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Great Start Georgia (GSG) is the new name for the Georgia Early Childhood System of Care (ECSOC), and represents a milestone in the development and implementation of comprehensive, community-based systems for expectant parents, children birth to age five, and their families in Georgia. The approach characterized by GSG reflects the best thinking of many Georgia child and family-focused state agencies, community organizations, and leaders in the fields of health, social services, early childhood education, family economic self-sufficiency, and community economic development. GSG is first and foremost a vision for how communities will provide a welcome to every child, make available natural supports for all expectant families, children birth to five, and their families, provide basic parenting information and resources, and link families with more intensive services when needed. At its heart, GSG creates a community culture of caring, encouragement, and support for all families before and after the birth of a child.

Great Start Georgia is an approach which requires service providers to build collaborative partnerships that allow families to be served in a systematic and coordinated way. It is also an initiative that is unfolding in various stages in communities across Georgia. Currently, fifteen counties receive federal funding from the Georgia Department of Public Health to embed evidence-based home-visiting in their local Great Start Georgia systems. This funding affords Georgia the opportunity to create a statewide home visiting infrastructure to expand and improve existing home visiting services, to more effectively replicate evidence-based home visiting models, and to link home visiting to other community efforts focused on promoting optimal early childhood health and development. Other communities in Georgia are using existing resources to develop the system one step at a time.

Attached is the framework for Great Start Georgia, reflecting the basic activities necessary to support families in communities: outreach and referral, central intake (identification, screening, and data management), linkage to community services, and coordination of care among providers, particularly for families with higher needs. State partners are currently working together on initiatives to support the outreach and central intake functions of GSG. These include the development of a GSG website where families and service providers can access information about resources in their communities and a GSG Resource Linkage Center where staff will be available to support communities in screening and linking families to local supports and services.

If you’re still wondering … “but what IS Great Start Georgia?” we can offer a simple answer. Great Start Georgia is you. It is me. It is all of us who want to work together to make Georgia a place where, simply put, children can get a great start. We invite you to join the GSG Leadership Team in supporting this initiative in your work with children and families and becoming a partner in its success. Please contact Michelle Lanier at mlanier@uga.edu or 706.247.5694 if you have questions.