Monday, December 11, 2017

Non-Traditional Hours Child Care

This year at the Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County, we have been examining what child care needs exist in our community for manufacturing employees working non-traditional hours.  Lead by our Family Support group we created a survey, which Industrial Steel, Manpower, and US Staffing gave to their employees.

Out of the 12 questions asked on the survey, there are two with feedback that stood out.  56% of respondents answered no or unsure when asked, “Do you feel there are child care options available during your current work schedule?” and when questioned what time of day families required child care, 51% responded 2nd shift, 3rd shift, or weekends.  Out of several anonymous comments provided one parent wrote, “I have no idea what I would do if my work hours fell outside of these “normal” hours.  Every parent should have access to SAFE and affordable child care for their children, regardless of their work hours.  Leaving your precious and helpless baby in a questionable environment is every parent’s worst fear.”  These concerns are relevant and impact many families in Jackson County.

We are excited to share that the Great Start Collaborative recently received a $10,000 grant from United Way to work on non-traditional child care options in Jackson County.  We are currently involved in discussions with ABC Academy about the possibility of opening doors to a 2nd shift timeframe, beginning at one Jackson location. Our hope is to fill this location quickly and to expand to additional sites throughout the County.  This week, we will be reaching out to local manufacturing companies to discuss plans in more detail.  Please stay tuned for further updates.

If you are interested in voicing your opinion regarding the availability of child care in our community or have other thoughts or concerns, please consider joining one of our Family Support Committee meetings.  You can find meeting locations, times, and other information on our Great Start Calendar.  We welcome you!

Strengthening Families with 5 Protective Factors

Every family faces rough patches, difficult situations and downright scary times at one point or another.  It is the reality and it happens to us all.  The circumstances may be different but the struggle is real for all of us.

Research shows that the presence of these 5 Protective Factors build family strengths and an environment that promotes optimal child development:

No one can eliminate stress from parenting, but a parent’s ability to manage and bounce back from challenges can affect how they and their family deals with stress. Resilience is finding ways to solve problems, making and keeping trusting relationships including relationships with our own child, and knowing how and where to seek help when you need it.

Our neighbors, family members and friends are people we can go to for emotional support, help solving problems, and parenting advice when we need it. Networks of support are important to parents and also give us the chance to “give back” which builds self- esteem and benefits our community.

Meeting basic needs like food, shelter, clothing and health care is necessary for families to thrive. Sometimes families fall into crisis such as loss, domestic violence, mental illness or substance abuse. Services and supports must be in place for stability, treatment and any other help families need to get through the crisis.

We all want to do what's best for our kids but they did not come with manuals.  Correct and timely information about parenting, child development and age appropriate behaviors for children at every age helps parents see their children in a positive light and supports their healthy development.  Some parents grew up with difficult or negative experiences and may need help to change parenting patterns and beliefs.

Our children's ability to communicate their feelings and interact positively with others helps build good relationships with their family, peers and other adults.  Early attention to delayed development and challenging behaviors can avoid added stress, keep development on track and help families find resources and assistance for the child and the parent.

Strengthening Families benefits ALL families.  When families, communities, service systems and organizations see families through strength first and build on the protective factors everyone will thrive. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

GSRP Age Eligibility Change

Children who turned four by December 1st are now eligible to attend GSRP for the 2017-2018 school year. This legislation change now allows children who turned four between September 2nd and December 1st to enroll. Previously children needed to be four by September 1st.

There are limited GSRP openings available throughout Jackson County. Site openings include: ABC Jackson College, ABC Lansing Avenue, Columbia, Concord, Dibble, and East Jackson. Waiting lists are available for all other locations.

Visit to apply for the 2017-2018 school year.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Winter Safety Tips

Whether we like it or not, winter is officially here -and with it- the snow and plummeting temperatures!  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has some valuable tips on how to keep your children safe and warm this winter season.  

What to Wear

  • Dress infants and children warmly for outdoor activities.  Several thin layers will keep them dry and warm.  Don't forget warm boots, gloves or mittens, and a hat.  Choose boots that are large enough to comfortably accommodate two pairs of socks.
  • The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
  • When riding in the car, babies and children should wear thin, snug layers, rather than thick, bulky coats or snowsuits.
  • Blankets, quilts, pillows, bumpers, and other loose bedding should be kept out of an infant's sleeping environment because they are associated with suffocation deaths and may contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  It is better to use sleep clothing like one-piece sleepers or wearable blankets.


  • Frostbite happens when the skin and outer tissues become frozen.  This condition tends to happen on extremities like the fingers, toes, ears, and nose.  Skin first becomes red and tingly, then gray and painful and finally white, cold and hard without pain.  Blistering occurs after the skin thaws.
  • Prevent frostbite by dressing in layers, covering all body parts when outside in cold weather.  Bring children indoors if clothing gets wet.
  • Playing in temperatures or wind chills below -15 F should be avoided because exposed skin begins to freeze within minutes.

Winter Health

  • If your child suffers from winter nosebleeds, try using a cold air humidifier in the child's room at night.  Saline nose drops or petrolatum jelly may help keep the nasal tissues moist.  
  • Many pediatricians feel that bathing two or three times a week is enough for an infant's first year.  More frequent baths may dry out the skin.
  • Cold weather does not cause colds or flu.  But the viruses that cause colds and flu tend to be more common in the winter, when children are in school.  Frequent hand washing and teaching your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of the elbow may help reduce the spread of colds and flu.


  • Keep sledders away from motor vehicles.  
  • Children should be supervised while sledding.
  • Children less than 5 years of age should not sled alone.
  • Keep young children separated from older children.
  • Sledding feet first or sitting up, instead of lying down head-first, may prevent head injuries.
  • Avoid sledding in crowded areas.

Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics to read the complete list.  

Thursday, November 16, 2017

FREE Great Start Community Fair December 1st

The Holidays are right around the corner and Great Start Families are excited to help you celebrate with a family friendly craft night!

Our friends at Family Services and Children's Aid, Child Care Network, Community Action Agency, Integro, Center for Family Health and of our very own Great Start parents are all planning and supplying a fun craft for our kiddos. Parents and caregivers will assist their kids at each craft station for some family fun. 

Kids and families will be entertained by a Balloon Animal entertainer, enjoy "Story Corner" with Jackson District Library reading holiday books and Santa himself will stop by to visit the kids with a small gift for each of them.

The fun is from 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm at the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 1505 W. Michigan Ave.  At 4:30 pm we will bring out a pasta dinner complete with salad and bread sticks for families who attend. 

It's important to register for the event by Wednesday, November 29th so we can plan for plenty of craft supplies and enough food for everyone.

The event, craft supplies and dinner are absolutely free and when you register you will be entered in a drawing for Meijer gift cards and other nice prizes.  Please register by calling or texting Jennifer Ganzel, Parent Liaison at (517)745-9544 or emailing with number of adults and number of children (with ages) who will be attending.

Join family, neighbors and friends and strengthen family bonds while creating festive holiday crafts and celebrating the spirit of the season! 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Holiday Baking with Children

We are about to embark on the busiest time of the year for cooking and baking.  Include the children!  It may take a bit of flexibility and patience, but including your little one in the kitchen reaps several benefits.  By allowing your child to do simple tasks such as counting eggs, pouring water into a measuring cup, setting the timer, or together reading the ingredients on a recipe, your child will be practicing basic math and reading skills.  In addition, they will be building self-confidence; children love to show what they can do and creating something in the kitchen will give them a sense of accomplishment.  Most importantly, time in the kitchen is time spent with you, further strengthening your special, family bond.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Don't plan an elaborate project.  Young children have short attention spans, so plan for 5 to 10 minutes.  Start small and keep it fun!

As kids grow, they will develop more skills.  Grow with them and enlist them for bigger jobs, like measuring ingredients into specific measuring cups and spoons, beating eggs, or mashing potatoes.

Just remember, always be in the kitchen with your child to monitor their progress and to keep them safe.

Here is a simple recipe that also makes a great gift!

Peppermint Spoons

You will need:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 candy cane
12 plastic spoons, colored or clear
Colored plastic wrap
Holiday ribbon

  1. Put candy cane in sandwich bag and crush with a rolling pin.
  2. Melt chocolate in microwave on low, stirring every 20 seconds.
  3. Dip spoons in chocolate.
  4. Sprinkle with crushed candy.
  5. Place on waxed paper to cool.
  6. Wrap with plastic wrap and tie with ribbons for gifts.

Have fun and Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Priceless Gift Toy Store

The holidays are upon us and once again the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Together We Can Make a Difference are partnering to offer the Priceless Gift Toy Store.  In order to help over 4,000 children this Christmas season, donations for gently used and clean toys are being requested now through December 15th.  In addition, personal hygiene items such as shampoo, deodorant, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, batteries of all varieties, zip-lock bags of all sizes, and cleaning wipes are requested.  If you have donations or time to volunteer to cleaning, organizing, or preparing for the opening of the Toy Store, stop by between 10 am and 3 pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from now until December 15th.  Lunch will be provided for volunteers.

Please note the new location: 

 Bethany's Gym, 1000 East Porter Street, Jackson MI 49202

The Store offers parents, grandparents, and caregivers who are experiencing hardship the opportunity to "shop" for children - items are in fact, free. Organized by age range and then sectioned into items for boys, items for girls, stocking stuffers, winter wear, and much more, all waiting for families to take home and wrap.  The Priceless Gift Toy Store, now in it's 12th year carries one mission: making sure no Christmas tree goes presentless.  

If you would like to visit the Priceless Gift Toy Store, doors open on November 25th at 10 am and will run through December 15th.

To learn more, please visit the Society of St. Vincent de Paul website.