Sen. Jones honored by pastors for work supporting children, families

LANSING—Members of Shepherding the Next Generation (SNG) presented Sen. Rick Jones with the 2014 Fellowship & Stewardship Award at an Honors Breakfast in Lansing on Tuesday. 

Jones was recognized for outstanding fellowship shown to Michigan’s children and families through support of proven programs that help prepare the next generation of family and community leaders.

“I am truly honored to receive this award from pastors and ministry leaders who are dedicated to strengthening our families and communities through education,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “I have long supported early-childhood education programs that have a proven record of benefitting both students and taxpayers. By better ensuring that children are prepared to learn, we can help improve a child’s chance at success and also reduce the number of students who need to repeat grades, which can save Michigan taxpayers millions of dollars each year.”

Pastor Chris Carter, youth pastor at Northpointe Community Church in Dewitt and an executive committee member of SNG, presented the award.

“Shepherding the Next Generation’s member pastors are pleased to acknowledge the work of Senator Rick Jones and present him with our Fellowship & Stewardship Award,” said Carter. “It is in recognition of his support for our children through funding of quality preschool for eligible 4-year-olds in Michigan. This program is essential to prepare the next generation of community leaders.”

The effort to fully fund the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) – Michigan’s state-funded preschool – was spearheaded by Gov. Snyder, who indicated in his State of the State address that he wanted to make Michigan a “no-wait” state for preschool.  The governor was also presented the Fellowship & Stewardship Award for his collaboration with lawmakers to increase the GSRP by $130 million to provide access to high-quality preschool for all eligible 4-year-olds.

Shepherding the Next Generation – Michigan is part of a national nonprofit membership organization of evangelical pastors and ministry leaders who are committed to strengthening families and communities by strengthening the next generation.

According to SNG, “For young children, early education can help lay the foundation for future academic and social success. For many children at risk, their parents cannot always afford quality early education programs and the surrounding circumstances often take priority over a parent ensuring their child is ready for school. As a result, too many disadvantaged children start school already behind their classmates in early math and reading skills. They often lack the social skills needed to follow teachers’ directions and get along with their peers. These problems can create a pattern of failure that lasts a lifetime. High-quality early childhood education can give at-risk children the strong start they will need in school and in life. Research of the Perry Preschool in Ypsilanti shows that, among participants in the program versus those not in the program, high school graduation was significantly higher, students graduated on schedule and had higher incomes. This adds greatly to individual, family and community stability.

“Further, the programs save valuable taxpayer dollars though substantial savings produced when successful students are less reliant on social welfare or involved in the justice system.”


Senate approves Jones’ foster children bills

LANSING—Legislation sponsored by Sen. Rick Jones to help ensure the best care and placement for foster children was approved on Thursday by the Michigan Senate.

“During my time in law enforcement, I saw first-hand some of the horrible situations many young children must endure in Michigan,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge. “As a foster grandpa, I have also seen the strength that children possess to make it through hard times.”

Jones said that the University of Michigan Law School Legislation Clinic brought the measures to his attention.

“I have been working with them, the Children’s Law Section Council and the state Department of Human Services, to make sure that we are helping our foster children,” Jones said.

Senate Bill 994 would allow for reinstating parental rights if a biological parent has proven that he or she is now fit to care for their child and if that child is still a legal orphan.

SBs 995-997 would place a greater emphasis on sibling placement and visitation with both siblings and parents. If siblings cannot be placed together, then a priority of visitations and ongoing interaction will be emplaced to ensure a sibling bond. SB 997 would allow visitation between non-custodial, biological parents and their children with approval of the court.

“It is important to keep family units together, and a bond between siblings is one of the most cherished parts of a family,” Jones said. “I have seen the positive impact of placing siblings together in my own daughter’s home. Likewise, as long as there is no harm to a foster child seeing their biological parent, they should be able to spend time together and preserve their family bond.”

SBs 994-997 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.