Detroit Child Care from IFF CDFI on Vimeo.


The Kresge Foundation is investing a generous $20 million to improve early childhood outcomes in the city of Detroit.

The five-year initiative will focus on five areas, according to Kresge’s website:

  1. “Investments in new, comprehensive early childhood centers;
  2. Below-market loans to improve current early childhood development facilities and to improve maternal healthcare services;
  3. Grants to support neighborhood early childhood collaborations and early childhood practitioners;
  4. Investments that draw national early childhood experience and expertise to Detroit; and
  5. 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”

The need is considerable, according to a research report that Kresge commissioned called “The System We Need: A Neighborhood Snapshot of Early Childhood Education in Detroit.” Produced by IFF (formerly known as the Illinois Facilities Fund), the report notes, “in 2015, Detroit had only enough high-quality childcare spots to serve 22 percent of its children ages 0-5 needing care.”

“We can’t do this alone,” Rip Rapson, Kresge’s president and CEO, said of the effort to reform early child childhood programs. “The philanthropic sector is ready to bring all who care about the next generation of Detroiters to the table to create a shared vision and take collective action to change this trajectory.”

Other philanthropies are joining in. Nonprofit Quarterly reports:

“Already, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, and the Skillman Foundation have signed on as supporters, with the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative and the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative providing additional resources. Given all that the city of Detroit has been through in the last few years, the prospect of it becoming a national model for early childhood education by 2020 is exciting and one more reason to keep eyes on the Motor City.”

Kresge’s strategic investment comes at the same time as Detroit’s public schools are struggling with sick-outs staged by teachers who are protesting a long list of complaints about the schools, from mold and warped floors to overcrowded classrooms, according to an NPR report.

Addressing the public schools’ struggles, Rapson wrote in a Detroit Free Press guest column, “We’ve witnessed the Herculean efforts of the governor, mayor and civic leaders to usher in desperately-needed K-12 reforms — and we can only hope that these will soon bear fruit. As we achieve traction on this front, however, it’s imperative that we attend as well to the front end of the education spectrum.”

Quoted on Kresge’s website, Rapson says, “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.”