Created Equal: Flint’s Rx Kids program aims to abolish childhood poverty

The program will provide every pregnant mother in Flint cash payments during pregnancy and throughout the child’s first year to accommodate families’ basic needs.

Mother holding the hands of a new born baby.

A new first-of-its-kind pilot program is underway in Flint to provide guaranteed income for new mothers and babies, with the goal of putting an end to childhood poverty in the city.

The Rx Kids program — spearheaded by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, founding director of the Pediatric Public Health Initiative, in collaboration with University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative and other community partners — will provide every pregnant mother in Flint cash payments during pregnancy and throughout the child’s first year to accommodate families’ basic needs at such a critical stage of the child’s life.

The program is being funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the State of Michigan, and will serve approximately 1,200 mothers per year for a total of 6,000 served over five years, according to the city. Each pregnant mom and all babies born in 2024 in the city of Flint will receive a one-time, unconditional cash payment of $1,500 mid-pregnancy, as well as $500 per month for 12 months once the baby is born.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha and Poverty Solutions Director Luke Shaefer joined Stephen Henderson on Created Equal on Wednesday to discuss the origins of their approach and why they think this method will make a difference in childhood poverty rates, as well as how they plan to sustain the program.

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Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the associate dean for public health and C. S. Mott endowed professor of public health at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine. She believes trusting families to know what is best for them is the best approach.

“Mom’s don’t need to go to five more classes to tell them what their doing wrong. They need the basic resources to help take care of themselves and take care of their child,” Hanna-Attisha said.

Luke Shaefer is the co-director of Rx Kids and the director of Poverty Solutions, a University of Michigan initiative to find news way to prevent and alleviate poverty through action-based research. He says by giving out cash payments to everyone it helps remove stigma typically associated with other welfare programs.

“It’s a very different thing to say we’re giving you this money because you can’t handle your business; you’re poor. Versus, we’re giving you this money because you’re doing one of the most important things if not the most important thing for society, which is raising your kid,” Schaffer said.

Listen to Created Equal with host Stephen Henderson weekdays from 9-10 a.m. ET on 101.9 WDET and streaming on-demand.

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