Detroit Head Start providers get $2M to expand preschool services

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit – — The largest expansion of Head Start in Detroit’s history was unveiled Tuesday, made possible by the collaboration of eight major foundations and $2 million in grants to providers.

Marcella Wilson, president and CEO of Matrix Human Services, said the investment by the Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund, used to leverage and support a $48 million federal investment in Head Start programs in Detroit, was a profound turning point in the effort to provide program and services for the city’s youngest and most fragile citizens.

“Just last year, the entire city of Detroit had only 95 slots for babies 0 to 3. Today, over 1,000 slots are planned for Detroit’s families,” Wilson said. “You don’t hear this next sentence very often: Thank you, Washington, D.C.”

The fund, created by eight foundations that are part of the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, will provide more than $4 million over two years to support Head Start services in Detroit.

In addition to Matrix, the agencies awarded grants Tuesday are Metropolitan Children and Youth, New St. Paul Tabernacle and Starfish Family Services. Starfish Family Services is lead partner for a consortium of Head Start agencies that includes Southwest Solutions, Focus: HOPE, and Development Centers, Inc.

The grants are part of a one-of-a-kind initiative created by eight foundations that make up the collaborative — the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the McGregor Fund, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Jewish Fund and PNC Foundation.

Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, said it’s not every day that eight major foundations align in such a significant way to address an important need.

“This is an important time to make an investment in Head Start in Detroit,” Noland said. “Our Head Start partners made the bold decision to apply for the funds and think innovatively about how to seize the important moment for Head Start and Detroit.”

The grants announced Tuesday will be part of a common data collection effort led and coordinated by HighScope, a research-based early childhood education and evaluation company, and ardentCause L3C, a data collection, analysis and communication firm.

Those companies will help the agencies augment data already collected by Head Start to support data-driven learning and better decision-making, officials said.

In addition, all the Detroit agencies will meet regularly over the next two years to share information and outcomes and build best practices for Early Head Start and Head Start service delivery.

Wendy Jackson, program officer with the Kresge Foundation, said it’s an opportunity to use a data-driven process to find out what is working and what is not.

“And make continuous improvements in programming. We want to invest in what works,” Jackson said.

Grants at a glance

Starfish Family Services:

$750,000 to provide Head Start preschool services to nearly 1,300 children and families, including home-based services for infants, toddlers and pregnant women. The grant will cover an intensive professional development program for teachers.

Matrix Human Services:

$668,392 for Head Start services to 1,927 children and families in the Detroit neighborhoods of southwest, eastside and central. Their work will focus on providing quality early childhood education for the children while linking parents to educational opportunities and economic resources.

Southwest Counseling Solutions:

$75,000 to support two community-based doulas — pregnancy and early infancy coaches — to provide birth and parenting support to pregnant women and new mothers. This is the first program of its kind in Detroit to reach out to low-income mothers with doula (non-medical) services.

New St. Paul Tabernacle:

$300,000 to implement evidence-based tools and professional staff development in its Early Head Start and Head Start programs serving 88 infants and toddlers, 475 preschoolers and 20 pregnant women.

Metropolitan Children and Youth Inc. (also known as United Children and Families):

$190,000 to support services for 512 children and their families, including prenatal care, full-day, full-year infant and toddler programs, and create spots for 210 additional children in its preschool programs. The grant also will support formative assessment, professional development for teachers and enhanced data gathering, tracking and reporting.