Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 252

2023 Impact Report

"As we reflect on the past year, it is with immense pride that I share the impact our organization has had on the lives of young children and families in Kent County. Our commitment to fostering the well-being and development of our youngest citizens is unwavering, and this report serves as a testament to the dedication and collaborative efforts of our team, partners, and stakeholders." Read the full letter from Jennifer Headley-Nordman on page 3 of the impact report - download below.

2023 Impact

What does it take for all our kids to succeed in school and in life? It begins will babies being born healthy and families having the skills and resources they need to provide a strong foundation.

2023 Impact Report
Isabel Media Studios TLP Graduation 23 1Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 27

Ready by Five

With the completion of the first “term” of the Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage just months away, the early childhood landscape in Kent County looks very different than it did six years ago. In November 2018, voters decisively approved the millage, making Kent the first county in Michigan with public funds dedicated solely to young children and their families. The original millage expires at the end of 2024, with a renewal on the ballot in August.

Ready by Five in 2023

The community deserves to know its investment in young children and families is paying off. An independent comprehensive evaluation - conducted by two partner organizations; Basis Policy Research and Advancing Communities for Equity - is helping ensure millage funds are used effectively and making an impact.

Evaluating Ready by Five
N5 A5006Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 409

Ready by Five Highlights

Not knowing what’s available or where to seek help often keeps families from getting the support they need. Outreach and Navigation removes the barrier of the unknown and helps connect families to early childhood programs and other community resources.

Outreach and Navigation

Home Visiting programs match expectant parents or new parents with a trained early childhood or maternal infant professional. Home visits are tailored to meet the unique needs of each family.

Home Visiting
Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 42Isabel Media Studios TLP Graduation 53

More Ready by Five Highlights

As a new parent, ensuring your baby is hitting developmental milestones can be intimidating. Taniah started taking her one-year-old daughter to Play and Learn GRCC so she could socialize with other children, but she quickly realized she benefitted from being around other parents and early childhood experts.

Play and Learn

Lead poisoning remains a significant issue in Kent County, where many homes built before 1978 still contain harmful lead-based paint. This hidden hazard can cause irreversible neurological and developmental damage in children. Fortunately, families have access to essential support from the Healthy Homes Coalition of West Michigan and the Kent County Health Department. In 2023, these organizations enrolled 376 children and expectant parents in their environmental home health programs.

Environmental Home Health
Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 142N5 A5099

Elevating Child Care

Stabilizing and ultimately growing the pool of qualified early educators is key to addressing the shortage of child care in Kent County. Child care providers are business owners; some operate home-based care completely on their own, while others run a center. Centers range from small to large and the number of employees is based on capacity and ratios. Across the board, they are among our economy’s lowest paid workers, with average earnings of $13 an hour statewide.

Read more

First Steps Kent is helping to address the business challenges of child care through the Mainspring Early Care Alliance. Building on the Shared Services framework developed during an initial pilot project phase, First Steps Kent began implementation of Mainspring in 2023.

More about Mainspring
Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 52Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 53

Community Voices

The collaboration between First Steps Kent and the RAPID EC Survey Project, hosted by the Stanford Center on Early Childhood, serves as a prime example of how community-focused partnerships can enhance understanding and support for families with young children. This partnership began as an effort to collect and utilize valuable data on the experiences of these families to better shape local policies and support systems during the challenging times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn about this Project
Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 167Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 123

Thank You

To our supporters, funders, and board members, your dedication and belief in our mission have been the cornerstone of our success. To the children and families of Kent County, thank you for inspiring us with your resilience and trust. Together, we are building a stronger, healthier, and more vibrant community.

The Commission
Isabel Media Studios First Steps Kent 294