Connect 4 Care Helps Families Find Affordable Childcare By Renee Summers Telegram Reporter
August 6, 2020
The United Way of Southeast Michigan has introduced a tool for families called Connect 4 Care to help them find free and low-cost childcare programs they may be eligible for in Detroit. Jeff Miles, Senior Director of the Center for Early Childhood Excellence at the United Way, says the program builds on data obtained by the city of Detroit when it began asking families about their experiences with trying to find childcare nearly three years ago. The city's data found that families wanted to easily find childcare in a convenient location and wanted to find out what childhood programs they may be eligible for.
The United Way created Connect 4 Care as a centralized resource to enable families to understand childcare options, take the first step in the enrollment process, and allow them to search for quality, affordable childcare in Detroit. Miles says that this is the first program resource of its type in Michigan and adds, "This whole thing has been designed with parents from the beginning."
While Connect 4 Care can be used by Wayne County residents, childcare programs and providers are listed for Detroit only, with a handful listed for the downriver area. "We don't want to close any doors and there's a lot of great information on the website itself...and while the search feature are just right now limited to the city of Detroit, they can still do the eligibility pre-screen to figure out what programs they may qualify for," Miles says. "If they do work in the city, certainly some people do want childcare close to where they work for ease of pick up and drop off, and they can certainly get a great benefit out of that program."
Connect 4 Care works with four no-cost or reduced-cost childcare programs: Head Start, Early Head Start, Great Start Readiness Program, and the MDHHS subsidized Child Development and Care Program. Both Head Start programs are free and federally-funded, while the Great Start Readiness and the MDHHS Child Development and Care programs are state-funded. The Great Start Readiness program is for children 4 years of age and is either free or low-cost and available to children who cannot find a spot in the Head Start program. The MDHHS Child Development and Care program helps pay for childcare so low-income parents can go to work, school, or job training. Both state-funded programs are ideal for residents in western Wayne County.
Miles says Connect 4 Care is unique because much of the information required can be communicated via text using a cell phone rather than relying on paperwork or online application. "This takes information that has existed all across the internet and really puts it into one place, but in a mobile-friendly way,
definitely via text messaging," he says. "Even if you don't have Wi-Fi, you can still engage with all of this over your cell phone and get this information in a way that's never been delivered before."
Key information that will help determine eligibility includes number of persons residing in the household, basic income, and age of children. Miles says even parents who need childcare as they return to school themselves can use Connect 4 Care. "Workforce job training and schooling sometimes helps with that eligibility, and certainly anybody that's returning to work or school should definitely put that information in and see what type of eligibility that opens up for them," he says.
Connect 4 Care has been designed to be user-friendly and reach families in many ways whether over the internet or through their cellular network. To access the program, either text Kids4Care or dial 211. Families can also find the program at http://www.connect4carekids.org.
"We really want to make sure that everybody that's eligible for some type of assistance with childcare is accessing that; we know it is the number one cost for a family of four in southeast Michigan," says Miles. "This is really about helping families understand what they're eligible for, helping them find those locations, and take the first step on their application."