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It cannot be overstated that the first few years of a child’s life are critical.
Leading brain scientists and education researchers have found that the brain experiences its most rapid growth in the earliest years with as much as 90 percent of intellectual and emotional brain development taking place by a child’s 5th birthday.
But finding high quality early learning and care can be a daunting task for parents. Personally evaluating every program in their area would be time-consuming and few parents are up on the latest early childhood trends and research to best analyze available programs.
That’s where greatstartCONNECT.org can help.
Launched by the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2010, Michigan’s greatstartCONNECT.org is a nationally recognized searchable database of licensed early learning and care programs. This easy-to-use website is accessible to families 24/7 and is an essential resource for families in search of licensed local child care and preschool.
“Parents would tell us that when they start to consider child care and preschool options they often turn first to friends and family,” said Karen Roback, Senior Director of Early Learning Innovation at the Early Childhood Investment Corporation.
“Now parents have greatstartCONNECT.org for information about early learning and care. It’s a one-stop online source for parents to find child care and preschool that fits their needs, and get information and resources on quality. The site also connects educators and providers to training and resources.”
GreatstateCONNECT.org should not be confused with the growing number of babysitter services being offered on websites. Facebook carries advertising for various websites and many parents even see advertisements on television. But these options come with no guarantee of licensing, training or quality. These other businesses charge a fee for parents to access their lists and a fee for those who want to advertise their services.
GreatstartCONNECT.org is an independent and objective site available at no charge to providers or parents. The goal is to help parents find the best early learning and care for their young child and help set a foundation for success in school, work and life.
Jordan Blough-Orr, a parent advisor with the Early Childhood Investment Corporation, said she’d heard from friends about online advertising that offers to assist in the search for child care – for a fee.
“I couldn’t afford to pay just to look for child care, paying for care is expensive enough as it is. GreatstartCONNECT.org is easy to use, all of the search options are understandable and I can search for providers who take state subsidy or offer scholarships,” said Blough-Orr, mother of 3-year old Dillon.
Kalli Fortune-Ball found help through greatstartCONNECT.org when she was looking for childcare for her daughter, Sophia.
“I wanted to know that there were more than just college kids watching my daughter,” Fortune-Ball said. “I wanted a place where people were passionate about the development of the children they are watching, not just getting paid to make sure that the kids are safe.”
Other online sites not only require parents to pay a fee, the sites do not require that those advertising as child care providers have any kind of training.
“I don’t have to pay to see a ‘background check’ with greatstartCONNECT,” Blough-Orr said. “And because every person and program on greatstartCONNECT.org is either licensed or registered with Michigan’s Department of Human Services, I have the confidence of knowing that the state of Michigan is behind me in my search.”
GreatstartCONNECT.org is linked to the Department of Human Services where parents can check for any issues or citations with licensed providers.
For parents like Blough-Orr and Fortune-Ball, greatstartCONNECT.org provides all the necessary information they need to find high quality child care and preschool.
Many of the online websites that advertise child care services also offer services for housesitting or pet care.
“I’d rather use a website that was created for the sole purpose of helping me, and every other parent in Michigan, find quality child care or preschool rather than a website created by a business to make money,” Blough-Orr said.
The indisputable fact is that parents and caregivers are a child’s first and most influential teachers, impacting critical brain development.
Child care and preschool shouldn’t be babysitting, it must be about creative learning opportunities. Children who receive quality early learning experiences are more successful in school, less likely to repeat a grade, and more likely to graduate high school, attend college, and become the happy, productive adults we all hope them to become.
And greatstartCONNECT.org is a resource to help parents find the support they need to make sure their child gets a great start.
The Investment Corporation collaborates with state and local level partners to develop and support policies that foster school readiness and life success for young children. Resources like greatstartCONNECT.org support families to choose child care and preschool options for their children, choices that impact school readiness and life success. Funding from the Office of Great Start within the Michigan Department of Education supports the implementation of Great Start and greatstartCONNECT.org.