A guide for Detroit parents with young kids

The Early Kid Gets Ahead!

Pre-school has lots of benefits!

Children get to:

  • learn and have fun at the same time
  • interact with other kids their age
  • eat healthy food

Parents and guardians can:

  • have more time to work or go to school
  • meet other parents with children
  • learn about child development

What are the 3 ways to get help?

Head Start, Ages 0-4

Head Start is a free pre-school option with well-trained teachers and programs for the whole family. Some locations offer full-day classes (morning to afternoon) and some offer half-day classes. Kids get healthy meals and snacks during the day. Health screenings and social services are also offered.

Great Start Readiness Program, Age 4

Great Start Readiness Program is another free option for children who do not get accepted to Head Start. It also has well-trained teachers, healthy meals and health screenings. There are options for full-day classes or half-day classes.

Child Care Subsidy, Ages 0-12

The Child Care Subsidy is a government fund that families can use to help pay for a pre-school program. There are hundreds of independent programs that accept this money, but the quality of each one is different. It takes some research to find the one that is right for you.

Follow these steps to get started...

1. Qualify

Each option has different requirements. Look at how many people are in your household.

For each household size, there is a monthly income limit. If you earn less money than the limit, you qualify for at least one option.

If you have a larger household, call a nearby Head Start center to find out what the Monthly Income Limit is for your family.

2. Apply

Once you know your best option, go to a Head Start or Great Start location to apply.

There will be an interview. You may need to bring documents like a birth certificate, proof of your income, and immunization records for your child. Call ahead and ask what to bring.

There are limited spots in Head Start and Great Start. The staff will interview you and contact you later about their decision.

Head Start and Great Start serve certain communities, families, and kids. The staff may ask you about where you live, your job, and your child’s age.

3. Apply

You should also apply for the State Child Care Subsidy if you meet the income limits.

If you don’t get accepted to Head Start or Great Start, you can use the subsidy money for an independent pre-school program.

You can apply at any DHS office or online at www.tinyurl.com/pazemxh.

You may need to bring documents.

Helpful Tips

  • If you qualify for the State Child Care Subsidy, you will get it!
  • You can use the money for up to 90 hours of care every 2 weeks at pre-schools that participate.
  • DHS should process your application in 45 days or less.

4. Ask Questions

Once you qualify, you should visit the pre-school programs that you are most interested in.

Think about what questions to ask when you visit. Here are some ideas:

  • Do your teachers follow the progress of each student?
  • What criteria do you use to hire teachers?
  • Do you offer transportation?
  • Do you discipline children? If so, how?
  • Is there a daily routine?
  • How many children do you serve?
  • How are parents involved here?
  • How can I volunteer here?

Other Ways to Qualify

Head Start and Great Start learn about your family during your interview. They use the information they learn to choose eligible students.

These other things may help your child get accepted. (You may need to provide proof.)

If you:

  • Are a foster parent, a single parent, a teen parent, unemployed, in the military, or you care for a child that is not yours.
  • Had a recent death in the household or a spouse recently deported.
  • Were in jail or have a spouse in jail.
  • Have not graduated from high school or college.
  • Are a parent enrolled in an education or training program.
  • Are homeless or receiving disability, TANF, SSI, or WIC.
  • Are a new migrant family, speak English as your second language, or have seasonal work.
  • Have a disabled child, or have a referral to a pre-school program.
  • Have a child with chronic health problems.
  • Live in a house where there is substance abuse, physical abuse, or mental illness.
  • Do not own or have access to a car.

More About the State Child Subsidy

There are hundreds of quality programs across the city, and probably some in your neighborhood. Apply for the best program near you. Choosing a program that participates in Great Start to Quality might help you access more funding.

The subsidy pays for independent pre-school and child care programs. If you get into Head Start or Great Start and also get the subsidy, you can organize a longer day of pre-school and care for your child.

Some parents use this money to help cover child care while they are working. It is helpful if you need a more flexible schedule.


To find a Head Start program, a Great Start program, or an independent pre-school program near you, call United Way at 211.

You can also find programs and quality ratings online at scorecard.excellentschoolsdetroit.org or www.greatstartconnect.org.

These groups can help you connect with other parents who are looking at pre-school options:

Detroit Parent Network Support Groups

(313) 309-8100

Special Education Parent Resource Center

(313) 873-8491


Download this document as a PDF booklet to share in your community.