GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Experts will be at Grand Valley State University Thursday to discuss ways they can reduce economic, health and social barriers affecting young children.

First Steps Kent is hosting the inaugural Kent County Ready By 5 Conference from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Eberhard Center. It was created to share and brainstorm services to better prepare kids for kindergarten.

The event features speakers from the medical, education, business, and law enforcement fields. Parents will lead some sessions as well. The goal is to share ways they can work together to provide services to Kent County families.

“If we didn’t link arms and come together, we weren’t going to accomplish what our goal is which is having every child prepared for kindergarten,” said Annemarie Valdez, the CEO and president of First Steps Kent.

Valdez told 24 Hour News 8 that out of the 45,000 children under the age of five in Kent County — 20,500 of them live in poverty.

“The brain develops the most in the first three years, so early intervention or making sure kids are born healthy is the most important piece,” Valdez told 24 Hour News 8.

There will be several breakout sessions addressing issues including mental health and investing in children.

Representatives from California will be at the conference talking about a state tobacco tax that has raised millions of dollars for many of their early childhood services.



First Steps Kent