About Success Starts Early



First Steps works to ensure that all children born in Kent County start kindergarten healthy, ready to succeed, and equipped to achieve their highest potential.


In Kent County’s early childhood system, First Steps advocates for systemic, measurable changes that lead to:

  • Ready Learners By 2016, 80% of Kent County children will be kindergarten ready, with no more than 16% ethnic disparity.
  • Empowered Parents
  • Healthy Children
  • Supported Families
  • Supportive Community


Designed to advance all of the above, “Success Starts Early” is a system of accessible information created for Kent County parents by Kent County parents to help them choose quality care, increase home safety, secure affordable preschool, cultivate language learning, find health care providers, seek home visits, enlist help for developmental delays, build parenting skills, and engage in educational play groups. This website, downloadable PDFs, and online videos provide helpful information and access to referral networks. All information is available in both English and Spanish, the languages spoken by the majority of parents in Kent County.

First Steps developed the “success starts early” information system in partnership with Parent University, a joint effort of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Believe 2 Become.


In 2011 a group of parents, educators and early childhood service providers, and advocates collaborated to create the Kent County Community Plan for Early Childhood. A shared vision emerged—“that every young child in Kent County will enter kindergarten healthy and ready to succeed in school and life.”

One strategy called for “providing families with consistent information about parenting.” The Parent Messaging Kent County Workgroup was created and tasked with “creating, developing and prioritizing clear and simple messages about parenting, health and child development.”


  • Pam Cohn, Catholic Charities
  • Reyna Garcia, Parent
  • Shatawn Brigham, MLK/KSSN
  • Tom Hanley, Spectrum Health
  • Trish Reid, Parent
  • Amanda St. Pierre, Grand Rapids Community Foundation
  • Candace Cowling, Family Futures
  • Dianna Baker, Kent County Health Department
  • Kathleen Neumann, Head Start for Kent County
  • Marti Hernandez
  • Amy Turner-Thole, Rebekah Fennell and Judy Freeman of First Steps.


“Success Starts Early” is the outcome of their dedication and commitment to help parents help their children succeed.