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K-12 Education

Reducing Child Abuse through Proactive Support

When The Skillman Foundation was established in 1960, our founder Rose Skillman had already established a long history of supporting institutions and programs that protect the well-being of vulnerable children. Through her endowment, Rose’s commitment to children remains. We, the current team members, are privileged to carry it forward.

Protecting the well-being of children—particularly those most vulnerable—has been top of mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when families are distanced from their social networks, including schools, resource providers, and, in some instances, medical providers, it is difficult to know how children are faring. What we are painfully aware of is the hardship and stressors that the pandemic has brought to all of us—but particularly to those with the fewest resources. COVID-related illness. Death of family members. Loss of jobs. Disconnection from others compounded by a digital divide. An uncertain future. All of these impacts have been amplified in Detroit, where around 80% of children and their families face concentrated poverty.                                                 

How are the children? And who is leading efforts to ensure they are well?

Detroit is fortunate to have many individuals and organizations working hard on behalf of kids. Just one that I would like to highlight here is a joint effort between Brilliant Detroit and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. MDHHS had identified four tiers of child abuse risk factors and signaled alarm that stressors from the pandemic and the shelter-in-place policy would push more children into the highest risk categories. They needed partners who had relationships with parents such that they could reach out to them and connect them to MDHHS resources. It was a shift for MDHHS, which usually operates through direct “cold” referrals, an approach that would be all the more difficult during the pandemic.

The Skillman Foundation and Casey Family Programs provided grant funding for MDHHS to work with Brilliant Detroit to help ensure families have the supports they need—and to ensure that all children are well. This is a pilot program funded in the hope that it may allow MDHHS to seek additional federal funding to expand and sustain this program beyond this initial effort in response to the Covid pandemic.

Read more about the work that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Brilliant Detroit are doing in an article by Second Wave Media.

Matthew Hoerauf

Supports school climate and culture strategies for the K-12 Education area and leads connections with basic needs providers. Also provides support to the Enabling Communities area.

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