Hope Starts Here puts Detroit's young children first

Early Education Matters is a series about how Michigan parents, childcare providers, and early childhood educators are working together to implement PreK for All. It is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
The Hope Starts Here initiative brings together a team of advocates and champions who are leading the charge for Detroit’s early childhood systems. A collaboration among The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), The Kresge Foundation, The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation (M&M Fisher), and a host of agencies, community based organizations, and most importantly, Detroit residents, Hope Starts Here formally launched in 2017 with an aggressive 10-year plan.

“We've had a long history of supporting children and families in the city of Detroit,” says Yazeed Moore, director of WKKF Michigan programs. “Hope Starts Here creates a plan to help Detroit become a city that puts young children and families first by 2027.”

Approximately 80,000 children 8 and under live in Detroit. More than 60% of those 5 and under live in poverty — more than in any other of the nation’s 50 largest cities. With double the infant mortality rates of the rest of the country, Detroit sees 13.5 out of every 1,000 babies born die before their first birthday.

The impact of poverty on Detroit’s children also includes hunger, health issues, homelessness, and deficits in school readiness. By third grade, 86.5% of Detroit’s kids are not reading at grade level. Deficits also exist in early childhood education opportunities. Nearly 30,000 young children eligible for those opportunities lack options for high quality early learning or childcare.
Camarrah Morgan.
These statistics compelled Camarrah Morgan, program partner/network partner with M&M Fischer, to work with Hope Starts Here from before its launch until today.

“Our rate of children living in extreme poverty is actually higher than some third world countries,” she says. “We’re talking about system change and the complexity of poverty.”

What began as a series of conversations to advance Detroit’s early childhood development system has grown to include 18,000 Detroit families, childcare providers, health care professionals, and educators drawing wisdom and solutions from the community members most impacted by these extreme needs.

Morgan notes that even the name for the new initiative was community members’ idea.

“At the time, there was a pervasive feeling of hopelessness. People had a lot of challenges that were outside of their control. So, they felt like there was a need for ‘hope.’ They felt like it was important that we talk about a ‘start,’ to have a meaning around the beginnings of life. And they made the statement that it all starts ‘here’ with me. We needed every single person to really take ownership of how our children are doing. So, they came up with the name,” Morgan says.
Yazeed Moore.
What resulted was the drafting of Six Imperatives that would lead the work of Hope Starts Here. The 18,000 Detroit residents who came together to address the challenges of early childhood participated in a total of 125 listening sessions as well as media campaigns.

“This led to the creation of the Hope Starts Here community engagement framework,” Moore says. “The Six Imperatives framework represents a blueprint for creating lasting change by building on the strength of more than 225 organizations who came together to mobilize. Involving that massive number of parents, providers, and educators in this process really shows the power of Hope Starts Here.”

Six Imperatives "the heartbeat"

Wendy Jackson, managing director for The Kresge Foundation Detroit program, explains that the Six Imperatives empower Hope Starts Here to meet its many complex goals.
Wendy Jackson.
“We wanted to make sure we had a distributed leadership approach to implementation. So, one organization wasn't responsible for trying to move such a massive agenda that is really a shared and collective response,” Jackson says. “Each imperative has at least two lead organizations that are working in collaboration to implement the recommendations of that particular imperative. The imperative leads are the heartbeat of Hope Starts Here.”

In her work with Hope Starts Here, Morgan focuses on Imperative 2: “Parent and Family Leadership.” Imperative 2 led to the launch of Detroit Champions for Hope (DCH), which focuses on advocacy, community leadership, and parent engagement. DCH works to better the lives of Detroit’s children by empowering parents and caregivers to be their child’s first champions in learning and development because early childhood experiences begin at home.

Farqan Khaldun, co-coordinator of Hope Starts Here Imperative 2, Detroit Champions for Hope.
Imperative 1
, “Ensuring Health Care and Social Services are Accessible,” concentrates on connecting black expectant mothers, birthing people, children 0-8, and families to respectful health care, social supports, and educational resources that help them thrive.

Imperative 3 “Providing High Quality Programs and Professionals” seeks to increase access to high-quality professionals during a child’s first eight years of life and has created simple tools families, parents, and caregivers can use to prepare children for school. Imperative 3 also guides parents on how to enroll children in childcare and education programs that will help their kids excel.

Imperative 4 builds on this by advocating for “Safe and Inspiring Environments” for care and education that build a positive foundation for children’s earliest experiences. Because of this Imperative, 66% of Detroit’s early childhood spaces are now considered high-quality and 44% of Detroit's children have access to high-quality facilities.

Imperative 5, “Better System Alignment” and Imperative 6, “Increased and Aligned Funding” concentrate on systems change work that must happen to ensure Detroit’s littles have equitable opportunities in the womb and in their homes, neighborhoods, childcare and education settings, and in accessing to healthy foods and health care.

“Another success story of Hope Starts Here framework is child health and food access,” Moore says. “Both continue to remain a key state priority, with universal free lunch, additional funding for mental health and health screenings, and more. This localized effort begins to raise up and lift up in terms of examples of proof points, lived experience, and perspectives that influence work that happens at the state level, as well.”

Hope Starts Here creates a plan to help Detroit become a city that puts young children and families first by 2027.
Better system alignment also translated into increasing the number of primary care providers serving pregnant women, birthing people, and families. And increased funding financed the improvement of 16,000 seats in existing early childhood programs that reduced the heavy cost burden felt by providers and families.

Imperative 6 also focuses on making childcare affordable and paying childcare and early education providers a competitive wage. The average early childhood educator in Detroit earns $11.13 an hour while the average fast food worker earns $15 — 67% of early childhood professionals cite low wages as their biggest staffing issue.

“Community-driven solutions are imperative when trying to tackle systemic changes, like the ones that are needed to better support young children. Hope Starts Here provides an excellent model for what can happen when you bring together policymakers, advocates, families, and practitioners as well as philanthropy around a common process to identify priorities,” Jackson says. “When communities go through a process like Hope Starts Here, a collaborative process where you bring different leadership together, you get a much stronger plan, and you also develop a stronger pool of advocates and resources to implement.”

Estelle Slootmaker is project editor for Early Education Matters. Contact her at [email protected].

Photos by Doug Coombe.
Camarrah Morgan, Yazeed Moore, and Wendy Jackson photos courtesy subjects.

Early Education Matters is a series about how Michigan parents, childcare providers, and early childhood educators are working together to implement PreK for All. It is made possible with funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
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