On April 27, 2017, hundreds of Detroit community members came together to celebrate the First Annual Detroit Day of the Young Child. Across the city, parents, caregivers, educators, policymakers and more hosted and attended listening sessions to discuss what early childhood could and should look like in Detroit. Hosts included organizations like the Detroit Public Library, Black Family Development, Inc., Living Arts, Brilliant Detroit Parent Center, Central Detroit Christian Development Corporation, Detroit Parent Network, and Matrix Head Start, as well private citizens who hosted in their homes.
Hope Starts Here: Detroit’s Early Childhood Partnership organized these listening events with community partners and individuals as part of a yearlong planning process to envision what it will take to make Detroit a kid-friendly city by 2027. Ideas and concerns shared during the listening sessions will be folded into the Hope Starts Here vision and action plan due out later this summer.
Since the beginning of April, more than 60 listening sessions with over 600 participants have happened across the city, with more than half occurring on April 27. By the time Hope Starts Here’s listening session initiative ends on May 5, more than 1,000 people will have contributed their ideas at approximately 100 events, many open to the public.
The sessions focused on a variety of issues impacting children in Detroit, including education, nutrition, health, child care, transportation and more. Participants were asked what they would to do make Detroit a better place for children if they had a) $100 and one week, and b) unlimited resources. Hosts reported back key takeaways and ideas to Hope Starts Here, which will be aggregated and shared publicly. But there was one idea all participants agreed on: how important Detroit’s children are.
“The research is clear about the impact of investing in young children and the consequences of not investing early are equally truthful. It is time to demand excellence and investment in early childhood education,” said Alycia Meriweather, interim superintendent for the Detroit Public Schools Community District, speaking at a listening session at Living Arts.
Children have also been part of the conversation. With $100, many wanted to buy everyone ice cream, but they also asked for safe playgrounds and clean neighborhoods.
First Annual Detroit Day of the Young Child Listening Sessions
“Being unable to find care that you can afford, and you’re comfortable leaving your child with, can make you feel helpless. For the first time in a long time sitting in rooms with other parents and providers, who actually get what the problems are and want to create solutions that truly work for families, these conversations do give me hope, and make me feel proud of my decision to live in the city and raise my children here,” said Maria Montoya, a Detroit mother of three and family advocate, reflecting on her listening session.
“As a parent in the Southwest Detroit neighborhood I was amazed at all the voices in the room at our listening session,” said Esmeralda Torres. “Families and neighborhood leaders alike shared one table to talk about a better future for our kids.”
In addition to listening sessions, ideas were collected via large posters that were posted in local organizations and businesses. Over 260 posters were spread across the city.
“This is an amazing and necessary project. The information on these documents are alarming. I hope that this action is not restricted to one-day,” said Sianee Hawkins, librarian at Detroit Public Library. “There should be a continuous dialogue and action plan to improve the lives of Detroit’s kids.”