First Steps Kent’s (FSK) vision is that every young child will enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and in life. Through its work with early childhood partners, parents, and stakeholders, FSK acts an independent, influential and neutral entity leading community efforts to strengthen and coordinate early childhood services in Kent County.

In the summer of 2017, the Steelcase Foundation awarded FSK $200,000 over two years to create a gap analysis of current early childhood programs, establish consistent outcomes for measurement across the early childhood landscape, and identify gaps in enrollment capacity and funding, duplications in services, and costs of expanding and sustaining effective services. The gap analysis helped to uncover where additional programming and dollars were most needed, and where successful programming could be expanded to amplify its impact.

The gap analysis also helped to make the case for the passing of Ready By 5, Kent County’s early childhood millage, which will provide approximately $5.7 million annually for six years to support high-quality community-based early childhood programs. As the first dedicated, stable funding source for early childhood services and programming in Michigan, Ready By 5 will ensure all Kent County children under five have access to vital services that ensure they are healthy and ready to learn by kindergarten.

“It’s clear that children who start ahead stay ahead and this dedicated source of funding will give Kent County kids a strong foundation for a bright future,” said Kate Pew Wolters, Steelcase Foundation chair and co-chair of the First Steps Commission. We’re hopeful the fiscal map and millage support will provide all children in Kent County access to high quality early learning and support services to help them be ready for the first day of kindergarten, setting the stage for success in school.

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