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

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 greatstartjackson.org 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 jcisd.gsrp@jcisd.org. 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 GreatStart.Parents@jcisd.org.  See you soon!


Monday, March 27, 2017

Pregnant? Help is Available!

Did you just find out you are pregnant?  Is this your first baby or a new addition to your growing family? Feeling overwhelmed?  First of all, congratulations!  We know how exciting - and stressful - bringing a little one into the world is! 

Did you know there are many resources in our community that can help you prepare for the arrival of your little one?  You don't even need to do the homework.  By calling 2-1-1 you will be connected with a Community Navigation Specialist who will direct you to programs in Jackson County that will be beneficial to you and your baby.  Check out the brochure below for more information.  Best of luck to you and your family!





Thursday, March 16, 2017

Three Year Old Preschool Options in Jackson County

There are two options for quality three year old preschool in Jackson County: Head Start and tuition programs. Only 4 year old children are eligible for the Great Start Readiness Program.

Head Start
  • Serves children with a family income at or below 100% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four this is $24,600 a year.
  •  Free preschool program funded by the federal government for 3 and 4 year olds.
  •  Children of all abilities can participate
  • Teachers are certified in Early Childhood Education
  • 2 or 3 teachers for every 15-18 students
  •  Research based curriculum that include health, safety, literacy and social development
  • Offers a mix of full and part day programs
  • Limited transportation is available
  •  Meals and snacks are provided in all programs
  •  Parent involvement is encouraged and supported through classroom volunteering, parent meetings and activities
  • Health, dental and mental health services
  • Family assessment and goal setting

Tuition
  • No income guidelines
  • Tuition is paid directly to the program
  • Enroll immediately with the program of your choice
  • Curriculum varies by preschool
  • Mix of full and part day programs
  • Tuition preschools can be found on greatstarttoquality.org

To apply for Head Start, contact Community Action Agency at 517-784-4800. To locate a tuition program, visit greatstarttoquality.org to search for a preschool near your home or workplace and contact the preschool directly to enroll.

If you have any questions about the preschool enrollment process, please contact us at jcisd.gsrp@jcisd.org or 517-768-5130. Multiple staff have the ability to check the GSRP email and preschool hotline messages and will respond to your question as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Four Year Old Preschool Options in Jackson County

There are three options for quality four year old preschool in Jackson County: Head Start, Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), and tuition programs.

Head Start
  • Serves children with a family income at or below 100% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four this is $24,600 a year.
  •  Free preschool program funded by the federal government for 3 and 4 year olds.
  •  Children of all abilities can participate
  • Teachers are certified in Early Childhood Education
  • 2 or 3 teachers for every 15-18 students
  •  Research based curriculum that include health, safety, literacy and social development
  • Offers a mix of full and part day programs
  • Limited transportation is available
  •  Meals and snacks are provided in all programs
  •  Parent involvement is encouraged and supported through classroom volunteering, parent meetings and activities
  • Health, dental and mental health services
  • Family assessment and goal setting
GSRP
  • Serves children at or below 250% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four this is $61,500 a year.
  • Spots may be available to families at or above 250% of the federal poverty level for a sliding fee scale tuition rate.
  • Free preschool program funded by the state of Michigan for 4 year olds
  • Children of all abilities can participate
  • Teachers are certified in Early Childhood Education
  •  2 or 3 teachers for every 15-18 students
  • Research based curriculum that includes health, safety, literacy and social development
  • Offers a mix of full and part day programs
  • Child care to extend the day is available at some locations
  • Transportation is available for some locations
  • Meals and snacks are provided depending on the length of the program
  • Parent involvement is encouraged and supported through classroom volunteering, parent meetings and activities
  • Dental and developmental screenings
Tuition
  • No income guidelines
  • Tuition is paid directly to the program
  • Enroll immediately with the program of your choice
  • Curriculum varies by preschool
  • Mix of full and part day programs
  • Tuition preschools can be found on greatstarttoquality.org

To apply for Head Start or GSRP, complete an interest form at greatstartjackson.org or visit any GSRP site to complete a paper interest form.  If your child qualifies, you will begin receiving robo calls in April to keep you updated on where you are in the enrollment process. To find a tuition program, visit greatstarttoquality.org to search for a preschool near your home or workplace and contact the preschool directly to enroll.

If you have any questions about the preschool enrollment process, please contact us at jcisd.gsrp@jcisd.org or 517-768-5130. Multiple staff have the ability to check the GSRP email and preschool hotline messages and will respond to your question as soon as possible.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Shoe Tying : Tips and Tricks

One of the hardest tasks for me to master as a child (next to riding my bike without training wheels) was tying my shoes.  It seems at that time, it was a requirement to enter kindergarten, so I remember feeling pressured.  That pressure lead to stress and frustration, and I ended up in a tantrum of tears. Several family members offered suggestions on how to learn, but it was the "bunny ear method" that finally helped me.





When my children began inching toward that same time in their life, I knew that I was about to experience the same torture that I went through as a child.  I started thinking that keeping them in Velcro and slip-on shoes didn't seem like a bad idea.  But, at their kindergarten round-up, I received a bag of goodies to take home with my now "big-kid" which included a guide to tying shoes.  Oh the frustration...and reality!




Needless to say, both of my kiddos did spend the first few months of kindergarten in easy-peasy shoes.  There were tears while learning, both from them and myself.  It was frustrating, but after a few different family members offered their techniques - they learned!


If you are currently struggling or feel like your time is coming, here's some advice.

  1. Don't start too early.  Ages 4-5 is a great time to start!
  2. Get some really cool shoes that your child wants to wear.
  3. Employ the advice of many different family members and friends.
  4. Know when your child needs a break from learning.
  5. Know when YOU need a break.
  6. Let your child know you believe in them, you are not disappointed in them, and that you are there to support them when they are ready to try again.  When a child feels in control, they feel strong in the world!

One resource that wasn't available to my parents as they were teaching me was YouTube.  There you will find many videos displaying different techniques.  Check out this fantastic video to help get you started.








Have fun and happy tying!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Jackson Area Early Childhood Conference 2017

We are so excited to attend the Jackson Area Early Childhood Conference on Saturday, March 25th!  Not only does the event offer those employed in early childhood local opportunities for training hours and continuing education but what a great resource for parents!!  

Break out sessions include topics like Pinterest for early childhood, working with challenging children, caretakers guide to stress management, yoga adventure, successful approaches to parenting and teaching boys who are wired to move and so much more!

Great Start Families was able to sponsor 4 parents attendance and we are looking forward to sharing what we learned in our circles with friends and family, at playgroup, church and just about anywhere!

Click here for more information about the Jackson Area Early Childhood Conference.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Free Online Workshop for Parents



Michigan State University Extension is now enrolling for their next Building Early Emotional Skills (BEES) online class beginning March 6th, 2017.

This is an amazing opportunity for parents/caregivers of children ages 0-3!  Over the course of eight weeks, FREE classes will be offered covering topics such as handling stress and anger in children, discussing emotions, dealing with temper tantrums, and much more.  Once enrolled, participants can log in at anytime - there is NO set day/time for classes.

Better still, a weekly chat forum will be available for group support and discussion.

Certificates indicating training hours will be available upon request.  Don't miss it!  Enroll today.



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Discussing Feelings with Your Child


Wouldn't it be great if children were born knowing the names of the feelings they experience and what to do with them?  For me as a parent, helping my kids name the emotions they are feeling and teaching them to express them in an appropriate way, has always been one of the hardest tasks of parenting.  Oftentimes, their frustration leads to my frustration, and before I know it, both of us are in time-out!  

Well thankfully, there are a multitude of books written just for children that explore these tricky emotions, which makes your job that much easier.  Here are a few of my children's favorites that I enjoyed reading to them again and again. In fact, all of the books written by these authors are fantastic, with colorful, expressive illustrations that your children will love. 
I think you will love them too.
  





 For an even more lengthy list, categorized by age group, check this out!

Happy Reading!