The median hourly wage for Michigan child care workers — many of whom are women of color — was roughly $11 in 2019, with nearly one in five early educators living below the poverty line. 

That’s one of the findings from a January report that led two groups — the Michigan League for Public Policy, including Kids Count in Michigan, and Think Babies Michigan — to declare that Michigan’s early childhood workforce is in “crisis” because of the low pay, plus staffing shortages. 

Assistant teacher Nichelle Brown, 36, of Detroit, looks at pictures of food to identify with Jay'ceon James, 2, of Detroit, during free time at Squiggles and Giggles child care in the Grandmont neighborhood of Detroit on Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Child care providers say that despite providing a foundational service for the youngest children, they aren’t paid or valued enough. The COVID-19 pandemic only exposed existing issues, they say, leading to turnover and staffing issues.

Meanwhile, parents struggle to find adequate and affordable care that is essential for them to stay employed. In Wayne County, it cost parents about $662 a month for child care, or nearly 40% of a minimum wage worker’s income, according to a Michigan League for Public Policy analysis using 2020 data.