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Philanthropic Collaboration and Action Offers Hope for Detroit’s Children

The path to change our communities starts with Detroit’s children and developing a comprehensive and coordinated early childhood support system. Ninety percent of a child’s brain is developed by the time they are 5 years old, which means a community needs resources focused on early childhood development. This is especially imperative for Detroit, where there are nearly 30,000 eligible young children who currently have no access to high-quality early learning and care programs.

Recognizing that one of the best measures of a city’s well-being is how it helps children realize their nearly unlimited potential, leaders from W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Kresge Foundation decided to take action. They formed an unprecedented collaboration to create an action plan to generate an equitable, world-class Detroit for the city’s young residents and their families. The “Hope Starts Here” plan focuses on interventions to catch kids before they fall behind.

Hosted by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, the “Hope Starts Here: Detroit’s Early Childhood Partnership” session brought together the leaders moving this community engagement and strategic planning process forward to share how organizations can get involved.

Key Takeaways:

  • Detroit parents want a world-class community to raise their children. They are eager to do what is necessary to create upward mobility for their children.
  • Children under stress suffer damage to the early architecture of their brains. Young brains develop 1 million neuro connections every second that support learning and skills.
  • The current state in Detroit is stressful for the growth of these children and some go to school just to eat.
  • There are three key principles to know regarding early education transformation:
    • The well-being of children is unfinished business
    • Investing in early childcare is a smart public investment and it will take all hands on deck to get this done
    • Everybody in Michigan needs to put their hands on the wheel
  • The problem runs a lot deeper than Detroit. The problem lies in state cuts to education.
  • Detroit’s narrative must change. In the ’60s, Detroit had more than 74 percent employment and was thriving. Education was solid and opportunities were rich. Detroit developed capable students that could pursue any career path they desired and it can again when we decide to act.
  • The Grand Bargain was just one piece of a revitalization strategy that had to start with Detroit’s children and neighborhoods.
  • Transformational investments must be about the people.
  • It must be a comprehensive approach, with all the people affected at the table including residents, parents and the business community because this is also a workforce issue.
  • This plan can essentially create thousands of jobs that are needed to serve young people and we need to build a strong workforce.
  • All of the services for children from the day they are born until they attend school must be weaved together.
  • Currently, Detroit does not have a department dedicated to coordinating all youth services. “Hope Starts Here” is identifying all the players needed to make this happen, but it will take state funding.

Panelists included: Mike Duggan, mayor of the city of Detroit; Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation; Rev. Larry Simmons, executive director of Brightmoor Alliance; and La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This session was moderated by Mary Kramer, group publisher for Crain’s Detroit Business.