the chances that more children will reach this goal. After third grade, children read to learn, and half the curriculum materials in fourth-grade require grade-level reading skills. Three of four third-graders who struggle to master reading will continue to struggle as high school students. A comprehensive approach is needed to improve early literacy for children in Michigan.

(more…)

Making kids count in the state budget

Added March 5th, 2015 by Gilda Z. Jacobs | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Gilda Z. Jacobs
From the First Tuesday newsletter
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Conditions for Michigan’s kids are progressing in some areas of child well-being but in others…. well, let’s just say we’ve got some major work ahead of us, particularly when it comes to economic security. That’s the upshot of the newly released Kids Count in Michigan Data Book.

Fortunately, the budget plan spelled out by Gov. Rick Snyder last month does a good job in a tight budget year of addressing inequities by making some investments that will drive improvements for Michigan’s kids.

Most welcome is a $49 million initiative, including $24 million for child care quality improvements, to increase the chances of more children reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

(more…)

Child poverty in the 21st century

Added February 27th, 2015 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

The number of Michigan children living in families with income below the poverty level drops by half when tax and non-cash benefits are included as income, according to the latest analysis from the national KIDS COUNT project at the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The percentage of the state’s children who would be living in poverty if no government program benefits and tax credits were available, however, stood at 30 percent, as calculated by the Supplemental Poverty Measure. (more…)

Why kids count

Added February 19th, 2015 by Jane Zehnder-Merrell | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Recent news reports celebrate the decline in the unemployment rate and the quickened tempo of the recovery. But four years into the recovery, Michigan’s child poverty rates remain consistently high.

In 2013, one of every four children in Michigan lived in a family with income below the federal poverty level (roughly $18,800 for a single-parent family of three and $23,600 for a two-parent family of four), according to the latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book, released today. (more…)

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