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Kent County selected to participate in early childhood development initiative

Kent County has been selected as one of 29 communities across the country to participate in a national joint initiative focused on child development from birth to age 3. A project of the Chicago-based J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation, the Pritzker Children’s Initiative will focus on increasing the number of children who are developmentally on track by kindergarten.

Annemarie Valdez is the CEO of First Steps Kent, the organization leading the local effort.

“They (the Pritzker Family Foundation) have dedicated $25 million to identify delays early, or help with health issues, or any kind of developmental delays,” Valdez said. “Making sure there are home visiting which are evidence based, providing resources, and really modeling techniques and activities for parents to continue on with their children who might have special needs.”

Thursday morning Valdez and First Step Kent officials joined other early childhood officials for the Ready by Five conference in Kent County, where Valdez says, over 20,000 children under the age of 5 are living in poverty.  

“So we want to make sure that there are services getting to families,” Valdez said. We want to support parents. So bringing the community together really helps because we will raise awareness and that the knowledge of resources is out there.”

The Pritzker Children’s Initiative will start with a one year pilot, investing 6.5 million in the first year.

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