Michigan kids are facing an increased rate of abuse and neglect, high poverty, unstable family employment and significant academic challenges, according to the newly released 2018 Kids Count Data from Michigan League for Public Policy.

>>See the full report<<

The survey measures the well-being of children in 82 Michigan counties and then ranks them. Each county is judged by statistic, measuring economic security, health, education, family and community. It compares data from 2010 to 2016, on everything from poverty and infant mortality rates to college readiness.

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The report found poverty and other economic strains remain a significant problem for Michigan kids, especially kids of color.

While the rate of child poverty in Michigan has improved by 11.5 percent since 2010, more than 1 in 5 kids in Michigan—including 42 percent of African-American kids and 30 percent of Latino kids—still lived in poverty in 2016.

The survey also found 31 percent of children in Michigan lived in families without year-round, full-time employment.

The top five counties for child well-being in 2018 are Livingston (1st), Ottawa (2nd), Clinton (2nd), Oakland (4th), and Washtenaw (5th). The bottom five counties in 2018 are Lake (82nd), Clare (81st), Muskegon (80th), Calhoun (79th), and Oceana (78th).

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“The results are staggering,” said Ja’nel Jamerson, the director of the Flint and Genesee Literacy Network.

He said the rankings are the result of severe economic and social disadvantages that children in the are face, but believes they can be addressed.

“We’re seeing that in some areas we’re improving, but overall there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of support for children and families in our community,” Jamerson said.


The highest-ranking county in Mid-Michigan was Midland, finishing 8th overall. Clare County was the worst-ranked county in Mid-Michigan, ranking 81st out of 82. Here’s a look at all of the Mid-Michigan rankings:

Bay County – 36th Clare County – 81st Genesee County – 71st Gladwin County - 57th Gratiot County – 41st Iosco County – 75th Lapeer County – 13th Midland County – 8th Oscoda County – 62nd Saginaw – 45th Shiawassee County – 28th Tuscola County – 35th
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Even though the Flint and Genesee areas ranked far below average, there are several areas of improvement.

“This is really a road map for us, a road map for those of us who want to change the trajectory for kids and their families so it’s taking that information, figuring out what do we do, what kind of investments we need to make and bringing the community together to do that,” said Gilda Jacobs, the president of the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Jacobs said the Kids County has already shown several avenues of success, especially through early education and development.

Key policy recommendations

One of the key policy recommendations from this year report is to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old. Michigan is one of only five states yet to do so, and a bipartisan package of bills to change the law has already been introduced.

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“By passing the ‘raise the age’ bills, lawmakers could make a difference in improving the lives of Michigan’s kids and bettering our state,” said Alicia Guevara Warren, Kids Count in Michigan project director. “Regardless of their offense, 17-year-olds in our state are being punished for a lifetime, facing traumatic experiences, getting a criminal record and missing out on education and rehabilitation services. However, with age-appropriate treatment, many will have the opportunity to be productive and help strengthen their communities.”

According to the report, youth who are charged in the adult system do not receive adequate education or age-appropriate treatment and services. Kids housed in adult correctional facilities face a higher risk of being physically or sexually assaulted, and are much more likely to recidivate or commit more violent offenses than youth served by the juvenile justice system.

The report also recommends strengthening policies that allow families to keep more of what they earn, ensure access to affordable, high-quality child care, expand home visits to give access to prenatal care and reduce risk for child abuse and neglect, as well as provide early interventions to improve third-grade reading.

Jamerson said another key factor is to encourage learning within the home.

“Parents are responsible for shaping the home learning environment for their children, so we want to make sure that they are empowered with all of the tools necessary to make those highly enriched learning environments.

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