Program receives funding for three parent educators to serve areas of need

Article featured on School News Network - By Erin Albanese -January 28, 2020

Bright Beginnings, a program which serves children from birth to kindergarten with home visits, play groups and free screenings, is the recipient of $273,068 in millage funds to bring more services to families.

The allocation, from the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage approved by Kent County voters in 2018, will fund three new parent educators who will focus on Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kentwood Public Schools, and Wyoming area schools, including Godfrey-Lee Public Schools and Godwin Heights Public Schools.

“We know we are lacking in services in those areas and we have a lot of families still going underserved. Those are areas where we need to expand Bright Beginnings,” said Ashley Karsten, Kent ISD director of Early Education.

Bright Beginnings parent educators are trained and certified in the Parents As Teachers curriculum, which they use to help parents learn to teach their children at home. Services include home visits, play groups, developmental screenings and a network of resources. Karsten said Bright Beginnings will target low-income, African American and Hispanic families with identified risk factors as well as refugee families, specifically in the Kentwood area where there is a significant language barrier for families in accessing services.

The six-year Ready by Five millage generates approximately $5.7 million each year of dedicated funding for community-based early childhood programs, ensuring children and their families have access to vital services. Funding totaling $7.6 million will be distributed to 16 community-based organizations beginning in March of this year and running through December 2021. The funding is coordinated by First Steps Kent.