Friday, December 22, 2017


The ability to manage and bounce back from all kinds of challenges that come up in every family’s life is called resilience. It means finding ways to solve problems, building and maintaining trusting relationships, especially with our kiddos, and knowing how to seek help when necessary.

Through building resilience, parents and other family members will be better prepared to manage the inevitable challenges in life. Resilience not only benefits family members, it also leads to better parenting and healthier child development.  With a positive mindset, you can become more resilient!

The following are just a few of the techniques you can focus on in order to foster your own resilience....
  1. Build Positive Beliefs in Your Abilities
  2. Develop a Strong Social Network 
  3. Embrace Change
  4. Be Optimistic
  5. Nurture Yourself
  6. Develop Your Problem-Solving Skills
  7. Establish Goals

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Importance of Fine Motor Skills

The cup has spilled again.  There is cereal on the floor.  Your shirt is on backward.  All parents can relate to these words and the frustrations of raising young children.  But, try to relax in knowing that by making these mistakes, your child is practicing and strengthening their fine motor skills.  

Many of our children's daily activities, like eating breakfast, coloring, and getting dressed, require strength and control of small muscles in the hands.  As adults, we take these skills for granted, but they are an extremely important part of growth and learning for young children.  There are several activities that can help young children increase muscle strength and coordination, which will prepare them for more advanced skills, such as writing with a pencil or playing an instrument.  The following examples all help your child build fine motor skills right at home:

  • setting the table
  • loading the dishwasher/washing dishes in the sink
  • folding laundry (washcloths/towels)
  • helping with simple recipes
  • buttoning pants/coat
  • playing with playdough and clay
  • drawing, coloring
  • playing with puzzles/pegboards
  • playing with puppets
  • cutting with child-safe scissors
  • helping wrap presents
  • turning pages in a book

Painting is a wonderful way for children of all ages to practice their fine motor skills.  For the youngest children, try making an edible finger paint by mixing flour, water, and food coloring.   Tape a large sheet of paper on your table and watch your child create a masterpiece!  Make sure they have on clothing that can be easily washed.  For the preschool-aged child, try cotton ball painting.  Create your own paint by mixing water and food coloring in small, disposable cups.  Give your child several cotton balls and allow them to dip the cotton balls into the paint and rub onto the paper.  Have fun!

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. 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

CDC Milestone Tracker App

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched CDC'S Milestone Tracker, a free app for tracking children's development. The app gives parents a way to track developmental milestones and recognize delays that can be shared with healthcare providers.

This new app offers:

  • Milestone checklists for children 2 months to 5 years old.
  • Learning tips and activities
  • Information on when to speak to a doctor about developmental delays
  • Milestone summary that can be easily shared with healthcare providers
  • Appointment and developmental screening reminders
The app is available in the App Store and Google Play. To download the app or learn more about the app visit the CDC's website.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Holiday Crafts

Crafting with 0-5 year olds can be tricky sometimes, since there is such a wide range of ages to accommodate.  One thing that all of the children at playgroups have in common is that they all love to do the craft!  Typically at playgroups, I plan one or two crafts for the month and then the same craft is available at all of the sites throughout the month.  Personally, I love the months of October - December because of all of the holiday's!  Here are a few of the crafts from the past 2 months.  I will share our Christmas craft next month.

The Halloween craft was made from popsicle sticks, which the children were able to glue together to make the fence.  The pumpkins are foam peel and stick stickers, which the older kids can do completely on their own, while younger children may need some help peeling the backing off but then are able to stick them down where they would like.  I wrote the poem in with a sharpie.  This part would need adult help with our age group.

The Thanksgiving crafts started by tracing your hand on a piece of construction paper.  The older children are able to do this themselves, while younger children need some assistance.  We then put glue all over the inside of our hand and sticking feathers to it.  We glued a googley eye on and drew in the waddle.  This is a great craft for 0-5 year olds because older kids can do most of this on their own and younger children and their adult can do it together.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Michigan Department of Education needs your feedback

We have always known parent voice is an important contribution to programs and policy created for children and families.  The Michigan Department of Education realizes parents and caregivers are partners in their child's education and is working on an online Transparency Dashboard created especially for them.

Parents and other caregivers of children from preschool through grade 12 are invited to provide feedback on Michigan’s new, online “transparency dashboard”  designed to show the performance of every public school in Michigan, including public school academies. The dashboard is currently under development by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE). It is expected to be made available to the public by early 2018. 
The new dashboard will report on more than 20 different factors—or measures—that parents and other stakeholders have said are important to them when evaluating the quality of a school. The survey allows participants to view components of the new dashboard, then answer questions about the way information is presented, the usefulness of certain features, and viewers’ unique interests. The Michigan Department of Education will use survey feedback to help shape the current and future versions of the dashboard so that it is helpful to parents in every community.
  • The survey can be completed on any computer, tablet, or mobile device.
  • The survey should take no more than 15 minutes to complete.
  • All answers will be confidential.
  • Survey must be completed by November 15, 2017.

Thank you for your time and sharing your opinion.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Ages and Stages Social Emotional Health Screening

The ASQ:SE 2 provides a quick check of children’s social emotional development. The ASQ:SE 2 screens self-regulation, compliance, adaptive functioning, autonomy, affect, social-communication, and interaction with people. Children from 1-72 months can be screened with the ASQ:SE 2.

20% of children in the United States have an untreated diagnosable mental health problem. Signals for interventions can be seen in behaviors in infancy. Unresolved problems compound as children advance in the stages of social emotional development.

The Great Start Collaborative has made the Ages and Stages: Social Emotional 2 available through the Jackson County Health Department for Jackson County children up to 6 years old. Caregivers can complete the free screening online here.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Tips for Reading to Baby

It may not seem like it to you right now, but did you know that by exposing your baby to books this early in life you are helping them form a love of reading that will last a lifetime?  It's true!  You are showing your child that books are important to YOU and they will grow feeling the same way.  You are a role model!  

Just remember - when reading, try not to become discouraged if you don't get your baby's full attention.  Focus on the closeness you feel when snuggling with your little one, and know that they are enjoying this special time with you as well.  It's the quality time spent with YOU that matters most.

Here are some great tips to help you get the most out of reading with your baby:

Monday, October 16, 2017

Help With Heat

Michigan winters are extremely unpredictable.  One day can be mild and the following day we may face a blizzard and below zero temperatures.  Because of this, many families become concerned over heating costs.  Do you ever find yourself falling behind on heating bills or are you beginning to feel anxious about upcoming costs?  Did you know there are many options in Jackson County for help?  You and your family do not need to suffer this fall and winter.  

Consumers Energy has partnered with United Way and Child Care Network to offer the CARE program (Consumers Affordable Resource for Energy).  This is for help with natural gas or electric heat expenses only, but also helps with outstanding bills as well as monthly payments.  The CARE program is based on income and has other eligibility requirements, so make sure to see if you qualify before beginning the application process. Open enrollment began October 9th, so apply soon - space is limited! Visit the United Way website to apply or call Brittany Nortley, Child Care Network Family Support Specialist, at (517) 817-0820 for help with the process.

If you have propane heat, there is help for you as well!  Both Community Action Agency's Heat a Home program and the Salvation Army offer help for all heating needs. For more information, please call Community Action Agency at (517) 784-4800 or the Salvation Army at (517) 782-7185.

Stay warm!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ages and Stages Questionnaire

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) is a simple developmental screening tool for parents or caregivers to complete with young children. Parents are the experts on their children. ASQ research has found 93% agreement in scoring between parents and professionals.

The ASQ will provide you with the information you need to determine if your child needs further evaluation for developmental delays. The ASQ assesses five areas: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social. Six questions are asked in each of the five areas. Responses to the questions are yes, no, or sometimes. Screening identifies children developmentally on target and children who may benefit from support.

The Great Start Collaborative has made the Ages and Stages Questionnaire available through the Jackson County Health Department for Jackson County children up to 5 ½ years old. You can complete the free screening online here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Great Start Families December Community Fair

It is going to be tough to follow the wonderful Safety Community Fair in September but I think we're up to the challenge!

In September our kiddos were able to climb up in a firetruck, check out the inside of an ambulance and sit in the drivers seat of a police cruiser!  A K9 officer and his partner Hooch were there and showed off some of their skills.  The officers, firefighters and EMT's on hand snapped pictures, talked with the kids and parents and 2 special State Troopers completed child ID kits for parents to take home.  The 911 Emergency Dispatch, Red Cross and Jackson County Health Department shared important information with families and the addition of "Safetyville" was a favorite among our guests.  Everyone agreed lunch was wonderful and even though it was HOT it was a terrific day!

Mark your calendar for the next big thing from Great Start Families on Friday, December 1st from 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm at the Immanuel Lutheran Church across from the Westwood Mall.  We will be celebrating the Holiday Season with family crafting, balloon animal creations, a story corner with the Jackson District Library, family friendly dinner and maybe....just maybe.... a visit from the one and only St. Nick!

Watch our Facebook Page and this blog for details and how to preregister for the event to be entered in a drawing for Meijer gift cards and kids prizes too!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Books That Help Children Cope in Difficult Times

When it comes to tough life situations, children are often unequipped to deal with the strong emotions they feel.  It is hard for them to name their feelings and to express them in the correct way.  Children can act out when confused, talk back more often when sad, even have problems in school when angry about a situation at home.  Big changes are scary!  So how do we help our little ones understand their feelings when challenged with tough situations?

Books offer a fantastic way to explore the many trials that we all experience in life.  Whether it be a divorce, move to a new school, a personal illness, or a death in the family, there are several books that will help you and your child through a difficult time.  Here is a list of books that cover several different topics, all aimed to help your child understand that they are not alone in their feelings, as well as offering comfort and guidance.  Click on each picture for a direct link to Amazon for a complete description, or find these books in your local library.

Monday, September 18, 2017

And the Winner Is....

The poll for the Name the Newsletter Giveaway has now closed and the winner of the book bundle has been randomly selected.  The winner will be notified today and books will be mailed by the end of the week.  We had over 100 participants, thank you!  Out of eight different titles, 55% of participants chose the name - Little Bookworms - for the new literacy section of our Great Start newsletter - it won by a landslide!  We are excited; we loved that name too. 

Keep an eye on your inbox at then end of the month for the Great Start newsletter and if you haven't signed up to receive it yet, you can here.  Aside from literacy, the monthly newsletter gives you information on the happenings at the Great Start Collaborative, updates on our committees, child development tidbits, family-friendly community events taking place in Jackson County, and much more.  Check it out!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Playgroups Rock!

If you haven't heard, Rocks are all the rage right now in Jackson County, all across Michigan, and even across the country!  Everyone is painting rocks, hiding the rocks around in parks, downtown areas, restaurants, EVERYWHERE!  The point of it is to spread joy and get individuals and families out spending time together, while enjoying nature, and getting in some exercise.  We have an amazing group of people right here in Jackson County that are coming together as a community and posting their creations and findings on the Facebook group: Jackson County Rocks.  Since this is such a fun project, our craft for the month of August was creating rocks to be taken and hidden by our families. We all had a blast and I am thinking that this will be a craft again in the near future, especially since I asked my husband to pick up rocks for playgroups and he came home with a half yard/trailer full!

Check out Jackson Playgroups Facebook for all of the current info on dates, times, and locations.

Happy rock hunting!!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Parma Playgroups!

Hi everyone, I have exciting news!

We have a new location in Parma for playgroups!  Athleaderfit is a new boxing and strength training facility located at 415 N. Parma Road.  It is a large, open space, that is perfect for tumbling on our new climbing mats, doing crafts, eating snacks, playing with friends, and there is even a wonderful outside area to explore!  If you haven't had a chance to check out our new place in Parma, feel free to come out soon.  Playgroups are for children ages 0-5 and are held in Parma every second and fourth Thursday of the month at 10:00 am.  Check out the Jackson Playgroup Calendar for all of our scheduled dates, times, and locations and join our Facebook group here: Jackson Playgroups Facebook.  I hope to see you soon! 


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Still Time to Enroll in GSRP

There is still time to enroll your four year old in the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP). Most preschool programs begin in the middle of September to early October. To apply for GSRP, complete an interest form at or visit any GSRP site to complete a paper interest form.

Current location openings in Jackson County include:
·         East Jackson
·         ABC Academy - Lansing Avenue
·         Dibble Elementary
·         Hanover Horton
·         Columbia
·         Vandercook Lake
·         Western
·         Concord
·         ABC Academy – Jackson College
·         Hunt Elementary
·         Little Rainbows
·         Early Impressions
·         Phoenix – Prospect St.
·         da Vinci Primary School
·         Michigan Center
·         Napoleon

If you have any questions about the preschool enrollment process, please contact us at or 517-768-5130.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Great Start Collaborative - Name the Newsletter Giveaway!

Sadly, we have not received enough funding to sustain the Imagination Library program in Jackson County, so our monthly Imagination Library will be ending.  However, because we are still dedicated to building literacy skills in children and families, we will be adding a new literacy section to our monthly Great Start Collaborative newsletter.  To kick off this change, we are running a giveaway for a FREE bundle of children's books! 

Please help us name the new literacy section of our newsletter by filling out this poll. Your email address will then be entered into a random drawing for the books!  The poll will close on Monday, September 18th and the book winner will be notified via email by Friday, September 22nd.  Please note that the books will be geared for children ages 0-8.

Check your email in October for the new Great Start Collaborative newsletter.  If you aren't signed up to receive it yet, you can do so by following this link.

Thank you and best of luck!   

Monday, August 21, 2017

Great Start Statewide Convening

On August 8th, our Jackson Great Start team attended the Statewide Convening in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Held yearly, this all-day meeting provides an opportunity for all Collaborative staff and Parent Coalitions to network, share successes,and learn from each other.  In addition, the Office of Great Start and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation are in attendance to answer questions regarding the 2018 fiscal year.

This year, six morning workshops were offered, all geared toward strengthening team efforts and empowering parent leadership.  The titles of each session as well as a brief summary of each follows:

Kindergarten Transitions: Building a Bridge Over the Grand Canyon - Macomb, Midland, and COOR/losco Great Start Collaborative's shared successes and lessons learned for helping families transition children to kindergarten.

Engaging Parents in the Coalition - Focus was on holding successful meetings with regular attendance and engagement.  Three Parent Liaisons shared tips on engaging the community, setting up for meetings using agendas, and providing parent leadership.

The Power of Groups in Great Start - Participants learned how effective groups engage parents, community partners, stakeholders, etc.  The focus was on building positive relationships and effectively facilitating groups.

Promoting Healthy Outcomes Pregnancy through Pre-K : Representatives from Northeast 211 and MiChap Virtual offered information on how to connect families to local resources utilizing 211.  In addition, creative methods for reaching middle school students on the dangers of substance abuse before, during, and after pregnancy were presented by representatives of the Safe Journey Initiative, Bay County. 

Parent Led Strategies - Your Parent Coalition in Action! : Parent Liaisons from both Delta County and the Traverse Bay area shared their experiences for guiding parent coalitions through the Strengthening Families Assessment.  Participants left the workshop prepared, organized, and confident to support parents leading the work.  

Organize Your Team for Success :  In this workshop, Great Start Coordinators/Directors and Parent Liaisons shared staff roles, tips for staying organized, community engagement, and how to work as an effective team.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Everybody Loves a Firetruck!

Great Start Families and Community Action Agency are at it again.  We are excited to present families of young children in Jackson County with a fun and engaging Community Fair focused on safety.

This fair is a terrific opportunity for our littles to climb up on a firetruck and talk with paramedics, firefighters and police officers in a fun, non emergent and friendly atmosphere. If our children must later interact with one of them during an emergency they may feel a little better remembering these experiences.

Please mark your calendar and share with friends and neighbors. See you there!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FREE Breastfeeding Webinars

Breastfeeding education webinars are currently being offered for free each month. Presented by breastfeeding experts from the Michigan Breastfeeding network, the webinars will cover both clinical and community topics. The webinars will offer CERP's each month and provide continuing education for nurses on months with a clinical topic. In addition, certificates of attendance will be available for dietitians and social workers.  All webinars are also free for the general public!  

Webinars are free of charge and offered the 3rd Tuesday of every month at 1- 2 p.m. To view upcoming webinars or past webinars, click here

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Butterfly Craft

Hi Everyone!  It's been awhile since I shared any playgroup news.  We did a super fun craft at playgroup last week and I wanted to share! It is a very easy craft, using supplies that you may already have at home.

-round coffee filters
-liquid watercolors, bingo dobbers, or markers and a squirt bottle with water
-pipe cleaner
-beads (optional)

We doubled the coffee filters then used bingo dobbers to design our butterfly wings.  After the filters had dried, we gathered them in the center and tied a pipe cleaner around.  We added some beads and curled the ends of the pipe cleaners to look like antennas.  Voila!  Beautiful butterflies to decorate your home!  

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!