A System For All Children: An Early Childhood Education Needs Assessment in Grand Rapids January 19, 2018

A System for All Children: An Early Childhood Education Needs Assessment in Grand Rapids examines access to quality early childhood education programs in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Stakeholders can use the information presented to create a comprehensive, high-quality, equitable strategy for the community.

The report highlights the programs and neighborhoods with the largest gaps of services in order for investments and improvements to reach the greatest number of children.



DOWNLOAD THE PDF  |  Highlights  |  Recommendations  |  Online Tool

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Please visit our online library for earlier IFF studies on the early education sector.


Some significant findings include:

  • Only 30 percent of the need for subsidized and Head Start early childhood education programs is being met in Grand Rapids, putting an undue burden on low-income children and families.
  • The city needs about 4,000 additional licensed and registered early childhood education slots – and two-thirds of that need is concentrated in just one-third of the city’s neighborhoods. Five of those seven neighborhoods are those with the highest levels of children in poverty.
  • There is a dramatic lack of access to early childhood education slots for infants and toddlers, with just 16 percent of children aged birth to two having access to licensed and registered providers. That number drops to just 8 percent for children aged birth to two in the highest-need neighborhoods.


  1. Increase services available for children aged birth to two. More than 84 percent of infants and toddlers were without ECE services in 2016. All programs need greater availability of care, but the absence of Early Head Start services should be a priority.
  2. Focus investments in the highest-need neighborhoods. The unequal distribution of services is apparent through the spatial assessment in the study – nearly 72 percent of the need is in just seven neighborhoods. Five of those seven neighborhoods have the highest levels of children in poverty (children in families below 125 percent Federal Poverty Level). Investments in these neighborhoods would reach the greatest number of children with the most need.
  3. Create neighborhood-specific plans. Cultural competency is key to providing high-quality and appropriate programs to diverse communities throughout the city. The neighborhood-specific profiles in the report aim to illuminate the specific needs of different areas.
  4. Help providers with professional development and business management. One solutions for creating greater access to high-quality and full-day, full-year early care for low-income families is for stakeholders to support providers in navigating the complex process of “blending and braiding” various sources of funding for subsidy programs that differ based on the child’s age and income level.

Online Tool

This study’s accompanying online tool allows users to visualize provider supply and community demographic data alongside the results of the needs assessment at the city, programmatic, and neighborhood levels. Click here to see the full online tool in a new window.