When it comes to early childhood development and education, no single child can afford to be left behind.
According to Michigan’s Early Childhood Investment Corporation, quality early childhood development not only prepares children for long-term success and independence, but it also helps break the cycle of poverty for low-income families and contributes to the nation’s economic and social health. The Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative is bringing the issue of childhood development into focus by supporting higher quality services and stronger outcomes for Detroit’s children.
Formed in August 2010 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), Kresge Foundation, Skillman Foundation, Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, McGregor Fund, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, The Jewish Fund and the PNC Foundation, the group works to improve the strength and impact of conversations about early childhood development and education while also defining a more strategic process in awarding grants tailored toward helping the area’s most vulnerable young children.
“The collaborative was an important first step for those of us involved. It was – and still is – a great way to share what we’re continuously learning about early childhood development and education and keep dialogue ongoing and fresh,” said Sharnita Johnson, Detroit program officer for the Kellogg Foundation and co-chair of the collaborative.
Investing in early childhood initiatives helps boost Michigan’s local and state economies by ensuring that there is an educated and skilled workforce that is ready to compete in the 21st century global economy. According to Nobel laureate and economist James Heckman, for every $1 invested in high-quality pre-school and evidenced-based early childhood programs, taxpayers save $7 long term due to lower rates of grade retention, special education and crime, among other things.
“The importance of childhood education is huge, and when the collaborative formed back in 2010, its primary focus was simple – establish a workable agenda that would successfully move young children in the city of Detroit forward,” said Wendy Lewis Jackson, deputy director of the Kresge Foundation and co-chair of the collaborative.
According to Jackson, the creation of the collaborative was an important step in generating the right conversations about early childhood development and education, as it now acts as a bridge of communication for so many organizations already committed to serving Detroit’s youngest children. In March 2014, the collaborative reaffirmed its commitment to improving conditions for Southeast Michigan’s youngest children when it announced the formation of a new $4.5 million fund to benefit Head Start programs in Detroit. The Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund will award competitive grants to newly selected Detroit Head Start grantees to foster innovation and collaboration and to support higher quality services and stronger outcomes for young children and their families.
In Wayne County, which is home to the city of Detroit, 53 percent of young children (age 0-5) are eligible for food assistance, compared with 37 percent in Michigan.
“With the creation of the Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund, the collaborative was truly able to take the opportunity to help improve the Head Start system in Detroit and develop a great program tailored to create high quality early education experiences for very vulnerable young children in the city,” Johnson said.
Head Start organizations provide financial support for promising new projects and programs specifically targeted at uplifting the community’s youngest and most vulnerable children, Johnson said. She stated that because of the Detroit Head Start Fund, these providers are better positioned to share best practices for early childhood caregiving and education. Additionally, the fund provides them with access to shared resources in early childhood education, including research, data, national experts and training.
“In the past few years, the collaborative has had a significant focus on bringing both financial and intellectual resources into the city of Detroit to benefit its youngest and most vulnerable children, so the fund further allows us to build off of that by providing Head Start organizations with the opportunity to create very positive outcomes,” Johnson said.
The creation and launch of the fund was the collaborative’s first strategic and systemic effort and was developed to be replicated in other markets. Leading the way with an initiative focused on Head Start was intentional because of the collaborative’s desire to secure greater quality programs for early childhood development and education.
“As more and more funders express genuine interest in developing a system of care for the youngest children in Detroit, it is an opportune time for us (at the collaborative) to really assess how we can continue to be more strategic with grant-issuing, as our primary concern will always be moving very young and vulnerable children in the city of Detroit forward,” Jackson said.