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Smart Start Communities coordinate family support projects and activities by collaborating with providers at the local level that have expertise in child development and family dynamics. Here, we provide just a sampling of family support projects happening at the local level.
PROJECTSTHESE ARE THE EARLY CARE & EDUCATION PROJECTS WE HAVE IN PLACE.
Parents of Children with Special Needs
Canadian County Smart Start, with funds from an innovative grant award, offers families a four-part training series for parents of young children with autism that includes sessions on Behavior, Being a Family and Doing Family Things, and Setting the Stage for Positive Educational Experiences. The last session includes a forum that gathered information on special needs in the community that will be incorporated into the local strategic plan for this population.
Teen Mother Mentoring
The program provides both support and services to expecting teen mothers, as well as teens with children. Young Mothers focuses on building relationships between a trained mentor and a teen mother, and provides a space where that relationship can succeed. It helpes provide support to teens in order to help them deal with the everyday pressures and stresses of being a parent. It works to be a coordinating agency that equiped the mentor with information about existing agencies, services, and available aid.
With an innovative grant award, Smart Start Kay County created opportunities within child care centers for parents to come together to develop their skills and build support networks with other parents and child care providers. Families learn about attachment and bonding, nutrition, ages and stages, and emotional needs of children. According to a center director, "The parent night has made a huge difference in parent involvement at our child care facility. It is a hard thing for parents to take time in the evening to do fun activities with their children and other parents in their classes. Thank you so much for offering this program as it has brought parents together in a friendly group to connect and get to know each other."
Project Bridges is a structured Hispanic outreach program operating in Cherokee County, funded by an innovative grant award. It involves collaboration among Smart Start Cherokee County, South College Church of Christ (Iglesia de Cristo), Cookson Hills Community Action Head Start and additional community organizations. Primarily Hispanic families meet once a month to hear guest speakers present on culturally-relevant topics relating to parenting young children. After one year of operation, Project Bridges is proving to be the beginning of a quality comprehensive early childhood coordinated community response for the benefit of some of the most vulnerable citizens.
In Durant, the local Smart Start implemented their Smart Start Your Baby project. New or expectant families attended informative classes on many different subjects related to child development and parenting. The parents attended the class, gained useful information, and then drew for a nursery that was donated by a local businessman at each session.
Parent Resource Rooms
Local Smart Start Communities partnered with schools, libraries, child care centers, and businesses in order to provide a space just for parents and their children. Parent resource rooms offer parenting information, check-out materials, games/activities, books and materials for parent use.
Our Smart Start Communities are reaching out to fathers by hosing events, workshops/trainings, or activities specifically for fathers. Communities seek ways to involve fathers while also educating others on the critical role fathers play in the life of a child.
"One in fifty Oklahoma children under age six are abused or neglected."
Strengthening Families is a new approach to child abuse prevention that uses early childhood programs to provide families with the support and resources they need. Smart Start Oklahoma in partnership with the Oklahoma State Department of Health has taken the opportunity to join other states in implementing this project. Child care providers receive the training necessary to be able to identify risk factors in families such as parental isolation, lack of knowledge about child development and mental, physical or financial crises in the family. By identifying these risk factors, child care providers are able to offer parents concrete support in times of need.
"The Oklahoma State Department of Health welcomes the opportunity to partner with Smart Start in seeking ways to reduce the incidence of child maltreatment in Oklahoma and increase awareness of the importance of early learning." - Annette Jacobi, Chief, Family Support & Prevention Service, Oklahoma State Department of Health
Currently, Strengthening Families is being piloted in 7 Smart Start Communities.