Foster kids’ stories inspire moves to reform

Capital News Service
LANSING – The number of Michigan children in the state’s foster care system is at its lowest in almost a decade, but anecdotes from kids within the system have legislators considering bipartisan reform. First term Rep. Jim Runestad, a Republican from White Lake, said he has spoken to Rep. John Chirkun, a Democrat from Roseville, about working together to improve the foster care system. Chirkun could not be reached for comment. About 18 foster children told legislators recently about their experiences in the system, highlighting issues such as sibling separation and limited resources available once they age out of the system. The children told their stories through an event called KidSpeak, organized by the nonprofit Michigan’s Children to help young people directly address legislators on issues affecting them.

More children eligible for free, reduced price lunches

Capital News Service
LANSING – Almost half the state’s public school students were eligible for free or reduced price meals during the 2011-12 school year, according to a report by Kids Count in Michigan. Forty-eight percent of students participate in the free or reduced price lunch program, according to the report, “Health Matters.”
Kids Count is a project that advocates for the health and wellbeing of children. The Michigan League for Public Policy and Michigan’s Children are the project’s partners. The percentage receiving free or reduced lunches increased 2 percent from the 2010-11 school year. Those involved in the project attribute the high, rising percentage to poverty in the state.

Child abuse rate among the highest in Cheboygan County

Capital News Service
LANSING – More children are facing abuse and neglect in the state due to unemployment and reduced incomes, with the situation worst in Cheboygan County, according to a social welfare advocacy group. More than 32,000 children statewide were reported as abused or neglected in 2010 — a 34 percent increase from a decade ago. Cheboygan is among the top three leading counties with abuse reports, with almost five out of every 100 children confirmed abused in 2010, according to the Michigan League for Human Services. “Substance abuse and limited resources would be the main reasons for child abuse and neglect in Cheboygan,” said Debra Turnbull, the coordinator of Cheboygan County Child Advocacy Council. “Cheboygan is a small rural community with limited resources,” she said.