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Early Birds for Child Care Professionals, Smart Start Central Oklahoma

Date Submitted: 09/08/2021

Contact Information:

Sandy Cotton

Executive Director


Smart Start Central Oklahoma  

PO Box 21505 Oklahoma City, OK 73156

Rating Category: Innovative Idea


Focus Area: Child Development

Focus Population: Children, Teachers, Owners, Caregivers, Guardians, Parents

Goals and Outcomes:

Smart Start Central Oklahoma’s primary goal is to build a supportive and involved community that works to ensure children are safe, healthy, eager to learn, and ready to succeed by the time they enter school. We work to advance this goal through our mission to equip parents and caregivers to serve as a child’s first and most influential teacher. The focus of our programming is to boost school-readiness skills of children under five. Our clearinghouse submission has three intended outcomes. First, we will get more quality learning materials in the hands of more children. Kids learn by doing, and the quality of toys available to them matter. Second, we will enhance the quality of childcare available to families by training providers in our Early Birds educational program. Third, we will improve the school readiness of children under 5 in the state of Oklahoma. Smart Start’s Early Birds program effectively prepares children for school. In fact, 93% of children enrolled in Oklahoma City Public Schools that had a parent attend just one Early Birds class achieved kindergarten benchmarks compared with peers that did not have a parent enrolled in Early Birds. We believe our program can boost the school readiness of children throughout our state.

Brief Summary:

There is a strong connection between early childhood experiences and the level of success that the child achieves later in life. A child who enters school without a strong foundation runs a significant risk of starting and staying behind. Investment in the early years saves money in the future and strengthens our community’s future economic position. When kids enter school ready to learn, it reduces remediation costs, teen pregnancy, and job training costs, public assistance, and crime rates. In contrast, school readiness increases graduation rates, workforce readiness, job productivity, community engagement, and lifetime income. This grant will provide Early Birds training and learning materials for child care providers, who can then opt to provide the program to the families in their centers. Early Birds builds on parents and caregivers’ existing strengths and arms them with the knowledge and resources they need to ensure their children start school prepared to succeed. Although the majority of Smart Start families are low-income, we do not have program eligibility requirements. We have seen that programs work best when caregivers from diverse backgrounds can come together and share their experiences. This grant provides an opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the childcare providers and the parents and families of the children in their care to help both feel supported and well equipped to support the child’s development.

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