If we have learned anything during this contentious election season, it is that we live in overtly partisan times. But we believe, despite the rhetoric coming from all around us, that people of all political persuasions and from all walks of life truly do want the same things for their families and communities: prosperity, safety and opportunity.
Perhaps nowhere is that consensus deeper than in our shared desire to see our children thrive. We agree that whether a baby is born in a poor zip code or a rich one, in America, both should grow up with health and security, with opportunity to thrive and with abundant love and support from both family and community – the elements that ensure bright futures.
In Detroit, this shared belief is especially prevalent. It’s an undercurrent running through so many corners of the community – from schools to childcare centers, to health clinics. We believe now is the time for the community to come together to surface it, refine it, name it and claim it.
That’s why we’re launching Hope Starts Here: Detroit’s Early Childhood Partnership, a bold, city-wide engagement to bring the needs of Detroit’s youngest citizens, from birth to age 8, to the forefront.
At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, we’ve worked for decades on behalf of vulnerable people and children, both nationally and in Detroit. At WKKF, we’ve become a national leader in working with communities to prioritize improving childhood outcomes. At Kresge, we’ve led efforts to revitalize Detroit and to include all of the city’s residents in that process. We both agree that when cities put children and their needs at the forefront, they reap immeasurable long-term economic and social benefits.
As co-chairs of Hope Starts Here, we are inviting Detroit parents, grandparents, caregivers, childcare providers, early childhood organizations, residents, and business and civic leaders to shape an early childhood development plan for Detroit that will provide children and their families with the supports and opportunities they need, and deserve, to thrive in school and in life. We seek to envision and realize a plan that will provide for generations to come.
Hope Starts Here will engage with Detroiters during public forums, social media conversations and one-on-one interviews. We’ll ask key questions of parents, providers and advocates. What is the current state of life for Detroit’s children? What’s working now? What services need to be expanded or created to nurture young children from birth into their early years?
We know why this is good for children. We know quality prenatal and pediatric care will ensure healthy births, combating the city’s nearly 12 percent infant mortality rate. We know access to quality affordable child care and learning environments will provide children with the strong foundation they need to be prepared for kindergarten. We know third grade reading readiness will further improve a child’s chances of school success and high school graduation, taking direct aim at the challenge that only 10 percent of Detroit public school third graders are proficient in reading.
Why is a strong early childhood development system important to Detroit? Reliable child care services enable families to more fully participate in the workforce and contribute to the local economy. It’s a fair guess that the average Detroit taxpayer isn’t aware of the “Detroit’s One-Child School Readiness Dividend” report. It concluded that taxpayers would save $100,000 over the lifetime of every vulnerable Detroit child who is helped by early childhood programs to be fully ready to enter kindergarten at age five. Today’s children are Detroit’s future workforce, taxpayers, voters and leaders. We must prepare them.
We’re excited to participate and watch hope build in Detroit. We know the real leaders are those who live and work with young people every day. They are the most knowledgeable and capable change agents. Hope Starts Here is our invitation and promise that WKKF and Kresge are committed to bringing increased urgency and broader action to the needs of young children. Will you join us?