Grant will help create Early Childhood Conference

An early childhood program in northern Michigan is getting a financial boost.

The Wexford-Missaukee Area Great Start Collaborative was awarded a $2,000 grant to provide a local Early Childhood Conference. The award is being funded by the Helen and Harvey Pell Fund for Education, a field of interest fund held by the Cadillac Area Community Foundation.

The local conference, planned for March, 2013 in conjunction with Parenting Awareness Month, is aimed at helping parents, grandparents, care providers and educators to increase their knowledge, skills, expertise, and awareness of child development topics and thus improve the quality of care to infants, toddlers and preschoolers. The Collaborative plans professional development opportunities throughout the calendar year in our community. However, this day long conference is the only such opportunity offered in Cadillac on a Saturday. Similar conferences take place in Traverse City, Petoskey, and areas downstate. Offering this conference locally, and on a Saturday, allows more participation from child care providers, parents, and grandparents. Surveys over the past 3 years have overwhelmingly stated that this was a valuable training and that there was great appreciation for a local conference.

Recent statistics show that 65% of young children have one or both parents working, which means that efforts to improve quality of care are vital. The role of quality early learning experiences for all young children is a critical factor in developing our future workforce and in community economic development.

Locally, one in five children live in poverty and 28% of children arrive in kindergarten without a preschool experience. Research shows that investing in early childhood reduces child abuse, welfare necessity, absenteeism rates from work, juvenile delinquency, adult criminal activity, special education, and high school dropout rates. "Our economy can not afford to keep our children behind!" notes Linda Kimbel, Executive Director of the Cadillac Area Community Foundation .

The Great Start Collaborative is made up of parents, professionals, local agencies and schools who are working together to promote and improve our local system of resources and supports for families with children birth to 5 years.