Survey says, Great Start Collaboratives do good work

HOUGHTON – The purpose of the Great Start Collaboratives in Michigan is to provide services to parents to help their children get ready to enter school, and according to a recent survey, they are accomplishing that goal.

In 2006, the Michigan Legislature formed the Early Childhood Investment Corporation to help fund the Great Start Collaboratives.

According to a written statement from the ECIC, the survey of the effectiveness of the collaboratives, “Evaluation of the Great Start Initiative,” was conducted in 2012 by System exChange Evaluation Team at Michigan State University.

“The results show that the need for early childhood investment is gaining support in communities across the state as more parents, service providers, businesses, and philanthropic groups get involved,” according to the statement.

Responding to the survey were more than 600 parents, 1,270 Great Start Collaborative directors or service providers, and 285 community members.

Some statistics in the ECIC written statement include: 59 percent of respondents think the collaboratives and parent coalitions have expanded the array of childhood services available in their communities, compared to 38 percent who thought so in 2010; 55 percent think the collaboratives and parent coalitions have increased access to early childhood services, compared to 36 percent who thought so in 2010; 53 percent think the two groups have increased community support for childhood issues, compared to 35 percent who thought so in 2010; and 64 percent see parents benefitting from participating in one of the two groups, compared to 52 percent who thought so in 2010.

Cathy Benda, director of the Copper Country Great Start Collaborative, said the survey shows intervention on behalf of children to get them ready to start school.

According to its website: “The Great Start Collaborative is working to make sure that every child in Baraga, Houghton and Keweenaw Counties – and their parents – has the services they need for physical health, social and emotional health, quality care and early learning; and parent leadership and support.

Collaborative members include parents, community leaders, business owners, charitable and faith-based organizations, health and human service agencies, and educators all working toward the same goals.”

Of the local people contacted for the state survey, Benda said 72 percent said outcomes for children have improved.

“The data we got from the state is directly related to our community,” she said. “This is a goal across the state, to have children ready for school by age 5.”

The local response to the state survey was 93.9 percent, which was comparatively excellent, Benda said.

“The average for the state was only 80 percent,” she said.

Lisa Schmerer, CCGSC parent liaison coordinator, said a local survey is also being conducted to determine what parents need from the collaborative.

“(It’s intended) to support what the state has done, and to help our area grow,” she said. “All of our communities are so different across Michigan.”

Schmerer said 50 of the local surveys have been received, but she would like to have at least 150 before compiling results and showing the results to parents.

“It looks at trends,” she said of the local survey.

Benda said parents involved with the CCGSC are constantly asked if the coalition is meeting their needs.

“We look at parent input each year,” she said.

Schmerer said that input helps to make parents’ access to the collaborative’s service simplified.

“Parents are able to get what they need with the least amount of red tape,” she said.

Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed spending another $130 million on the Great Start Readiness Program, and Benda is pleased with that.

“We’re happy with that commitment,” she said.

It costs about $100,000 to operate the CCGSC, and Benda said the local collaboratives also get grants and local donations, which she’s working to increase to continue the work of the CCGSC.

“I think we do a lot of good stuff,” she said.