August 23, 2019

Child welfare study shows worsening economic trends in Ogemaw County

Michigan falls to 30th in terms of overall child welfare


OGEMAW COUNTY — The latest Kids Count report indicates a downward trend for the state of Michigan in terms of child welfare, and Ogemaw County has experienced a similar trend regarding its economy.

The report, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, lists Michigan as 30th out of the 50 states in overall child welfare, compared to 27th in 2009 and 2008. The top three states in terms of child welfare, were New Hampshire, Minnesota, and Vermont.

Walt Kaniszewski, Director of the Ogemaw County and Roscommon County Michigan Department of Human Services, said the state’s economic situation has an impact on child welfare.

“Obviously, the economy is really taking its toll on us,” he said. “There’s been hemming and hawing about extending unemployment benefits. It’s just a said turn of events. You can’t gloss it over.”

Kaniszewski added that the economic downturn has caused an increasing amount of people to turn to the DHS for assistance.

“These are people we would not have seen five or six years ago,” Kaniszewski said.

The report shows that Ogemaw County’s employment situation has taken a turn for the worse as well. In terms of economic well-being, the data shows that in 2008, 55.2 percent of Ogemaw County students received a free or reduced price lunch, compared to 45.8 in 2007. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the county rose from 8.4 percent in 2007 to 9.6 percent in 2008.

In other categories, the percentage of births with less than adequate prenatal care in Ogemaw County increased from 16.1 percent in 2006 to 18.8 percent in 2007. The percentage of confirmed victims of abuse or neglect in the county among children ages 0-17 declined from 25.8 per 1,000 in 2007 to 23.2 per 1,000 in 2008.

Also, the number of births to teens ages 15-19 in Ogemaw County declined from 39.2 in 2006 to 36.6 in 2008, while the percentage of children in poverty among children ages 0-17 in the county declined from 29.5 percent in 2006 to 27.8 percent in 2007.

West Branch-Rose City Area Schools Superintendent Dave Marston said it is important for students to have their basic health, nutritional, and safety needs met in order for them to learn better.

“It should be the mission of all of us to address those concerns,” he said.

When discussing the free and reduced lunch situation in the WB-RC district, Marston said that as of October 2008, 53 percent of students in the district receive a free or reduced price lunch. He said that in Rose City Elementary School, that total is at 75 percent, while in Rose City Middle School, that total is at 69 percent.

Marston added those percentages have likely increased since October 2008.

“Those numbers have not changed,” he said. “If anything, they’ve gotten worse because of the economic conditions.”

To help combat that situation, Marston said the district offers a free universal breakfast for all of the district’s students.

“We certainly encourage them to take advantage of that,” he said.

Marston added that some students do not take advantage of the free lunch because of fear of being labeled.

Michigan experienced a mixed bag of results when it came to various categories in the study.

The state ranked tied for 24th in terms of percentage of low-birthweight babies in 2007, at 8.2 percent. Low-birthweight babies were defined in the study as weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth. Regarding infant mortality rate, Michigan came in tied for 40th at 7.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2007.

Michigan finished in the upper half of states when it came to child death rate, defined as deaths per 100,000 children ages 1-14, in 2007. The state finished tied for 15th with a rate of 18 deaths per 100,000 children. In addition, Michigan finished tied for 19th in teen death rate, with 59 deaths per 100,000 children ages 15-19 in 2007.

In terms of teen birth rate, or births per 1,000 females ages 15-19, Michigan ranked tied for 14th with a rate of 34 per 1,000 in 2007.

A total of six percent of Michigan’s students ages 16-19 were not attending, nor graduated from, high school in 2008, good for a 15th pace tie with nine other states. Additionally, eight percent of Michigan’s students ages 16-19 were neither working nor attending school in 2008, which left Michigan tied for 21st with 12 other states.

The state experienced its worst ranking when it came to percentage of children where neither parent had full-time, year-round employment. Michigan ranked 44th in that regard at 31 percent.

In a related category, Michigan ranked tied for 32nd regarding percentage of children in poverty, defined as income below $21,834 for a family of two adults and two children, in 2008. A total of 19 percent of the state’s children met those criteria. A total of 32 percent of Michigan’s children lived in single-parent families in 2008, which ranked tied for 23rd with five other states.


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If someone would take the time to revamp the entire welfare system, get rid of the tens of thousands of cheaters, I don't think the state would be in such dispair. If you drink and smoke, you don't need foodstamps. Go into a grocery store on the first of the month and look what's being purchased with the bridge card. I work a full time job and I can't afford to eat what they buy. The Schwans truck takes the bridge card...another 'finer food' that I could never afford! I think the lunch program is great. It's not a childs fault....but come on...lets get on the ball!

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