MARQUETTE -It cannot be overstated that the first few years of a child's life are critical.
The brain grows the fastest during the first five years. Humans are born with 100 billion neurons in their brains, but the wiring connecting them is not in place. It is during the earliest years of a child's life that the child's brain rapidly creates these connections.
A child's earliest experiences affect the very architecture of the brain. So, when parents are faced with making choices about child care and preschool during that most influential time, quality is essential.
Finding high quality early learning and care can be a daunting task for parents. These children, are shown playing in an evnvironment that is conducive to both learning and care. (Courtesy photos)
That's where greatstartCONNECT.org can help.
Launched by the Early Childhood Investment Corporation in 2010, Michigan's greatstartCONNECT.org is a 24/7 database that helps families find high-quality early learning and care in their communities. The database is a feature of the Great Start to Quality project of the Michigan Department of Education and the Early Childhood Investment Corporation. Funding from the Office of Great Start with the Michigan Department of Education supports the implementation of Great Start.
Free, easy-to-use and accessible to families 24/7, greatstartCONNECT.org is an essential resource to families searching for licensed local child care and preschool.
"Parents have told 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 Investment Corporation.
"With greatstartCONNECT.org, parents have access to child care and preschool options and information about early learning and care, at their fingertips, whenever they need it. It's a one-stop online source for parents to find options that fit their needs."
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.
There is a growing trend 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. And, many charge a fee for parents to peruse the lists.
GreatstartCONNECT.org is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at no charge.
Jordan Blough-Orr, the mother of 4-year old Dillon, and a parent advisor with The 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."
"I don't have to pay to see a 'background check' with greatstart CONNECT," she said. "And I know that every person or center on greatstartCONNECT.org is licensed or registered with Michigan's Department of Human Services, I have the state of Michigan 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.
The indisputable fact is that parents and caregivers are a child's first and most influential teacher, impacting the most important brain development time in a child's life.
Child care and preschool shouldn't be babysitting, it must be about creative learning opportunities. Children who get 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 for.
And greatstartCONNECT.org is a resource to help parents find the support they need to make sure their child gets a great start.
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