Early childhood funders commit $4.5 million to Head Start in Detroit

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New effort promotes program innovation, quality improvement and coordination.


The Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund announces the formation of a new $4.5 million fund to benefit Head Start programs in Detroit.

The fund will award competitive grants to newly selected Head Start sites to foster innovation and collaboration, and support better services and outcomes for young children and their families.

The Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative created the Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund. The only such fund in the country, it was created in response to a federal competition, offering $48 million in Head Start funding to providers in Detroit.

Philanthropies in the collaborative include Kresge, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Skillman Foundation, the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, the McGregor Fund, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, The Jewish Fund and the PNC Foundation.

Last year, Detroit was one of five cities selected for a pilot project inviting applicants to propose a “birth-to-five” approach to Head Start services, combining Early Head Start services (pregnant women, infants and toddlers) and Head Start (preschool-aged children) with a single funding application.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Head Start recently announced the organizations selected in Detroit and other winning cities, which are now in negotiations to receive the federal funding. The organizations selected in Detroit are Matrix Human Services, Metropolitan Children and Youth, New St. Paul Tabernacle and Starfish Family Services.

The Detroit Head Start Early Childhood Innovation Fund will provide matching dollars over a three-year period to fund innovative strategies proposed by these organizations. Head Start requires that a portion of each grantee’s funding come from nonfederal sources.

The models proposed by the chosen applicants are designed to promote stronger outcomes for poor children and families and support economic revitalization in the city. 

Information on eligibility and how to apply is available from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which is managing the fund.

Economic research shows that investments in early childhood education lead to improved academic, social and economic outcomes for children, their families and communities. University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman has shown that every dollar invested in high-quality early childhood programs for disadvantaged children returns 7 to 10 percent – per child, per year, for life – through increased earnings and reduced costs in remedial education, health care and criminal justice system expenditures.

Kresge’s funding comes from it Detroit Program. Kresge works to expand opportunity for low-income people in America’s cities. Its Detroit Program promotes green, healthy, active neighborhoods and a thriving Woodward Corridor. Program initiatives nurture arts and culture, entrepreneurship and mass transit, expand early-childhood education and recognize excellence and innovation in human services.

“We’re pleased to support innovative, evidence-based approaches that will make a difference in the lives of children and their families,” says Wendy Lewis Jackson, Detroit Program deputy director. “Our goal is to help strengthen collaboration and learning among the entire network of early childhood support in Detroit – Head Start grantees, schools, social service providers, and community-based programs.”

The fund will consider initiatives such as increasing parental engagement and involvement in programming; supporting continued professional development; and ensuring better transitions between Early Head Start, Head Start and the K-12 system.

“What the Southeast Michigan Early Childhood Funders Collaborative is doing in Detroit provides a model for how the philanthropic community can work to support high-quality Head Start services in communities across the country,” says Ann Linehan, acting director of the Office of Head Start. “Community support is essential to the success of the Head Start program.”

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