Monday, May 8, 2017

Child Care Scholarships

Does your family require child care, but you are struggling with the cost?  Did you know that there are options available in Jackson County that can help you?  

If ANY of these statements are true, you may be eligible for the Child Development and Care program through the State of Michigan.

  • Your monthly income before taxes is $2,367 or less for a family of four
  • You have a job that prevents you from caring for your child
  • You are completing a high school diploma
  • You are in an approved treatment program
  • You are enrolled in college or a training program
  • You are preparing for a job opportunity

Before applying gather the following information:

  • Proof of child care need
  • Proof of income
  • Information about your child care provider

When you're ready, follow this link to find more information and to apply, or click on the image to the right to print a paper application.  Return it by mail or in person to our local DHS office located at 301 E. Louis Glick Hwy, Jackson MI 49201.


Even if you're over income with the Child Development and Care program, you may be eligible for an Early Learning & Care Scholarship through Child Care Network.  If you have a family of two earning $31,860 or less per year or if you are a family of four earning $48,500 or less per year, you are likely to qualify.

For more information and to apply for the Child Care Network scholarship, click here.    

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The 1st Great Start Families Community Fair

Spring is popping all around and this time of year reminds us that starting something new and fresh can be exciting!

We are very excited to announce some details on the 1st Great Start Families Community Fair.  Please make plans to join us Friday, June 30th from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm at the Community Action Agency on Greenwood Ave. in Jackson.  Be sure to bring the kiddos as lunch and licensed, on site child care will be provided.  We want to give parents and caregivers a chance to explore, learn and socialize while the kids have fun!

The fair will begin with a short introduction and story from each of our service providers.  Then you may visit them at their booth to ask questions and learn more about what interests you.  Finally lunch will be provided for all.

You will meet our partners in the community who work to help keep families strong and thriving in a casual, friendly atmosphere where you can listen, ask questions and talk to a person face to face.  Have you ever had a question about your child's development, where you can find a playgroup or how to get help for your family and not know where to start?  Great Start Families Community Fairs are focused on helping you identify and learn about resources in our community when you need them.

Stay tuned for details on guests as they are confirmed.  We hope you'll join us and look forward to seeing you all soon!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Jackson Playgroups History

7 years ago I was enjoying my brand new baby boy during my maternity leave so much that I decided I needed to make a huge life changing decision.  I decided to put in my resignation from my career in order to stay home and raise my son.  Although I loved being home with him, taking care of his every need all day long, I also felt extremely lonely and closed off from the world.  I did not know any other mom's who were staying home with their children and I felt like I had lost all of my friends, who were busy with their own careers.  

About 8 months into my homemaker gig, I received a call that Jackson had received some grant money and I was asked if I would like to start up a local playgroup for Jackson county kids ages 0-5 and their families.  Having never been to a playgroup before, I was a bit nervous, but for my own sanity of meeting new people, I decided it would be a fun endeavor!  In those early years, I was facilitating 3 playgroups per month - 1 at Baker College, 1 at the Eastern Branch of the library and 1 at the Carnegie Branch.

The following year, we received a bit more money to expand and add some more playgroups.  We branched out the the Brooklyn Library and added another group at Baker College.  Every year, we were able to add more dates and times to our playgroup schedule due to the popularity of them.  

We currently host 11 playgroups per month!  There are several sites in Jackson, including Baker College, the Carnegie Library and the Eastern Branch of the Library.  Our group got so huge in Brooklyn that we outgrew our space in the library!  We now meet at Jan's Dance Studio in Brooklyn and are fortunate enough to have library staff bring materials down for us to check out during playgroups!  We have also set up a new location in Parma!  

My goal for each playgroup is to provide an environment that is safe and fun for all attending. I provide toys that are developmentally appropriate and encourage children to learn through play.  I also have a craft set up during each playgroup that you are able to enjoy with your child.  Snacks are also provided -- having a son with food allergies myself, I understand that there may be snacks that some children may not be able to be around.  If you would like to come to a playgroup but have dietary restrictions, please contact me beforehand, I am happy to accommodate any food allergies! 

Feel free to follow Jackson Playgroups on Facebook for all of the updated dates, times, locations, and a place to ask questions on development and hear about other fun community events geared toward children.  I hope that you and your children will be able to come to a playgroup soon to play and meet other families!

Resha Willis
Jackson County Great Start Playgroups Facilitator

Monday, April 10, 2017

Baby Pantry Offers Help for Parents

Diapers.  Clothes.  Formula.  Furniture.  For new parents, it all adds up!  Regina Keyes, a stay at home mom and Jackson County resident, noticed this financial struggle taking place right here in Jackson, so she took action.

Starting out within her own apartment, Regina began collecting baby items and offering them to families for free.  Thankfully now, her baby pantry has moved to a much bigger space at the Together We Make a Difference house, located at 224 W. Wilkins Street.  

Primarily running this bigger pantry space on her own, Regina is always looking for helpers. More than that, though, she is looking for donations.  Anything that a new family needs, anything that a newborn needs, is requested.  

Stop on by to shop, donate, or pay a visit to this awesome lady! She deserves a round of applause for the work she is doing in our community. The pantry is open from noon-3 pm on Tuesdays and 1-3 pm on Saturdays.  

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Period of PURPLE Crying

Did any of your children go through a stage in infancy when they cried continually, starting every evening and lasting for several hours?  Did they look like they were in pain? Was it the case that no matter what you did for them, you couldn't soothe them?  I know as a parent, I went through it. It was both heartbreaking and frustrating! 

Like me, you may have taken your baby to the pediatrician and were told that your baby had colic. Maybe you were told the colic was due to gas pains, an allergy to a specific formula, a sensitivity to sound/light, or maybe (hopefully) you were told this was a normal phase that newborns go through.

The term 'colic' can be confusing and may leave parents feeling that something is wrong with their child, when in fact (most of the time), this period of crying is a normal developmental phase that WILL pass.  In an effort to move away from the term, Dr. Ronald Barr, a developmental pediatrician, came up with the phase - The Period of Purple Crying - as a way to educate parents on this completely normal stage of infancy.

Please visit the website where you will find great tips on soothing techniques, parent testimonials, what to do when you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, and much more.  However, if after reading this and visiting the website, you believe that your child is in pain or ill, please make that doctor's appointment.  Reassure yourself!

 If at any time, day or night, you feel that your frustration is leading to anger, please call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).  This toll-free number will get you in contact with a professional counselor who can help you deal with your child's crying as well as give other developmental tips that may help ease your frustration.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I Completed a Preschool Interest Form Now What?

The next step after completing an interest form on is income verification.
What is considered income?
The easiest way to provide the necessary income verification is to bring in your 1040 tax form. We must look at the gross income for the past calendar year (1040 tax form) or the last 12 months (W-2's, unemployment, child support, etc.) All wages including overtime are considered.

Where do I provide this information?
If you are potentially eligible for Head Start services, you be contacted by Head Start to complete the income verification process. All other income verification will be completed at any of the Great Start Readiness Program fairs. There will be several community preschool fairs from April until the start of the school year in the fall. You will receive robo calls to notify you of the locations and times of these fairs. The events are staffed by Community Action Agency Head Start, Jackson County Great Start Readiness Programs, and Jackson County Intermediate School District.

Wait for a program to contact you.
Why is there a wait?
We are required by the State of Michigan to enroll children in waves or groups based on family income.

What if my first choice fills?
If you have listed second or third you will receive a call from your second or third choice. If you only listed one program choice, ISD staff will contact you to see if you would be interested in any of the current openings or if you want to be placed on a waiting list for your original program choice.

No one has contacted me.
If you are concerned that you have not been contacted, please leave a message on the Jackson County Preschool Hotline 517-768-5130 or We will return your call or email as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

We are ALL Great Start Families

The objective of Great Start Families is to create a fun atmosphere to learn, foster friendships and provide a platform for parents and caregivers voices to be heard.  Our schedules and events are going to look a little different so be sure to stay tuned for details on our next event in early summer. Topics will include how to be your child's advocate, mental health awareness for children and families and how children with disabilities enrich our families and community.

Our schedule and locations may change but our purpose will remain the same.  We want to be known as the best local resource for families.  We all want what is best for our for our kids and oddly enough they did not come with instruction books.

We build friendships and make connections when we get together because its more fun to learn, contribute and celebrate together.

We share our experiences, our struggles and our success so we can be the voice of early childhood in our community that represents everyone.  As the parents of young children we give a "customer" perspective when decisions are being made about funding, programs and services.

Look for the me, Jennifer Ganzel in your playgroups, parenting groups and your PTO  meetings as we bring the conversation of early childhood to you because we are ALL Great Start Families.

If you have questions or you would like me to present to you group please contact me at (517)745-9544 or  See you soon!