Expanded Early Childhood Services will Help More Young Kids in Kent County be Healthy and Ready for Kindergarten

Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage awards nearly $2.6 million to 12 community programs

(December 3, 2020)—More families in Kent County will be able to receive services that improve the healthy development and school readiness of young children thanks to a new round of Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage funding that was approved today.

Funding of nearly $2.6 million will be distributed to community-based organizations throughout 2021 and 2022. This most recent round of funding will meet a variety of community needs, including improving the health of babies at birth, providing tools for families to nurture early learning at home, and ensuring that services and information are available in multiple languages.

“The proposals and funding decisions show that agencies have what it takes to meet parents and children where they are during this moment in our history,” said Annemarie Valdez, President of First Steps Kent. “We are grateful for the support of Kent County residents. This is a vital investment in young children across our community, and families need these resources now more than ever.”

A Resident Proposal Review Committee, comprised of parents and other community members, reviewed all proposals. The committee’s recommendations went to the First Steps Kent Board of Commissioners last week and were all approved by the full Kent County Board of Commissioners today.

“The Ready by Five millage supports our local agencies in providing programs that will help our children succeed in their early education and beyond,” said Kent County Administrator Wayman Britt. “Since this millage was voted on by Kent County residents, we will continue to ensure these funds are used wisely to address the needs of our diverse community and to enrich the foundation for children.”

The following programs and organizations will receive funding starting January 2021 and continuing through December 2022:

NAVIGATION AND OUTREACH: These services connect expectant parents and parents of young children to resources and programs that support healthy child development and early learning.

Navigation and Outreach recipients include Family Futures, Health Net of West Michigan, Bethany Christian Services, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Family Promise of Grand Rapids, and West Michigan Partnership for Children. Navigation and Outreach service providers were awarded a total of $1,738,422.

HEALTHY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS: Three programs were awarded a total of $635,075.

  • Family Futures will provide early education learning toolkits to families for use at home during the pandemic.
  • Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative will provide support to meet the behavioral and emotional needs of young children in its early education programs.
  • The Kent County Health Department will run the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Network for Kent County, which will investigate infant and fetal deaths with the goal of improving healthy births within the county.

TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION SERVICES: These agencies will provide interpretation and translation services (in-person, telephone, and written) to families enrolled in programs funded by Ready by Five. Languages include, but are not limited to, Spanish, Nepali, Kinyarwanda, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili, Burmese, American Sign Language, Vietnamese, and Karen.

Bethany Christian Services, Hispanic Center of West Michigan, and Liaison Linguistics were awarded a total of $210,000.

Kent County voters approved the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage on November 6, 2018. The six-year millage generates approximately $5.7 million of dedicated funding annually for community-based early childhood programs, ensuring children and their families have access to vital services. All millage dollars go through an independent audit and are reported to the Kent County Board of Commissioners each year to ensure taxpayer funds are spent wisely and transparently.

Read the overview of newly-funded programs and services here.

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