Jul 5, 2023 - Education

Making Detroit child care easier to find

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Debra Ezell runs the only home child care service in her southwest Detroit neighborhood, one of several "child care deserts" throughout the city.

  • "I have 30 people on my waiting list that have been calling me since April," Ezell, owner of Precious Steps Childcare, tells Axios.

Why it matters: Detroit's child care ecosystem is over capacity, leaving out 15,500 children from an estimated 37,000 in need of care, according to the city's Office of Early Learning.

  • The current landscape impedes some parents from finding work and makes Detroit less attractive to families looking to move here, the early learning office argued in support of a proposal to aid child care centers.
  • The city's time-consuming and expensive zoning process has also made it harder for small-business owners like Ezell to expand.

Driving the news: The City Planning Commission is reviewing a new proposal to ease zoning restrictions to make it easier for child care facilities to open and grow.

  • The proposal would allow home-based day care centers that are limited to six kids to double their capacity without a zoning hearing.

The other side: Some planning commissioners are concerned about new child care facilities opening in neighborhoods without notice, potentially disturbing established residents.

  • "Individuals want to enjoy their homes, and children need play space," commissioner Gwen Lewis said at last week's planning commission meeting, adding that she enjoys children.

Context: The state licenses three types of child care facilities. Each has its own zoning restrictions.

  • Family day cares, which can have about six kids, and group day cares, with about 11 kids, are typically found in neighborhood homes. The city currently has 89 family and 62 group day care homes.
  • Child care centers — Detroit has 302 of them — are not in private residences and can watch more children.

Between the lines: State licensing oversight will continue, ensuring that all facilities and their employees are fit to care for children, officials say.

What we're watching: The planning commission appeared concerned about the proposal's lack of notice to neighbors of new home child care facilities.

What's next: The commission will discuss the proposal at an upcoming meeting before voting. It would then go before City Council.


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