Imperative #3

Impact Dashboard

Results-Based Impact

Imperative #3: Increase the overall quality of Detroit's early childhood programs

Summary:  These include the program's services and environments, where young children spend their time, such as child care centers, pre-k programs and, are key to advancing children's development and ensuring they are ready to begin kindergarten. Yet many of Detroit's children are not getting the high-quality experiences they need and deserve to prepare them for the next stage of their education. Across five scales of Early Development- including physical health and well-being, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills and general knowledge only 5.3 percent of Detroit children scored "Very Ready" when entering kindergarten. Ensuring children's early childhood experiences effectively aid their development depends on both the overall quality of the programs and the early childhood professionals who teach and care for them during these formative years.

Detroit's Context


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Like many communities nationally Detroit's early childhood workforce is drastically underpaid and faces a fractured credentialing process. Analysis from census and survey data can be used to describe population-level financial and educational characteristics of the ECE workforce in Michigan, Wayne County, and Detroit. Research from the Policy Equity group notes that "Early childhood education professionals in the City of Detroit are under remarkable financial stress:" (27). Over 80 percent of ECE professionals in Detroit do not earn a living wage, which is defined as $10.87 per hour for a full-time working adult with no dependents. This percentage is significantly higher than that of Wayne County (60%) and the state as a whole
(51%). (27). Head Start teachers are only a portion of the early childhood workforce in Detroit, this finding is consistent with the organization's additional finings that "88 percent of Detroit Head Start teaching staff" reported at least some difficulty paying bills. Additionally, data shows disparities in the educational attainment of ECE professionals in the City of Detroit compared to the rest of Michigan. Only 38 percent of ECE professionals in Detroit had a bachelor’s degree or higher from 2014–16, compared to a statewide average of 53%.(27). The lack of resources and adequate training for these essential educators hurts the outcomes of children who participate in their programming, decreasing the chances that students enter kindergarten ready to succeed. Furthermore, fractured training protocols and different licensing standards, create a system that lacks continuity and can at times leave teachers inadequately trained to perform their work. (22).

Policy Alignment

Advocates should build off the work of the state's Department of Education and Office of Great State. Advocating for initiatives like Wage increases, and Scholarships for Early Childhood Professionals aligns with priorities 3.2 and 3.4 of the HSH policy priorities. This effort to provide financial support to the ECE workforce will help to improve the quality of ECE professionals. Additionally, redefining licensing and Higher Education certification programs will align well with HSH priority 3.1. Improving the training ECE professionals receive will also help to promote a higher quality of care.

Research and Resources:

  • Lieny Jeon, Cynthia K. Buettner & Ashley A. Grant (2018) Early Childhood Teachers’ Psychological Well-Being: Exploring Potential Predictors of Depression, Stress, and Emotional Exhaustion, Early Education and Development, link to article
  • K.Alison Clarke-Stewart, Deborah Lowe Vandell, Margaret Burchinal, Marion O’Brien, Kathleen McCartney, Do regulable features of child-care homes affect children’s development?, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 17, Issue 1, 2002, link to article
  • Nicole Forry, Iheoma Iruka, Kathryn Tout, Julia Torquati, Amy Susman-Stillman, Donna Bryant, M. Paula Daneri, Predictors of quality and child outcomes in family child care settings, Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Volume 28, Issue 4, 2013, link to article
  • Kere Hughes-Belding PhD, Susan Hegland, Amanda Stein, John Sideris & Donna Bryant (2012) Predictors of Global Quality in Family Child Care Homes: Structural and Belief Characteristics, Early Education and Development, link to article
  • Andrea G. Eckhardt, Franziska Egert, Predictors for the quality of family child care: A meta-analysis, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 116, 2020, link to article
Implementation-Based Performance
Leading Practices
  1. Develop common standards for early childhood programs and professionals and support them with professional development opportunities.

  2. Attract, better compensate, and retain members of the early childhood workforce.

  3. Align key components of the early childhood and K-3 systems to ensure children are ready for kindergarten.


Case Studies and Evaluations (Research):

  •  Pennsylvania- The state reorganized its teacher credentialing system by creating a PK-4 license and a separate 4-8 specialization. The system also allows teachers to have dual certifications. The program is designed with the intent of improved teacher quality by generating a new crop of teachers with specialized training and credentials. (20) (21)

  • San Francisco-C-WAGES (Compensation and Wage Augmentation Grants for Economic Success) is a unique example of a city initiative aimed at raising salaries for early educators. The local initiative is jointly funded through the Office of Early Care and Education and the Department of Children, Youth, and their families. C-WAGES is designed to augment wages of and contribute to health and retirement benefits for early childhood teachers employed in the eligible licensed center- and home-based programs. Eligibility extends to programs where at least 25 percent of enrolled children are in families living below 75 percent of the state median income. Participation in C-WAGES also requires that programs establish standardized salary schedules, differentiated by job and education levels, and participate in quality rating and improvement activities. In 2016, 80 centers, representing 900 teachers, participated in C-WAGES. An additional 230 family child care providers and 75 of their paid employees also participated. (24) (25) (26)

  • Nationally- Many state offer scholarships or student loan relief to students pursuing careers in Early Childhood Education. (29) These grants are made with the dual goals of both attracting more students to the profession while also mitigating the financial burden of the educational training needed to reach these goals. Virginia for example has an extensive scholarship program known as the Virginia Childcare Provider Scholarship program that helps to offset the cost of schooling for current or future ECE workers (28). Another approach is to offer ECE workers student loan forgiveness. Pennsylvania and Maine are two states that author ECE educators this incentive (29). Maine in particular offers a year of student loan forgiveness for each year a provider works in ECE. In fact, in some ECE areas with shortages of workers, such as speech pathology, the state even offers two years of forgiveness for each year of service. (30).

What We Do

Current Tactics and Activities: 

Strategy 6 Action Plan (download here)

Strategy 7 Action Plan (download here)

Strategy 8 Action Plan - Coming Soon (download the Strategy 8 Action Transition Tools Document for Parents here)

Who's On Deck

Imperative #3's diverse and powerful Action Team now numbers 55 members, including:

  • Detroit parent leaders
  • Numerous child care business owners and early educators
  • and partners from the following organizations:
    • Brainiacs Clubhouse
    • Brilliant Detroit
    • City of Detroit Education Commission
    • Detroit at Work
    • Detroit Champions for Hope
    • Detroit Edison Public Schools Academy
    • Detroit Public Schools Community District
    • Detroit Symphony Orchestra
    • Everybody Ready and Great Start Wayne
    • Living Arts Detroit
    • Matrix Head Start
    • New St. Paul
    • Starfish Family Services
    • United Children and Families
    • University of Michigan

Black Family Development, Inc. (BFDI) and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) are honored to serve as Co-Leads for Hope Starts Here Imperative #3. Learn more at

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