DETROIT – A new, free online tool will soon serve as a one-stop-shop for parents and caregivers of children aged 5 and younger. The tool will help them better understand and find early childhood education and care options in Detroit. It will also point them to programs to help with costs.
Created in partnership by United Way for Southeastern Michigan and the City of Detroit, Connect4Care Kids streamlines the care and education process. Parents and caregivers can search for locations, determine eligibility, and connect to programs offering assistance to low-income families. Head Start, Great Start Readiness Program, and Michigan’s Child Care and Development subsidy are among the available resources. The site, which launches today, will be hosted on United Way’s website and is another way for parents to connect to all of United Way’s early childhood services.
“Access to early childhood learning and care are vital to helping children and families thrive,” said Dr. Darienne Hudson, president and CEO, United Way for Southeastern Michigan. “We know the benefits for early childhood learning on the child’s development and, particularly as we’ve seen recently, it’s vital to parents returning to work. Connect4Care Kids is a comprehensive tool that will help parents connect with care options across the city. It empowers busy parents to search one site for care options from their phone in a matter of a few minutes.”
United Way and the City of Detroit are working to increase awareness of, and improve connections to, early childhood education and child care in Detroit.
More than half of Detroit families with children 5 years old and younger qualify for some type of assistance with child care costs. General lack of awareness about programs and the need for funding limits some parents’ access to care. Other parents are hampered by out-of-date information, a complicated web of eligibility requirements, and a confusing application process.
Additionally, with hundreds of child care providers to choose from in the city, it can be difficult for parents and caregivers in Detroit to know where to go for help. This is what Connect4Care Kids is designed to address.
“With all that’s happening in our world at this moment, we are committed to supporting our families in their search for child care,” said Monica Rodriguez, director of Children and Youth Services for the City of Detroit. “We are excited to partner with United Way on this first version of Connect4Care Kids. As we continue to adapt to a new set of realities, we look forward to hearing from families, providers and the larger community on ways in which we can continue to improve access to opportunities for our youth.”
HOW IT WORKS
By visiting Connect4CareKids.org or texting Kids to 4Care, parents and caregivers can:
The application process is quick and easy to start. Parents and/or caregivers simply answer a few short questions about their family and their children they would like to sign up. Then, the information is sent to providers who connect about spots they may have open.
Access to computers and the internet still affects many families in Detroit. For many, their mobile phones serve as their only access to technology tools. Connect4Care Kids helps bridge the digital divide – easily accessible via text (SMS) and for mobile, as well as for those families with desktop computers.
Throughout the development process, dozens of Detroit-area parents have been engaged, participating in focus groups that ultimately lead to the new site’s design, content, and navigation. Additionally, several families were beta testers of the website prior to its launch.
“I have three grown children and now a granddaughter who I am raising. I am thrilled to know that finally there will be a way for families to figure out what programs they are eligible for all in one place, without having to call a dozen programs or worse drive from site to site,” said Beverly Hogan, a Detroit parent and grandparent and former early childhood program specialist, with more than 20 years’ experience working with families, enrolling in early learning programs. “Connect4Care Kids may not solve all of the barriers families can experience enrolling in child care. But I do have confidence in the fact that it feels like for the first time, in a very long time, families are being connected in a more streamlined and direct way to the resources they need.”
Connect4Care Kids will soon be available in Spanish and Arabic. United Way’s 2-1-1 help line will provide translation services, as needed, until then.
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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.