WGVU By Leaps & Bounds

Investments in high-quality early childhood care, education, and support programs do more than help children – they also strengthen our workforce and economy. How are communities in West and Southwest Michigan approaching prevention and early intervention in these systems of care? How do the programs benefit children, families, care and education providers, businesses, and taxpayers? Where are the gaps, and how do we fill them? Come along as we take a closer look.

Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative

Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative (ELNC) provides high-quality early care and education programs in vulnerable neighborhoods of Grand Rapids, and is a model of a continuum of early childhood education services both in Kent County and the State of Michigan. From programs that support early learners to programming that supports families and advocacy work, ELNC partners within the communities they serve to ensure children are ready for kindergarten.

In addition to its impact on the many facets of everyday life for families, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the security of basic needs for families, including housing and food. Currently, Rental Payment Assistance and Emergency Food Assistance are two of the most frequent requests of callers to 2-1-1, the United Way Assistance line.

With the successful launch of the Kent County Success Basics initiative in 2018, the Nurturing Parent Power Workgroup of the Great Start Collaborative of Kent County is excited to take this work a step further by launching Ready 4K and Success Basics Text in Kent County. Ready 4K and Basics Text are evidence-based family engagement curriculum delivered by text messages.

Parent groups are a great way to connect with other parents. Not only are they a place to learn from other parents, but also learn about resources or opportunities in the community.  Parent groups can also be a safe space to share their experiences and grow their parenting practices. Often parents feel less alone when facing challenges because of the relationships they develop with other parents and the support they find within the group.

Comprehensive Therapy Center
Comprehensive Therapy Center

Not just about fun and games, play is an important teaching tool! Through playgroups, young children learn social-emotional and communication skills; build their physical, cognitive, and creative skills; boost their confidence; and enhance their connections with caregivers. For caregivers, play groups provide a connection with their child, other parents, and professionals. Play and Learn groups also provide caregivers with the strategies, tools, information and resources to help prepare for their child’s success.

When parents develop a secure attachment relationship with their child, it strengthens children’s self-esteem, concept and worth. Arbor Circle’s Early Childhood services team partners with parents to build their skills, help them bond with their children, and create a sense of security in their family. When a child faces mental health or other challenges, it can impact many parts of their life— from school performance to behavior at home and in the community.

The social, academic and behavioral skills that children develop in their early years creates a foundation for their future. Parent Educators partner with parents in understanding their child's development and how they learn best. Parent Educators offer support, parenting tips and strategies on topics most important to parents, personalized with information focused on each family's needs, concerns, and goals.

The first few years of life – between birth and kindergarten – are when a child’s brain will grow the fastest. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, parents are home with their children now more than ever. Parents, it’s important to know that you were made to be your child’s first and most important teacher. Don’t let that scare you, your child was born ready and excited to learn. They just need your love and guidance to get a great start.

Child care is one of the key essential services needed to get and keep our economy rolling. Families and employers alike are counting on the availability of child care slots to get everyone back to work. However, child care businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic, albeit historical sector declines. Camp Fire West Michigan 4C is on-the-ground every day as a long-time “institution of trust” providing “hand to heart business support” to child care providers, helping them save their small business and focus on recovery, sustainability, and expansion.

 Responding to the urgent need for educational resources when school buildings closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, WGVU mobilized to bring our West and Southwest Michigan communities high-quality, free At-Home Learning broadcast programming supported by on-line lessons and resources. WGVU has also organized many additional educational resources and materials for PreK-12 students that educators, parents and students can use to keep learning going while at home. WGVU Education Coordinator, Kristyn Bomberg, is here to give an update.

First Steps Kent
First Steps Kent

The COVID-19 crisis brought much of Michigan to a halt at the same time organizations across Kent County were ramping up their services for families with young children. The pandemic has undoubtedly created challenges, but the vital work hasn’t stopped. An urgent priority is ensuring high-quality child care for the children of essential workers.


Nearly 20% of new moms experience a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder during pregnancy, or up to two years after having a baby. Certain risk factors create a higher likelihood for developing postpartum mental health issues, and untreated, can lead to very serious complications for moms, babies and families. The first five years of a child’s development are critical, but struggles with mental health can affect a mother’s capacity to nurture and meet her child’s needs. And unfortunately, stigma and disparities around health care create barriers to women seeking help.

Spectrum Health logo
Spectrum Health

Receiving early and regular care throughout pregnancy is incredibly important for both mother and baby, as preterm birth and low birth weight put babies at an increased risk of developing cognitive, emotional, and physical health issues. Babies weighing above 5.5 pounds at birth are considered to be “born healthy.”

High-quality licensed programs help children learn, grow, and creates a strong foundation for children to be successful in school, work, and life while supporting parent participation in the workforce. Children learn so much in their 

Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce
Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce

Investments in child care accessibility and affordability are investments in both in the current Michigan workforce, and the future workforce. High-qualify affordable child care supports parents in contributing to our community, while providing for their families, and prepares children for school and life success.