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Early Learning Communities

Early Childhood Education

To find an ELC near you, call United Way 2-1-1.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan is proud to be a Great Start Regional Resource Center.

Visit to learn more about our professional development and training opportunities for childcare providers.

Great Start

Why it matters

Ninety percent of brain connections develop in the first three years of life.1 Yet by age three, a child in poverty hears 30 million fewer words than a child from a middle-income home.2  A child growing up in a middle class family benefits from being exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. The average child from a low-income family is exposed to 25 hours.3

Today, the emerging science of resilience is beginning to reveal how children learn and become problem solvers, even during uncertainty and challenging circumstances. Access to quality care and education, networks of friends and healthy habits are all significant factors.

What we’re doing

United Way established Early Learning Communities (ELC’s), where parents and Family, Friend and Neighbor caregivers can meet like-minded adults and form support networks while learning current best practices and developing childcare skills. We work to empower and inspire parents and caregivers to provide literacy-rich environments for the children in their care.

  • We have 65 neighborhood-based ELC’s, located in 10 of Greater Detroit’s high need communities.
  • In addition to training, the ELC’s offer access to children’s books and toys and parenting resources that can be borrowed for use at home and in childcare settings.
  • To date, 15,044 unlicensed, subsidized childcare providers have been trained in CPR/First Aid.

Our goals

This year

  • Connect 6,000 individual parents and caregivers with local ELC’s


  • Eighty percent of children will enter kindergarten prepared for success


  • All children in Greater Detroit will enter kindergarten prepared for success

[1] Investing in Our Children: What We Know and Don't Know About the Costs and Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions
[2] The Early Catastrophe: The 30 Million Word Gap by Age 3
[3]The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions