Michigan Initiative Helping to Build More Quality, Inspiring Child Care Spaces October 25, 2023

In a Nutshell

What: Caring for MI Future: Facilities Improvement Fund is a grant program to distribute $50 million to new and expanding child care providers across the state of Michigan in order to renovate and upgrade their child care facilities so more families have access to quality care.
Sector: Early Childhood Education
Location: Michigan
Sources of Funding/Financing: American Rescue Plan Act
IFF Support: IFF is administering the grant on behalf of the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Education
IFF Staff Leads: Jeff Henze, Implementation Director, Early Childhood; Krista Contreras, Programs and Initiatives Manager
Impact: As of Aug. 1, 2023, more than 1,100 new child care slots created across the State of Michigan and more than 700 repair, renovation, and improvement projects completed

Mary Turner had a dream of her child care program being designated a Certified Nature Explore Classroom – a national initiative using research-based design principles to create nature-based play and learning spaces that bring a sense of wonder to children’s lives. “We will be the only in-home child care with that certification in the state of Michigan,” Turner says. “It will connect children to nature, increase our outside time, and support an increase in the number of children enrolled in our care.”

But expanding her capacity and creating an outdoor learning space was a dream out of reach until the Caring for MI Future: Facilities Improvement Fund (CFMF FIF) launched in November 2022.

“Work of child care is work of heart,” Turner says. “We’re not doing this to get rich. We’re really not even making money. These repairs and improvements are something I would never be able to afford on my child care provider’s budget. This grant made it possible for my dream to become a reality.”

Turner, located in Lansing, is just one of thousands of Michigan child care providers looking to make a dream come true with this grant. In the first six months of the CFMF FIF grant program, more than 1,700 providers applied for Pre-Qualification – the first step in applying for funding – and eligible providers applied for more than 3,600 projects to expand and improve child care spaces across the state.

CFMF FIF is a grant program to distribute $50 million in federal funding to new and expanding child care providers across the state in order to renovate and upgrade their child care facilities. The program is part of the larger Caring for MI Future initiative – a $100 million investment of American Rescue Plan Act funding that will help more Michigan families find quality, affordable child care by opening 1,000 new, or expanded, child care programs by the end of 2024.

“Improving facilities allows providers to expand their capacity, enhance children’s access to quality care and education, and, in some cases, can make the difference in parents’ ability to work and provide for their families,” says Jeff Henze, implementation director at IFF, which is administering CFMF FIF on behalf of the State of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). “Safe and inspiring child care spaces are essential to the vitality of communities and help lay the foundation for positive early childhood experiences.”

In the words of the providers

“This grant allowed me to make positive changes for the children in my care and the families I serve. Being able to purchase HEPA air purifiers is extremely important for the health of the children. Our new cubbies and extra tables give children their own space, which gives them a sense of belonging.”​– Lori Leggert, owner of ​The Sky’s The Limit Family Childcare in Fowlerville, Michigan

“This year my business shut down five times due to the loss of power. Having a whole home generator will allow me to safely remain operational in all weather. Having a stable schedule gives families peace of mind and helps continue enrollment at my home daycare.”​– Sarah Fulsome, owner of ​RunaMuk Childcare in Deerfield​, Michigan

“This grant has actually allowed us to continue running the daycare, because our furnace was on its last leg and was about to stop working. This grant allowed us to get work done that we would have not been able to do on our own. ​I am appreciative for this grant and the ability to continue to care for these children.”​– Shannon VanDenBerg, ​owner of Little Hearts Daycare in Paw Paw​, Michigan

These grant funds are intended to build on the stabilization grants issued by the State of Michigan to help communities recover from the pandemic. They also come at a critical time. Data collated by the state shows an incredible need for more and better supported child care. According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), in the vast majority of Michigan counties, three or more children are competing for every single child care slot. Based on staffing data and child poverty rates, most counties are considered areas of urgent need for additional child care support.

“Facility quality – such as, ventilation, air quality, noise control, lighting, and furnishings – is proven to be crucial contributors to high-quality learning environments and proven to positively affect children’s development, well-being, and education,” Henze says. “Improving and creating quality facilities also helps ensure that child care spaces reflect the dignity all children and their families deserve.”

In addition to helping create the outdoor learning environment of her dreams, Turner is using grant funds to replace old, leaking bathroom fixtures, upgrade kitchen appliances to accommodate more children, and replace some flooring with material better suited to the high-traffic, sometimes messy business of child care. These projects make it possible for Turner to care for more children in a high-quality child care space.

“I have been a child care provider for over 18 years,” Turner says. “I plan on being open to serve my community for many more years. Thanks to this grant, I not only am more confident I can do so, I know that the children will thoroughly benefit from the improvements and expansion.”

To be eligible for the funding, providers need to be newly licensed or have applied for a capacity increase on or after May 1, 2022, or have a capacity variance from MDE. Eligible home-based programs could apply for up to $50,000 and center-based programs could apply for up to $150,000.

Projects supported by the grant include minor repairs and renovations and some child care equipment, such as, cabinets, storage, and child-sized tables and toilets; replacing flooring, furnaces, and windows; installing hazard alert and mitigation, universal access upgrades, and security systems; insulation and water mitigation; and appliances for food preparation and general hygiene.

“These precious children have one childhood. One,” Turner says. “They will spend 50 hours a week of their early childhood with me. I take that seriously and work hard to make each and every day full of love, curiosity, inclusion, kindness, awe, and wonder.”

Learn more about IFF’s work to expand access to quality early childhood education in Michigan

Categories: Stories

Tags: :