February 3, 2020

Monday, February 3, 2020

MI Philanthropy Continues to Support Literacy Work and Families

Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced last week during her State of the State address that her office is partnering with a number of CMF members to help families navigate the 3rd grade reading law.

The Battle Creek Community Foundation, Community Foundation of Greater Flint and The Skillman Foundation were named by the governor during her televised State of the State address for their commitment to this partnership.

Those foundations along with the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) have indicated their commitment to be a part of a collaboration with the governor’s office that will share information about what is being done to support Michigan’s children in the area of literacy and to discuss new strategies to support families.

“Across our state, funders and nonprofits have been helping families understand the law and the supports available to keep their children progressing at grade level. These efforts have varied from community to community,” Punita Dani Thurman, vice president of program and policy for The Skillman Foundation said. “This partnership will establish shared approaches and resources to ensure parents can navigate the reading law and its impact.” 

As we know Michigan philanthropy is working every day to support families and communities across the state. Literacy is an issue area in particular that many CMF members have been working deeply in, some for the last decade or more. This work is a partnership with educators and with nonprofit partners leading on the ground efforts. 

“In Flint, we see every day that our focus on early childhood education has made a tremendous positive impact on children and families. To help families navigate third grade success, we will continue our partnership and support of the Flint and Genesee Literacy Network,” Isaiah Oliver, president and CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Flint said. “Our entire community is being uplifted by the Network’s two-generation approach to literacy and working with parents as the best advocates for their children.”

CMF and the Office of Foundation Liaison (OFL) are supporting CMF members in this collaboration as foundations work with their nonprofit partners to support families.

Want more?

Read the full text of Governor Whitmer’s State of the State address.






 “Justice for All” to Host Town Halls in GR, Detroit

The Justice for All (JFA) Task Force is holding two town hall meetings this month to get input from the public to develop a comprehensive plan to fill gaps in access to our civil justice system.

As CMF reported last summer, the Michigan Supreme Court created the task force to work toward achieving 100 percent access to our civil justice system.

JFA shares the importance of this work on its website:

  • The right to a lawyer applies only in criminal cases, not civil cases.

  • In the last year, seven out of 10 low-income households had at least one civil legal problem.

  • Due to funding limitations, legal aid agencies must turn away over half of those who seek their help. ​

  • In three of four civil cases, at least one side represents themselves in court because they can’t afford to pay an attorney. ​

  • Only 10% of people with civil legal problems recognize their issue has a legal component that may be solved by the civil justice system. 

JFA shares that of more than 30,000 eviction cases in Detroit annually, only about 4% of those tenants had legal representation.

The task force is working on assessing resources in the state and identifying gaps that may be barriers for residents, particularly low-income residents, when it comes to dealing with civil legal concerns such as health insurance, veterans’ benefits, child custody and landlord issues.

JFA is hosting its first town hall in Grand Rapids on February 14 and then heading to Detroit on February 24.

The 16-member task force is comprised of stakeholders within the community, court and legal system. The task force includes Martha Gonzalez-Cortez of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation and Sonja Bonnett, a community legal worker with the Detroit Justice Center, which is supported by a few CMF members.

Jennifer Bentley of the Michigan State Bar Foundation (MSBF), a CMF member, is serving on the task force and participating on the planning team. She shared the importance of philanthropy being involved in these conversations.

“The philanthropic community understands and invests in programs that address challenges related to housing, health, safety, education and work force development. Although not always apparent, these issues often involve a legal component that may be solved by the civil justice system,” Bentley told CMF. “Every year, numerous families in Michigan encounter life-altering problems they are unable to resolve because of the complexity of the civil court system. Through partnership and innovation, we can create a civil justice system in Michigan that allows everyone to access meaningful and effective help navigating the court system and resolving their civil legal problems.”

Bentley said that the upcoming town halls will provide a forum for the task force to gather input and highlight the scope of the issue.

Beyond the town halls, the task force is also gathering feedback through focus groups and surveys. Once that work is complete the task force plans to develop and implement a comprehensive approach to address the gaps and eliminate the barriers facing Michigan residents in the civil system.

Want more?

Learn more about the Justice for All Task Force.

Attend one of the JFA town halls.






The Future of Aging Services in MI

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has released its 2019 Annual Report on Aging and Adult Services and is asking for public input on a new state plan designed to service the state’s older adult population.

According to the report, 2.4 million Michigan residents—over 2% of the population—are age 60 or older. Over 38% of the state’s households have a person 60 or over living in their residence. The report also highlights changes in the racial demographics of the aging population.

The report was composed by the Aging and Adult Services Agency (AASA), housed within MDHHS. AASA highlighted the need for collaboration to serve Michigan’s aging adults.

“As we look to the future, we see opportunities to collaborate with existing and new partners to ensure our programming continues to meet the needs of older adults and addresses changing demographics,” Dr. Alexis Travis, senior deputy director, AASA, said in the report. “We look forward to partnering with organizations and individuals across the state towards this endeavor.”

In addition to the report, AASA has partnered with the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging (MCSA) to develop a new statewide plan to address the needs and gaps in care for Michigan’s aging populations.

The State Plan on Aging, expected to be finalized July 1, will focus on coordination of service providers and advocacy for Michigan’s older population and caregivers, as well as integrating health care and social services delivery. The plan for 2018-2020 can be found here.

Last week AASA and MCSA launched a series of community conversations, asking for public input on the plan and how it can address the needs of older citizens and their caregivers. If you would like to get involved in the conversation 16 events will be held around the state through March 17. Both agencies emphasize the importance of public perspectives for the development of the new plan.

“Whether you are an older adult, a caregiver, or someone working with older adults in a volunteer or professional capacity, we urge you to participate in these community conversations,” Dona Wishart, chair, MCSA, said in a press release. “Your feedback is imperative to ensuring the new state plan addresses the critical needs of older adults in our state.”

For anyone interested in providing input but who cannot make a community meeting, AASA has an online survey as an option to welcome insights.

Michigan’s philanthropic sector continues to support the state’s aging population through funding and initiatives designed to increase access to care and key services.

In 2018, the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation (RCWJF) announced a $2 million investment in the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, to create a full-time staff position focused on supporting caregivers for aging adults.

“Being a caregiver can be both rewarding and challenging, and a role that many in our communities will find themselves in at some point in their life,” Amber Slichta, vice president of programs, RCWJF, said in a press release. “There have been unprecedented technological and societal advances since the time today’s seniors were children and we have an incredible opportunity to collaborate with our partners to develop and uncover innovative programs and new systems that can support our caregivers and improve the quality of life for all in our communities.”

Additionally, RCWJF launched the Transformational Healthcare Readiness through Innovative Vocational Education (THRIVE) partnership in 2019, investing $20 million to support caregivers and improve retention rates.

Last year, CMF shared that the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation (AAACF) announced the winners of a competition designed to catalyze high impact innovation and solutions for seniors and their caregivers.

“Michigan is undergoing a major demographic shift with a growing proportion of residents representing the 60-plus age range,” Neel Hajra, CEO, AAACF, said regarding philanthropy’s role in serving Michigan’s aging populations. “This presents both opportunities and challenges for all our communities. AAACF believes that philanthropy is uniquely situated to lead the way in leveraging those opportunities and identifying solutions to challenges so that residents of all ages continue to thrive."   

Members of CMF’s Michigan Grantmakers in Aging (MGIA) Affinity Group cite the importance of philanthropy’s role in addressing the needs of the state’s aging population.

"The Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation is one of the few philanthropic organizations with the mission of supporting improvements in the quality of life for our senior citizens,” Vincent Tilford, executive director, Luella Hannan Memorial Foundation and chair of MGIA, said. “However, our society tends to ignore and marginalize our elders. As Michigan's population of seniors grows, philanthropy has a critical role to play in addressing ageism and ensuring that older people can be full participants in their communities."

Want more?

Read AASA’s 2019 report and learn about their planned community meetings on the new state plan on aging.

Learn how to get involved with the MGIA Affinity Group.

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