DETROIT – United Way for Southeastern Michigan’s Connect4Care Kids helps Wayne County families find affordable child care and preschool options for their children, and connect with providers to complete enrollment. This comprehensive online tool empowers busy parents and caregivers to search one online hub from their computer or phone in a matter of a few minutes to identify the best options for their family and get answers to common questions.
As inflation continues to rise, families are becoming increasingly aware of the price tag for child care and preschool. These costs remain the number one expense for a family of four, significantly impacting their family budget – up to $1,122 per month.
“Ninety percent of a child’s brain develops by age five. Early childhood care and learning are critical. We also know a quality early childhood education gives a child the best start possible in life and the best chance to enter kindergarten on track, continue to graduate high school and go on to a college or career,” said Jeffrey D. Miles, Senior Director, Economic Mobility and Social Navigation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “When a family is forced to evaluate its budget, perhaps making the decision between quality child care and putting food on the table, it’s a challenge. We want people to know there are options and Connect4Care Kids can help families with their search to find affordable, high-quality child care.”
Families have four primary programs to consider, depending on the age of the children, family income and other qualifiers: Early Head Start, Head Start, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) child care subsidy. Connect4Care Kids streamlines the process of searching for and finding quality care options. Providers will confirm a child’s enrollment and the availability of a seat.
The program is not designed as an enrollment system, but rather to help parents understand their eligibility for and connect with subsidized programs.
Miles emphasizes that early enrollment is paramount. “Don’t wait to enroll. While the state has increased funding for subsidized programs like the GSRP, which offers preschool for 4-year-olds, and it’s also increased the income cap for the MDHHS child care subsidy, which reduces the cost of child care with participating providers, the enrollment process takes time and preferred local sites may fill up early.”
It can be difficult for parents and caregivers to know where to go for help. Only 66-percent of eligible children statewide are served by either the state-funded GSRP preschool program or the federally funded Early Head Start or Head Start programs. From United Way’s research and conversations with parents and caregivers of young children, general lack of awareness of programs is a pervasive issue. Also, parents and caregivers are often hampered by out-of-date information, a complicated web of eligibility requirements and confusing application processes. Connect4Care Kids is designed to help address these concerns.
It is the perfect storm. Many child care centers have closed due to the pandemic and the expense of sending a child to care is rising. A report from Child Care Aware of America estimates that between December 2019 and March 2021, nearly 16,000 child care centers and licensed family centers closed their doors. Industry hiring is substantially lagging behind other sectors, according to a 2022 report by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment.
Child care is also the No. 1 expense ($1,122/month) for a family of four with two young children (two adults, one infant, one preschooler) in the ALICE survival budget — the budget that a family of four needs to meet their basic needs, which includes rent/housing, healthcare, food and transportation.
It doesn’t get much cheaper as the child grows. Child care for a 4-year-old costs about $8,800 a year or $740 a month. For families with low incomes who qualify for subsidized programs, getting a seat in one of those programs is an incredible benefit and savings.
By visiting Connect4CareKids.org or texting KIDS to 42273, parents and caregivers can:
Search for child care near home, work or school;
Check if their child is eligible for programs that help with child care costs; and
Connect with programs matching the family’s need — helping them immediately start the application process online and to hear back from providers with openings.
The application process is quick and easy to start. Parents and/or caregivers simply answer a few short questions about their family and the children they would like to sign up. Then, the information is sent to providers who connect with them about spots they may have open and complete enrollment.
About United Way for Southeastern Michigan
United Way for Southeastern Michigan, a member of the United Way Worldwide network and an independently governed 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, works to help households become stable and ensure children have the support they need to thrive. For more than 100 years, United Way has been a leader in creating positive, measurable and sustainable change in communities throughout southeast Michigan. United Way works in partnership with donors, agencies, corporate and municipal partners to help families meet their basic needs of housing, food, health care and family finances, and ensure children start school ready to learn and graduate ready for life. To give, advocate, volunteer or learn more, visit UnitedWaySEM.org.