July 2015 KidsCount Report on Leelanau County

The July 2015 KidsCount Fact Sheet for Leelanau County is available at:


Additional data on demographics, health status, risk factors, insurance, unemployment, assistance, school achievement, reading levels, graduation rates, etc. available on the KidsCount Website <http://www.aecf.org/m/r…/aecf-2015kidscountdatabook-2015.pdf>

Highlights from the Data Center:

16.2% (N-603) children in Leelanau County living in families below the poverty level
15.4% (N=2874) children in Grand Traverse County living in families below the poverty level
23.7% (N = 522,365) children in Michigan living in families below the poverty level

42.4% of Leelanau County students receiving Free/Reduced lunches because of family income level

This data confirms the need for affordable housing, economic development, private/public/non-profit partnerships, family support, early childhood programming, and quality/affordable childcare.  Please share your ideas and recommendations.  

League of Women Voters - Leelanau County Report to the County Commission (July 2015)

Because the League's message was cut short due to a time limit on public comment at board meetings, the full text of the League's Report is printed below:

                LWVLC Early Childhood Needs and Services Committee Presentation
                              to the Leelanau Board of Commissioners July 21, 2015

I.    Mission of LWV

The League of Women Voters Leelanau County is part of the national and state Leagues of Women Voters. The Leelanau League has 100 plus members and is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government. We work to increase understanding of major public policy issues and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.  Since its inception in 1920, the League of Women Voters has grown to have a presence in all 50 states with more than 800 state and local Leagues.
We address you tonight about our concerns related to early childhood needs and services here in Leelanau County.
The national and state Leagues of Women Voters have long been strong advocates for addressing early childhood needs. Our organization understood what research now shows, that each of the first five years of a child’s life are crucial in building the foundation for education attainment and greatly impact success or failure in later life. Additionally, the League believes high quality, developmentally appropriate, and voluntary early learning experiences should be available to all children.
In May 2013 the League of Women Voters Leelanau County established an Early Childhood Needs and Services Study Committee to inform, initiate, support and advocate, at the county level, for comprehensive and sustainably funded early childhood services within Leelanau County. Parenting Communities is one such service.  
II.    Concerns

With its notable geographic beauty, a growing population of well-to-do retirees, and its always-booming summer-home set, Leelanau County gives a first impression of peace, prosperity and general wellbeing. However, a deeper look reveals a very different experience for many of the county’s children and their families. This “invisible Leelanau” is reason for concern. The following information highlights just a portion what is often hidden from easy view.

Struggling families often translate into children who are not prepared for school.  A recent report by Public Sector Consultants and the Citizens Research Council estimates that 260,000 (56 percent) of Michigan children from birth to age three are at heightened risk of falling behind their peers in terms of school readiness when they reach kindergarten.  This leads to significant achievement gaps upon entering school — gaps that, for many, never narrow and can lead to other societal problems.  These gaps also lead to increased governmental costs.  

We know and appreciate that our Board of Commissioners is budget conscious.  Decreasing future costs is as important as keeping an eye on current costs.  So, if you only have one take-away from our comments here today, it should be that investment in early childhood programs makes good financial sense at the local, state and national level. Studies have shown between a 7% to 18% per year return on investment in the early childhood years based on increased school and career achievement, reduced costs in remedial education, and health and criminal justice system expenditures.  Programs that have documented success are home visiting programs; medical care for expecting mothers and newborns; high-quality childcare and preschool for 3-5 year olds. 

III.    The Future

The League has been impressed with the efforts of the Commission in identifying economic and housing goals that can ultimately support the Leelanau County community. We applaud your recommendation approving the 2 percent application from the Probate/Family Court for $65,280 to provide home visiting and other support services to families in need of assistance via a contract with Parenting Communities, in recognition that prevention is treatment.

Healthy and thriving children who are on track for school success are Leelanau County’s greatest resource. Ensuring this is the case becomes the responsibility of the entire community; but the County Commission plays an essential role in establishing priorities for support and funding.  Leelanau County has excellent, high quality early childhood services but obtaining sustainable funding to ensure that all children can participate in these programs has been difficult. Our County’s high average income masks the need at the lower income levels. Many funding sources do not consider children in our County to be “at risk” in comparison to those in counties with lower average incomes. Consistent, strong funding support is mandatory if Leelanau continues to make the high quality early childhood experiences available to all children. So long as many of our youngest residents and their families are struggling, we cannot claim success. 

We have noted your endorsement of the proposed Healthy Families goal, subsequently directed to the Health Department, whose funding is bare bones.  We ask that you find ways to increase the Health Department budget in order to aid them in implementation of their goals for healthy families. 

We also believe that children’s issues are frequently too narrowly defined and categorized as belonging only to the health or education system and ask that you look at and support children and family services in a broader context. This involves ensuring that services and supports for young children and families are available, comprehensive and integrated across systems. Examples that are currently underfunded or unfunded include programs such as “Healthy Futures” and the consolidation of services for families in a central, easily accessible center. 

True to the League’s mission to influence public policy through education and advocacy, we offer our active support in helping you ensure a persistent and specific focus on this population. We will continue to provide you research-based information related to young children and are willing to collaborate with you on these issues. We invite any of you to join our committee at our monthly meetings in the Munnecke Room at the Leland Public Library. We hope that you view the Early Childhood Needs and Services Committee of the League of Women Voters Leelanau County as a powerful resource available to you. 

Thank you for your time and attention this evening. 

Marian Kromkowski, LWV Leelanau County, President
Sue Miller, LWVLC Early Childhood Needs and Services Committee, Chair

Invisible Leelanau

Good things are happening in Leelanau County.  In so many ways, those of us living in Leelanau County must feel fortunate.  We have beautiful views and many wonderful natural resources, rich agricultural land, excellent schools, ‘best in the State’ health of its residents, relatively high median income and strong families.

But, we can and must do better!  High home costs preclude home ownership by many, employers are challenged by the shortage of employees, schools are facing significant enrollment decline and many of our young families are struggling to make ends meet. 

2015 ‘Invisible Leelanau’ indicators include the following:

Invisible Leelanau

  1. Over 10% of residents (560 or 15.1% children under 18) in Leelanau County are ‘Living Below the Poverty Level.’

  2. 1203 Leelanau County children are currently on a Department of Human services (DHS) caseload.

  3. 191 Leelanau County students have been identified by their school to participate in Leelanau Christian Neighbors’ ‘Blessings-in-a Backpack Program’ in order to avoid going hungry on weekends. 6,600 backpacks have been distributed during the 2014-15 school year.

  4. 263 Leelanau children are living in homes where less than 75% of the court-ordered child support is received. 65 children are living in homes where none of the child support owed is received.

  5. 601 Leelanau Families are eligible for Department of Human Services program support (Food, Emergency Relief, etc.)

  6. 986 (42.2%) Leelanau County students are on free & reduced lunch and their families struggle to access health care, housing, heat, transportation, childcare, clothing and food.

  7. Michigan has the 12th highest cost of infant care, with an average annual cost of $10,114 (Nearly half of the median income for a single mother.)

  8. The reported average cost of care for preschool age is $7,930.

  9. 866 Leelanau County residents (8.3%) have been identified as unemployed and looking for work.

  10. Many Leelanau County residents earn an annual wage significantly below the State of Michigan average and struggle with housing costs that are above the Michigan average. Although experts suggest families should not spend more than 45% of income on housing and transportation, the media-income Leelanau household spends 57% of their income on these necessities.

  11. Our county’s schools, like the rest of the schools in the Region/State/Nation, continue to experience significant achievement gaps for low-income students and face the challenges associated with lack of preparation/readiness for school.

  12. Quality Childcare/Preschool is unavailable to the large number of families caught in the middle between qualifying for Federal/State programs and being able to pay the approximate $8000.00 annual cost of quality care.

  13. Undocumented (& thus not counted) workers/families in our county continue to suffer from fear, poor living conditions and the lack of essential services.

  14. 93 Leelanau County Seniors (over 60) regularly visit the Northport & Suttons Bay LCN Food Pantries in 2014. Thirty-one seniors have received assistance from LCN Neighbor Assistance Ministry. Total senior expenditure in 2014 were $39,119.37

  15. Confirmed cases of ‘abuse or neglect’ in 2013 for Leelanau children ages 0 – 17 is 376.

  16. 41.6% of Leelanau County 3rd grade students tested ‘not proficient in reading’ in 2013.

  17. Leelanau Christian Neighbors Food Pantry statistics for 2014 include 7581 bags distributed with an average of 116 families and 363 family members served each week. (Duplicated numbers are 6014 families, 18,889 people, 12,649 adults and 6250 children). (2015-16 updated LCN Food Pantry statistics attached.)

  18. LCN Neighborhood Assistance Ministry (NAM) served 290 families with 437 payments totaling $102155 in 2014. (2015-16 updated statistics attached.)

  19. Like our neighboring counties, we know that our families have problems with drugs, alcohol, child abuse/neglect, hunger, suicide, loneliness, domestic violence and access to mental health services.

Sources: DHS Green Book (2015), The Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS Count Report, MLIVE (2014) Leelanau Christian Neighbors (2014-16), Networks Northwest Housing Reports (2014) & US Census Bureau’s Quick Facts

County government cannot unilaterally address these challenges.  But, we can work with community partners and be a part of addressing needs, promoting opportunities and moving forward.  Together, we can make Leelanau County an even better place to work, raise a family and retire. 

 Sources: DHS Green Book (2015), The Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS Count Report, MLIVE (2014) Leelanau Christian Neighbors (2015), Networks Northwest Housing Reports (2014) & US Census Bureau’s Quick Facts