Support for Child Care Providers will Improve Access to Care for Kent County Families

W.K. Kellogg Foundation funds a renewal grant to support local child care providers

(Grand Rapids, Mich., June 23, 2022)—First Steps Kent received a $750,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to move from pilot to implementation of a child care Shared Services alliance in Kent County. Shared Services is an innovative approach to strengthen the child care industry by helping licensed home-based providers share costs and deliver services in a more streamlined and efficient way.

In 2019, First Steps Kent received a grant to pilot a child care Shared Services project. Throughout the three-year grant, they researched shared services models both in the state and nationally, responded during the public health crisis providing licensed child care homes and centers with resources, and engaged providers and stakeholders in designing the alliance framework.

“In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic had a catastrophic impact on our lives, businesses, and communities. In the case of early childhood programs, numerous programs had to close their doors due to the devastating consequences we were experiencing during this pandemic,” said Isabel Blair, owner of Mi Casa es su Casa Bilingual Family Childcare. “Programs had to pay business expenses for cleaning supplies, rent, mortgages, insurance, payroll, taxes, health insurance, food, etc. Our families have had to care for their children at home and combine the responsibility of working and caring for their children at the same time. Children were losing their routines and social interactions, which are vitally important for a good start in kindergarten, and businesses could not operate due to lack of labor.”

“In those most vulnerable times, Shared Services Pilot aided my early childhood program in countless immeasurable ways. We were given masks, cleaning supplies, easy to clean toys, grocery store gift cards, trainings, etc. In addition, they facilitated connections among other early childhood education programs and other organizations to keep us together and support each other. We were all in the same boat. Thanks to the Shared Service Pilot for their hard work and for their advocacy for our field,” Blair added.

W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s renewal for three years will allow First Steps Kent to implement what was learned during the pilot, identify a hub, and plan for sustainability. An early care alliance infrastructure will support and strengthen home-based child care businesses, so they can reinvest time and energy into quality care and education.

First Steps Kent has partnered with in-home child care providers throughout the process, and this will continue.

“As the experts, child care business owners will have the power to inform the creation of an equitable system where their needs are centered,” said Kristen Sobolewski, Project Director at First Steps Kent. “A crucial component of this will be the development of a child care business advisory team.”

Responsive to and reflective of the community, this team will ensure that early care resources are invested wisely and fairly. As the experts, the advisory is crucial at this stage of implementation to guide and strategically infom the alliance.

“It's critical for the growth and stability of our economy that we support quality child care,” said Daniel VanderMolen, Project Manager at First Steps Kent. “It allows parents the opportunity to work while knowing their children are in a safe and nuturing environment.”


About First Steps Kent:First Steps Kent is an independent nonprofit organization that works with parents, service providers, funders, advocates, and other stakeholders to build a comprehensive early childhood system in Kent County. Our community vision is that every young child in Kent County will enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and life. First Steps Kent is working with our community partners to make that vision a reality. Learn more at

About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (GENERAL FOUNDATION INFORMATION) The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti. For more information, visit

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