Michigan lags in child well-being. Investing in accessible childcare could be key to fixing it.  ⋆

Fourteen percent of children in the state live in families that have made job changes due to problems with child care and affordability, according to new data from the Michigan League for Public Policy (MLPP).

That finding is one in a collection of statistical observations that place Michigan at 32nd in a ranking of child well-being in U.S. states. 

The 2023 Kids Count Data Book, released by the MLPP alongside the youth and family advocacy organization Annie E. Casey Foundation, reveals several factors keeping Michigan in the bottom half of states on issues pertaining to child welfare. 

Anne Kuhnen, the director of Kids Count Michigan at the MLPP, said the data takes into consideration factors such as family and community health, economic security and education. She said lawmakers should use the report’s findings to guide legislative solutions. 

Whitmer to propose budget increases for childcare, contraception, school meals and maternity care

“I think it’s important for our legislators especially to know how we stack up on a national scale,” Kuhnen said.

The report shows that many of the challenges children face in Michigan tie back to the economic stability of the families they grow up in – 680,000, or 32% of children in Michigan have parents currently lacking stable employment, an increase from 26% in 2021. 

Kuhnen said that the report’s observations on economic security illustrate an ever-present issue – the lack of access to affordable childcare.

“It shows that too many families in Michigan are struggling to find affordable, accessible and quality childcare, which is not just holding back families with young kids, but also our economy because we all rely on a functioning childcare system,” Kuhnen said.

When parents or guardians have to make employment decisions based on childcare, they’re often forced to deal with financial insecurity, Kuhnen said. Childcare access also disproportionately affects already marginalized communities.

“Having your job affected by childcare issues is even more acutely felt for certain groups of children,” Kuhnen said. “So Black and Latino children, children with single moms and also children in low income families [are more impacted].”

As for what lawmakers can do to address the issues outlined in the report, Kuhnen said that Michigan is on the right track so far with policies predicted to find footing in the forthcoming state budget. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she hopes to see budgetary increases for child and maternity care coupled with funds from COVID-19 relief and the state’s budget surplus to improve conditions for Michigan families. 

“State leaders here in Michigan have already shown that they’re to some degree prioritizing childcare through some of the recent investments in, for example, a set of grants for new childcare businesses or to keep businesses operating,” Kuhnen said. “But of course, more obviously needs to be done.”

Kuhnen said that a key part of improving childcare is understanding its “true cost,” or working to make sure that teachers and childcare providers are paid adequately to address shortages. 

“Right now we can be maximizing what remains of those pandemic recovery resources to fund childcare services,” Kuhnen said. “But in the long term, we need to be focusing on really investing in the true cost of care and growing the critical workforce in the childcare sector.”

The MLPP used the data found in the report to make a series of recommendations for policymakers at the state and federal levels, calling upon Congress to reauthorize and expand programs like Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act. 

In a column, MLPP Fiscal Policy and Government Relations director Rachel Richards said that there are a variety of opportunities for legislative improvements at the state level.

“Lawmakers should prioritize expansion of the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative, maintaining investments in the childcare subsidy program, strengthening social safety net programs, strengthening healthcare and implementing a weighted school funding formula that targets resources to address opportunity gaps faced by students,” Richards said.

Richards said that choosing to invest in families will be critical for Michigan as it faces an aging population and a struggle to retain young adults, but that positive change is possible.

“As we stand at this crossroads, the path forward must include stronger investments in people,” Richards said. 



authored by Lily Guiney
First published at https%3A%2F%2Fmichiganadvance.com%2F2023%2F06%2F15%2Fmichigan-lags-in-child-well-being-investing-in-accessible-childcare-could-be-key-to-fixing-it%2F

Comments are closed.