State of Opportunity special looks back on five years of reporting on low-income families

May 4, 2017
Originally published on May 3, 2017 4:52 pm

State of Opportunity began in 2012.

Since then, the State of Opportunity team has brought us hundreds of stories exploring the barriers to success that low-income kids and families in Michigan face.

In its final special for the project, Stateside looked at three major areas for State of Opportunity stories: infant mortality, early childhood education and what happens when young people age out of foster care.

State of Opportunity reporters on what has, and hasn't, changed for Michigan's low-income families

Dustin Dwyer and Jennifer Guerra are two of the reporters who worked on State of Opportunity. 

With Stateside, they discussed how three key areas of their coverage – infant mortality, early childhood education and challenges for young people aging out of foster care – have changed since the project began five years ago.

In-home visits, education for families help reduce infant mortality in Michigan

Too many Michigan babies are dying.

For every 1,000 babies born in our state, roughly seven won't make it to their first birthday. That's a full point higher than the national infant mortality rate. When you break that down by race, the numbers are more disturbing.

African-American babies are twice as likely to die before they turn one than white babies, and in some Michigan cities, that disparity is much higher.

Amy Zaagman, executive director of the Michigan Council for Maternal and Child Health, spoke with Stateside's Cynthia Canty about the slight improvement in Michigan's infant mortality rate and what else can be done to keep babies healthy and safe.

Free day care changed this family's future. An anonymous donor made it possible.

Among the hundreds of stories produced by the State of Opportunity team was one about a Hillsdale couple, Amanda and Mike Hood, and their two young daughters.

Their story put a spotlight on the challenges low-income families face in finding affordable child care and preschool.

At the time of this 2013 report from Jennifer Guerra, the oldest daughter Emma was five, and little Gracie two.

Amanda Hood spoke to Stateside about how her life has changed since that report and how a State of Opportunity listener played a role in her family's success. 

Without access to affordable child care, Michigan's talent pool will erode, says state official

Again, one of the biggest obstacles for low-income and poor families: child care and preschool. It's hard to get a job or go to classes when you have a 2-year-old on your hip.

Susan Broman, deputy superintendent of the P-20 System and Student Transition at the Michigan Department of Education, gave Stateside an update on the state's efforts to increase access to early childhood education and care. 

After aging out of foster care, college student finds success with help from mentors, faith

Michigan Radio’s State of Opportunity team has spent a lot of time exploring foster care in Michigan and what happens once kids age out of the system.

Michigan is now one of the few states that gives young people the option to stay in foster care until they're 21.

But it wasn’t always that way. In most states, you age out when you're 18. That used to be the case in Michigan, too.

Jasmine Uqdah of Detroit aged out of Michigan's foster care system before the state raised its age limit. She was only 19 when she landed in the real world with no safety net.

Stateside spoke with Jasmine Uqdah to hear what life is like seven years later. 

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