Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Friday, June 30th Community Fair

** Have you seen that sign and wondered who that organization is and what they really do??  Have you been stressed about your child's anxiety with school, sports or friends and you're just not sure how to help her?  Do you know if she even needs help?  Are you fed up and tired of fighting with your child over a behavior?  Is your family struggling to make ends meet and needing additional support in a tough time?  This event is for you!

We are ready to welcome families to the first of many quarterly Community Fairs.   Community Action Agency and the Great Start Collaborative of Jackson County host these fairs for you and all families in Jackson County.

Lunch is ordered, organizations have been confirmed and childcare helpers are ready to play with the kiddos!  This Community Fair is for everyone whether you have questions or concerns or you just want to learn a little more.  

· Michigan Alliance for Families for Individualized Education Plan (IEP) support, advocacy and education.  If you have a young child who will require additional supports in school do you know what those supports are and how to get them.  Michigan Alliance for Families works with you from the families perspective to help each child develop to their full potential in school.

· Birth to 3 specialists for information about child speech and physical development.  As the parent of a young child you may notice your child doesn't have as many words as their peers or maybe you are concerned with tip toe walking.  Talk more with a specialist to find out more.

· Integro and LifeWay’s Community Mental Health to find out what you need to know about child and adult behavioral mental health.  Are you wondering if your child's mood swings, behaviors and intense feelings are symptoms of something more?  Maybe a family members anxiety is becoming a problem.  This is your opportunity to find to learn more. 

· Family Services and Children’s Aid to tackle challenging behaviors and learn parenting techniques through Nurtured Heart.  If you are not familiar with Nurtured Heart it is time to learn.  Many schools practice these methods which were originally designed for "difficult, challenging or intense" children.  The approach began as a method for treating children labeled as challenging, difficult, or intense – especially those with diagnoses such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Autism, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and more. The approach is now used successfully in schools, foster-care systems, and communities worldwide to help all children flourish.

· Great Start Playgroups to learn more about free, local playgroups, where and when they meet.

· Department of Health and Human Services is ready to give you the opportunity to talk with someone face to face about the wide range of resources available to families from foster care to birth records to financial assistance.

· Social Security will be on hand for information about who and how Medicare and Disability benefits are granted.

· Center for Family Health is eager to share information about child and adult counseling services in addition to their many health and dental services.

This event is FREE and lunch will be provided at no cost for all who attend. On site, licensed childcare will also be available for all families who attend free of charge.  Please join us and bring a friend or a neighbor who might benefit from one or all of the wonderful programs on hand that are helping support families in Jackson County. 
See you there!



Monday, June 19, 2017

Kids Fest Fun

Kids Fest was held Friday, June 16th, at the American 1 Events Center and Great Start was there!  We were able to speak with many families regarding their current child care options as well as hear any child care questions/concerns they may currently have.  Because one of our goals this year is to begin looking at child care needs within Jackson County in order to help offer more options for families, these conversations will be extremely beneficial.

In addition to our child care discussion, we had preschool interest forms on hand.  Any family with a child that will be age 4 by September 1st, 2017 was invited to complete a form or was given a flyer on how to complete the form online.  A cinch bag filled with different goodies was given to each family that completed the form at Kids Fest as a gift for their upcoming preschooler!



Also at Kids Fest, Jen Ganzel - Parent Liasion for Great Start Families, put together a fun necklace craft for the kids consisting of Fruit Loops and colored noodles.  It was extremely popular and for the entire day, children could be seen walking around with their colorful necklaces or crowns! 

Looking forward to next year!


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Preschool Fair June 29th

The next preschool fair will be held Thursday, June 29 from 4:00-8:00 P.M. at the Jackson District Library Carnegie Branch Auditorium. Over 100 families attended the first preschool fair on Friday, April 28 at Baker College of Jackson.

Families will be able to meet with representatives from Head Start and the Great Start Readiness Programs to complete preschool interest forms and income verification for the fall school year. All children will able to participate in educational activities and four year old children receive educational backpacks that include alphabet charts, reading buddies, and a book: The Night Before Preschool

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Who's who at the Great Start Families Fair

We hope your Memorial Day weekend was full of family, hot dogs, summer fun and parades!  The community parades are such a terrific way to help us remember and honor those who have served our country and those still serving.

We have confirmed all of the guests for the June 30th Great Start Families Community Fair.  Together with Community Action Agency we excited to provide you with a full line up of local resources to learn about and talk to for additional information.

· Michigan Alliance for Families for Individualized Education Plan (IEP) support, advocacy and education.  If you have a young child who will require additional supports in school odds are you don't know what those supports are and how to get them.  Michigan Alliance for Families works with you from the families perspective to help each child develop to their full potential in school.

· Birth to 3 specialists for information about child speech and physical development.  As the parent of a young child you may notice your child doesn't have as many words as their peers or maybe you are concerned with tip toe walking.  Talk more with a specialist to find out more.

· Integro and LifeWay’s Community Mental Health to find out what you need to know about child and adult behavioral mental health.  Are you wondering if your child's mood swings, behaviors and intense feelings are symptoms of something more?  Maybe a family members anxiety is becoming a problem.  This is your opportunity to find to learn more. 

· Family Services and Children’s Aid to tackle challenging behaviors and learn parenting techniques through Nurtured Heart.  If you are not familiar with Nurtured Heart it is time to learn.  Many schools practice these methods which were originally designed for "difficult, challenging or intense" children.  The approach began as a method for treating children labeled as challenging, difficult, or intense – especially those with diagnoses such as ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Autism, PTSD, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and more. The approach is now used successfully in schools, foster-care systems, and communities worldwide to help all children flourish.

· Great Start Playgroups to learn more about free, local playgroups, where and when they meet.

· Department of Health and Human Services  Take this opportunity to talk with someone face to face about the wide range of resources available to families from foster care to birth records to financial assistance.  

Free lunch and on site, licensed childcare will be available for all families who attend.  Please join us
and bring a friend or a neighbor who might benefit from one or all of the wonderful programs on 
hand that are helping support families in Jackson County.   See you there!

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.


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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