Commentary: The moral of the fable ‘Three Little Pigs’ is a lesson for the child care system


Since the assault of COVID in 2020, the nation has experienced historic investments in early child care and education. Advocates, parents and providers of these essential services applaud Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her team and our state Legislature for ensuring Michigan families have increased access to affordable, quality child care and education options. While laudable, these are only first steps. Michigan’s $1.5 billion investment to expand child care access and opportunities is a temporary infusion into a system that always has been underfunded and undervalued and, therefore, fragmented and instable.

Core to long-standing challenges in this field are scarcities in inspiring quality environments (facilities) and talent (staff) due to insufficient wages, benefits and specialized training e.g., caring for children with special needs or those who have experienced trauma. COVID exacerbated these shortages with the closure of facilities and flight of staff to higher paying employment options, which given the average low wage of $11 per hour of early child care and education staff included home improvement stores and fast-food chains.

As we continue to press forward to a system that is sustainable, holistic and responsive to the needs of families and those who are providing care, we must take note of efforts to guarantee a livable wage and benefits for providers, to innovate, to create a coordinated and sound infrastructure, and to install a cost model that provides a mechanism for decision-making that ensures high-quality, equitable opportunities for young children and families:

  • Cross-sector workforce strategies: Hope Starts Here Detroit and Think Babies Michigan. A Corporation for a Skilled Workforce is supporting Hope Starts Here through the design and development of an Early Childhood Education Career Pathway map and an accompanying wage scale. This project will result in: job profiles for 12 occupations; “off-ramps” into up to 10 aligned occupations; identification of gaps in training/education opportunities and recommendations for type of education/training models to pursue; best practices and recommendations for implementing braiding and blending of funds at the state level and recommended livable wage scale and strategies for shifting industry wages.
  • Aligned to the above efforts is Think Babies Michigan’s refinement of policy recommendations and strategies to: Fill child care, early intervention and home visiting workforce shortages by pursuing compensation and retention and install implicit bias training for early childhood professionals.
  • Early Childhood Investment Corporation Child Care Innovation Fund continues to collaborate with regional and community partners to pilot or scale up common-sense business and financing solutions for child care.
  • MI Tri Share — splits the cost of an employee’s child care equally among the employer, the employee and the state of Michigan with coordination provided regionally by a MI Tri-Share facilitator hub.
  • Caring for MI Future — Michigan Departments of Education and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs launched a $100 million strategy to open 500 new child care providers a year for the next two years and expand access to quality, affordable child care for families in all communities.
  • Comprehensive fiscal analysis facilitated by prenatal to 5 fiscal strategies: Sponsored by Hope Starts Here and Think Babies Michigan and Michigan’s Prenatal Development Grant, these simultaneous efforts will produce a cost modeling tool to facilitate planning for and financing an equitable, integrated and high-quality early childhood system.

The above efforts are solid steps. Continued investment in these and similar efforts will ensure that Michigan concretizes a thriving early childhood system for Michigan’s children and families.

Denise Smith is implementation director of Hope Starts Here Detroit.

Like it? Share with your friends!


What's Your Reaction?

hate hate
confused confused
fail fail
fun fun
geeky geeky
love love
lol lol
omg omg
win win


Leave a Reply