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Report: Child care severely lacking in Northeast Michigan

News File Photo Athena Honson is seen playing with one of the toys at TOTally Kids Daycare Center in this 2020 News archive photo.

ALPENA — Child care remains severely lacking in Northeast Michigan, according to a report this week from the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alcona counties in November counted a combined 1,277 spots at 13 child care centers, according to reports released Wednesday by the League.

But those counties counted 3,079 kids up to age 5, meaning Northeast Michigan has more than twice as many kids as it has child care slots available.

Access to child care can be more than just a hassle. It can cause economic heartaches, too.

A May 2021 survey by the Federal Reserve, for example, found 22% of Americans said they were either not working or were working less out of concerns for child care, a problem exacerbated by at-home schooling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those parents staying home adds to the employee shortage plaguing businesses across many industries.

In Northeast Michigan, the situation is worst in Montmorency and Alcona counties, where officials counted more than three kids for every one child care slot.

That makes those areas what the League calls “child care deserts”.

Meanwhile, the data collected by the League shows Northeast Michigan families aren’t getting all the help available to them to access child care.

Check out the interactive graphic below. Story continues below.

For example, the League says about 40% of Northeast Michigan kids live in families with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty level — or $39,750 a year for a family of four.

That would make those families eligible for child care subsidies to help cover the cost of sending kids to day care, but less than 5% of Northeast Michigan kids live in families actually receiving those subsidies.

“Michigan is moving in the right direction, with $1.4 billion in child care funding and significant investments in child nutrition, infant and maternal health, and more included in the 2022 state budget,” Monique Stanton, president and CEO of the League, said in a statement. “But we must do more to ensure kids and families are actually accessing the programs they need, as this information reveals marked disparities.

“This could be happening for a lot of reasons,” Stanton added, “but there are clearly gaps where families need support and aren’t getting it, and policymakers and policy advocates need to work together to address that.”

Statewide, 44% of Michiganders live in child care deserts, according to the League, but only about 5% of families receive child care subsidies.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today announced a combined $1.1 million in Child Care Stabilization Grants, which includes $1,000 bonuses for child care workers, across Northeast Michigan.

The League’s report examined various aspects of childhood well-being, with mixed results for Northeast Michigan kids:

* The rate of confirmed victims of child abuse or neglect fell in Alpena and Presque Isle counties, but climbed in Montmorency and Alcona counties.

* The rate of children living in out-of-home care, such as foster care, remained flat in Alpena County, fell in Presque Isle County and Alcona County, and climbed in Montmorency County

* The share of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood fell in all four Northeast Michigan counties.

* The share of immunized infants climbed in Alpena County, Montmorency County, and Alcona County, but fell in Presque Isle County.

“The data show that many rural communities in Michigan — as well as some urban and suburban areas — have limited access to child care or specialized medical services, including mental health care,” Ann-Marie Faria, a researcher at the American Institutes for Research, who leads the Michigan Preschool Development Grant Needs Assessment, said in a statement. “This information can serve as a catalyst for government agencies, organizations, and communities to collaborate and identify solutions that provide citizens with equitable access to key services and opportunities.”

Northeast Michigan Fact Sheets by Justin Hinkley on Scribd

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