Through Early Head Start, parents find help when they need it and a way to stay involved

Published on October 23, 2020 in


Christie Donn drops her daughter, Irisa, off at kindergarten and heads home for another day alone with her 20-month-old son, Riker. It’s an all-too-common experience these days.

“Riker was in the Early Head Start infant room last year with Starfish Family Services,” Christie said. “He’s enrolled in the home-based Early Head Start program until a center-based spot opens up in the toddler room, and they can, hopefully, reopen to in-person.”

Christie Donn’s daughter, Irisa, and son, Riker.

Virtual support

Finding affordable child care options, especially now, can be challenging for families. Detroit families with children age 5 and younger can now check their eligibility and locate child care options using United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s new resource, Connect4Care Kids.

While it’s not what she had planned for this year, Christie appreciates the support she gets virtually through the home-based program.

“I meet with Riker’s teacher once a week on Zoom. Normally, with the home-based program, this would be an in-person home visit,” Christie said. “Mainly, she’s my life coach, which I so appreciate right now. It’s one of the only adult conversations that I have during the week.”

“We check in on ages and stages. She asks me about what Riker is doing and gives me activities to help make sure that he’s developmentally on track. She also checks in on me as mom because she knows what it’s like to be home with your young child all day, every day.”

Reaching out for support

Christie understands how parents might be skeptical of virtual learning for young children, but she recommends it.

“Everybody’s situation is unique, and they have to weigh the risks and the benefits for their family,” Christie said. “But I think it’s important for people to reach out in some capacity, whether virtual or not, to get support. Right now, we are all doing this alone. We are all trapped in our own houses with our children and going a little stir crazy. 

“Even if we can’t meet face-to-face, we have to stay involved because the day may come that we need help. Wouldn’t it be nice to already have an established relationship with somebody? To know you have someone to help you when you need it? That’s what Starfish Early Head Start is for me.”

Parents can visit Connect4CareKids.org or text Kids to 42273 to search for child care locations, check if their child is eligible for programs that help with child care costs, and connect with programs that match their family’s needs. The process is quick and easy to start.