Backers: Kent Co. millage would fill child support gaps


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — On Tuesday, Kent County residents will see a millage proposal on their ballot focused on our youngest residents.

The people behind the Ready by Five Early Childhood Proposal say what happens before kids are even old enough to go to school can make all the difference in their lives.

Studies show most of the brain develops before the age of three.

“There are huge gaps in services for 2- and 3-year-olds,” said Annemarie Valdez, CEO and President of First Steps Kent.

Valdez knows how important those first years are and how it affects families and the community when a child falls behind.

“A healthy child is a well-prepared child. If we are able to get services and developmental screenings for children to catch delays, it will save them so much trial and tribulation,” said Valdez.

The Ready by Five Early Childhood Proposal would provide more funding for proactive measures like vision, hearing, speech and autism screenings, allowing childhood development issues to be caught early.

The Kent County Ready By Five Early Childhood Proposal is a six-year millage that would tack on a tax of $0.25 for every $1,000 worth of eligible real and personal property.

Valdez says the investment is worth it.

“For every $1 that’s invested in early childhood, there’s a return of more than $6 later on,” she said.

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A study by First Steps Kent found thousands of children in Kent County under the age of 5 are not receiving early childhood and health care services. Valdez says this proposal would help fill those gaps.

“We see that there is really a lot of pressure on families and parents of young children. Anything we can do to alleviate that pressure and stress is going to make our community a better place to live,” said Valdez.

The Ages and Stages Questionnaire helps guide families and professionals through milestones. The proposal would also help families navigate the system to find the help they need.

“These are types of delays that can happen to anyone in any socioeconomic background and we should be able to direct those families and those parents to the services that they would need to make sure that child is healthy,” said Valdez.

If the millage passes, it would generate about $5.7 million a year for early childhood programs.

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