Child Development Associate program helps children soar

Published on March 12, 2019 in

We're helping child caregivers get the education they need to create a brighter future for our children.

It’s about love.

That’s what drives Kidz Den Day Care owner Danyelle Swift to do what she does.

“If we take our children and do what’s necessary, our children can soar,” Danyelle said.

“We have to give them a chance.”

As the owner and operator of the Warren-based child care center, Danyelle helps 45 children in her care soar every day. And because Danyelle and her staff have been certified through United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s efforts to train more qualified, certified child care providers, the parents who choose Kidz Den know that their children are learning all day, every day.


Danyelle Swift, owner and operator of Kidz Den Daycare in Warren, cares for 45 children at her facility. By the time they leave for kindergarten, they’re on a second-grade level.

Increasing quality care

In our region, finding child care is challenging. We’d need an additional 115,000 seats in licensed child care facilities to cover every child age 5 and younger.

United Way works with partners like early education nonprofit Leaps and Bounds to offer care providers like Danyelle access to a Child Development Associate (CDA) certification program. This program increases both the number of child care seats — because it expands the number of kids that caregivers can watch — and the quality of care.

The CDA “helps ensure we have the highest quality staff in each of our child care facilities,” said Jeff Miles, director of innovation and early childhood at United Way.

This certification can cost caregivers anywhere from $1,800 to $3,000 — a steep price to pay in a career field that pays, on average, just over $10 an hour. But the grant funding we provide allows caregivers to earn this certification — improving their facilities and their skills — free of charge.

Danyelle has cared for children for years. At first, she provided in-home child care, but she knew she needed additional training to take the next step. Thanks to United Way, the costs of a $250 CDA application and $1,800 CDA class through Leaps and Bounds were covered.

“That was definitely a big chunk of income that we definitely didn’t have,” Danyelle said.

She described the key material the program covers.

“Our certification covers a broad range of development — the brain, social emotional skills, cognitive skills, language skills; all of those things are covered under the CDA,” Danyelle said.

“It’s way more than colors and numbers — it teaches you how to present colors and numbers in a different way, because all children do not learn the same way. There are activities, books and hands-on activities to get those things across.”

Children at Kidz Den participate in fun learning activities every day.

A second-grade level

Care providers know that the CDA training helps improve the quality of care in their facilities. For parents like Ty Bowlson, the impact is clear: care they can trust.

Ty and her husband were planning a move from Southfield to Warren. Because of the distance, relying on family to care for her children, Kayden and Dwight, while they worked was no longer an option.

The thought of finding child care she felt comfortable with was daunting.

Ty’s fears were quickly relieved when she stepped into Kidz Den and met Danyelle.

“My children, they feel you out,” Ty said.

“Seeing that they were willing to take Miss Danyelle’s hand when she opened the door, I saw that they trusted her.”

She describes Danyelle as a “third grandmother to my children. She is so loving and understanding.”

And at Kidz Den, the children don’t just sit around and watch TV all day. They interact with adults dedicated to their growth, learning about geography, art science, technology, engineering and math.

“By the time my preschoolers graduate, they’re on at least a second-grade level,” Danyelle said.

Confidence and lessons

Three years after she first brought her children to Kidz Den, Ty says she’s “blown away.”

When Kayden started to attend at nearly 3 years old, she couldn’t talk.

“I said, ‘I tell you what. Let Kayden come here, and Kayden’s going to be fine by the time she graduates,’” Danyelle said.

Danyelle’s confidence and lessons paid off. Now, Kayden is at the top of her kindergarten class.

“When she went for testing, they were so amazed,” Ty said. “She knew her ABCs and how to count and her shapes. They told her a story, and she was immediately able to tell it back to them.”

Dwight still attends Kidz Den. He was able to write his first and last name before he was 3.

“He’s very smart,” Ty said.

“I sometimes forget that Dwight is 4 because he’s saying things to me about what they learned about Australia and the koala bears and the different foods. He’s able to teach us what they taught him.”

Ty Bowlson plays a game with Dwight and Kayden inside their home in Warren. The progression the children have shown since attending Kidz Den has blown Ty away.

A beacon of hope

Finding quality child care is a challenge all parents face. In working class communities, it’s even more of a struggle as parents grapple with balancing affordability with quality.

Increasing quality child care makes an impact throughout the entire community and has a ripple effect for generations to come.

“When we invest in children now, we see lower incarceration rates and higher employment rates,” Jeff said.

“This really is more than just giving a teacher a better opportunity. This is about giving our community something we can see in five or 10 years.”

Danyelle has seen the improvements up close. One of the children she used to care for attends Harvard. Others are entrepreneurs and college students trying to improve their lives.

She credits United Way with giving her the chance to continue to grow as a care provider.

“I wouldn’t be here without the CDA,” she said. “United Way has played a big role in my growth.”

She can’t imagine doing anything else.

“I want to make sure that you can go to work and be OK knowing your babies are eating, are clean and are going to have a good education,” she said.

“I want to be that person, I was born to be that person, and I am that person.”