Early Education

In Brief

In Grand Rapids, Michigan, a 2018 study from IFF — which provides loans, real estate consulting and development support to mission driven nonprofits in the Midwest — found that only 16% of children from birth to age 2 had access to licensed and registered early childhood education (ECE) providers. IFF’s Learning Spaces, operating in Grand Rapids and Detroit, is working to change that through grants to child care providers for facility upgrades and technical support.

The organization provides center- and home-based ECE providers with:

  • Grant Dollars: Grants range from $5,000 to $50,000, depending on the unique needs of each facility. Grant projects have included upgrades to lighting, flooring, HVAC and more
  • Technical Assistance: Air quality, color schemes, natural lighting and more
  • Consulting Services: IFF’s real estate consultants work with providers to find a new location, assess the quality of a facility and manage renovations

Last year, with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), Learning Spaces expanded to Grand Rapids to help more families access quality early care and education opportunities. 

Since the expansion, IFF has provided $230,000 to 10 providers, with an expected additional investment of $100,000 through 2022 — serving a total of 78 children with an estimated growth to serve 30 additional children.  

Why This Matters

A 2019 report from the Center for American Progress found that:

  • Half of U.S. families reported difficulty finding child care.
  • Mothers who were unable to find a child care program were significantly less likely to be employed than those who found a child care program, whereas there was no impact on fathers’ employment.
  • In the CAP survey, mothers said that if they had access to more affordable and reliable child care, they would increase their earnings and progress in their careers by finding higher-paying jobs, applying for promotions, seeking more hours at work or finding jobs in the first place.

Working families and families of color disproportionately face barriers to accessing child care, and their economic security suffers as a result.

The Opportunity

Investing in child care providers creates an opportunity to increase and expand child care services for more families, especially in communities of color and marginalized, low-income communities.

In addition, increasing child care affordability, access to child care and the quality of facilities ensures more women have the opportunity to pursue livelihoods and careers outside of the home, and build wealth for their families. 

While the focus has often been on providing lower-income families with discounts for child care, additional partnerships with foundations, community development financial institutions, businesses and more can support the growth and improve the quality of more ECE programs. Increasing the number of quality ECE programs in lower-income areas ultimately supports gender equity, grows the nation’s workforce, increases income and wealth and builds healthier communities.


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