Detroit's children face many challenges

The Associated Press Published:

DETROIT (AP) -- As Detroit struggles through bankruptcy, the city's young people face special challenges. A look at a few of the problems, and possible remedies:

-- Since 2002, Detroit Public Schools enrollment has declined from 164,496 to around 49,500. About 200 schools have closed in recent years due to depopulation; 97 schools are in operation now. The district is mounting an intensive campaign, including door-to-door outreach, in a bid to increase enrollment.

-- Gang violence is a major problem, directly affecting children and their families. In a recent survey of 1,300 high school students, 87 percent said someone in their family had been shot, murdered or disabled as a result of violence in the past 12 months. Neighborhood patrols have formed to safeguard children going to and from school, and the police department has launched a program trying to keep fight-prone students from getting expelled.

-- Rates of premature births, underweight babies and infant mortality are among the highest in the nation. Mayor Mike Duggan is asking the city's medical community to get engaged in reducing these rates.

-- The public bus system, which many high school students rely on, is considered inefficient and crime-ridden. Duggan wants to expand the fleet and fit existing buses with security cameras.

-- Only 25 of the city's 300 parks were in well-maintained condition last summer, according to the mayor. He has vowed to have 150 parks in good shape next summer, and is urging churches to launch an "adopt-a-park" program that might allow 50 more to be revived.