Access to high quality, affordable childcare is an essential element of a thriving community. In Michigan, there is only one childcare space for every four children under the age of 12. This situation is often even more challenging in Northern Michigan and rural areas, like Emmet County, where more than one third of families pay more than $1,000/month for childcare. The impact of this undersupply is felt throughout the community and North Central Michigan College is responding to this systemic issue. It launched the first phase of its three-phased Child Care Initiative in 2022, pulling together multi-sector partners to develop a community-centered plan for a sustainable and viable local child care system.
Jason Cross was a social worker in Manistee County when he observed that a lack of licensed childcare in the area was a major barrier to parents being able to get and keep jobs.
“Much of the employment in Manistee County is shift work, and many jobs fall outside the typical 9-5 work day,” says Jason, “but there were no licensed centers that offered childcare after 6 p.m. or on weekends.”
Here’s an eye opener: For as mobile a society as we have become, most kids in the inner city seldom leave a twelve-block radius. After school, many have limited learning opportunities or social activities at home. “So they come to our clubs,” says Rick Huisman, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids, a key community partner that’s helping kids overcome some of the academic and social challenges they face.
In the first three years of a child’s life, 85% of its brain develops. Everything during that time, from diet to speech skills and socialization, affects a child’s ability to be ready –or not — for Kindergarten two years later. Kindergarten readiness can be an indicator of how well a child will do in the ensuing school years. And there’s a clear domino effect: When children are not developmentally ready for Kindergarten, they often struggle to read by third grade. And those who don’t read well by the end of third grade are less likely to graduate from high school than their friends who do.
High-quality early childhood experiences make a lifetime of difference. That’s been the belief of Frey Foundation trustees since they initiated what would become a steadfast commitment to early childhood education and a decades long partnership with Grand Rapids Community College.