Kresge aims $20M for early childhood development effort

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

The Kresge Foundation announced Thursday a $20 million early childhood development program aimed at Detroit’s youngest and most vulnerable population.

Kresge Early Years for Success is a five-year initiative designed to promote the healthy development of Detroit children through high-quality early childhood centers.

It will fund neighborhood collaborations focused on early childhood development, support early childhood workers and redesign the infrastructure that supports young children throughout the city, foundation officials said.

The initiative will focus investments in new, comprehensive early childhood centers; below-market loans to improve current early childhood development facilities; and to improve maternal healthcare services and grants to support neighborhood early childhood collaborations and early childhood practitioners.

It will also focus on investments that draw national early childhood experience and expertise to Detroit and the formation of a leadership alliance co-supported with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that will bring together stakeholders from across all sectors in Detroit to create a strategic investment and action framework for the city’s youngest children.

“We will know Detroit is on the path to a full turnaround when there is evidence that its children are safe and healthy and when they are academically, emotionally, and developmentally ready to begin school,” Kresge Foundation President and CEO Rip Rapson said.

“But that is not the case now. With only 14 percent of Detroit children estimated to be kindergarten-ready and more than two-thirds living in poverty, we have a crisis that reverberates from generation to generation. We have to break the grip of this invidious cycle and provide our youngest residents with every full opportunity to thrive.”

Kresge commissioned a report from IFF, formerly known as the Illinois Facilities Fund, a nonprofit investor that works in Detroit neighborhoods and a key partner in its initiative.

The assessment showed that in 2015 Detroit had only enough high-quality childcare spots to serve 22 percent of its children ages 0-5 needing care.

“We want big changes for Detroit’s youngest children, and the development of new early childhood centers is the first step in demonstrating, and raising the aspiration for, what high-quality early childhood practice can be in Detroit,” said Wendy Jackson, deputy director for Kresge’s Detroit Program. Jackson is leading the KEYS: Detroit initiative.

“These centers will be multi-disciplinary and comprehensive, with health, human services, teacher professional development, and financial stability supports on site to serve the whole family in one location,” she said.