In response to COVID-19, OPSR and over 40 early childhood stakeholders worked together to develop seven recommendations to ensure equitable access to early childhood care and education for Oklahoma children.
For three months, OPSR lead more than 40 early childhood stakeholders, including representatives from Head Start/Early Head Start, child care, public schools, home visiting, early childhood mental health, tribes, special education and health, to identify what is necessary to complete our state’s economic recovery and protect the stability of families with young children.
Seven recommendations were developed and address: 1) how early care and education programs can safely care for children; 2) how to equip parents to make informed choices on selecting early care and education programs; and 3) how to leverage financial supports and relief packages to maintain Oklahoma’s early childhood infrastructure throughout the pandemic.
Below is an overview of seven urgent actions for our state to take during the pandemic. To learn more about these broad recommendations and their accompanying strategies, see the full report "Expanding Access to Early Childhood Care and Education Services Amid COVID-19: Findings and Recommendations."
1. Collect real time data on early childhood care and education program supply and demand.
2. Coordinate and widely disseminate protocols and resources for all early care and education providers serving children, birth-to-five, to operate safely under COVID-19 group education and care guidelines.
3. Stabilize the child care industry through the distribution of emergency relief grants and responsive subsidy policies and extend direct support to families who need access to early childhood care and education.
4. Utilize a cross-sector communications team to disseminate information for parents on health and safety, program options and availability, and costs to inform their choices when selecting group care and education options.
5. Recruit and retain qualified early childhood care and education providers.
6. Support the expansion of partnerships between Head Start, child care and pre-K to serve 3- and 4-year-olds in response to the impact of COVID-19 on program accessibility.
7. Leverage funding and partnership opportunities to enhance program quality for infants and toddlers throughout Oklahoma’s early childhood care and education system.
OPSR would like to thank our partners for their help in the devlopment of this report including the OPSR ECCE Access Collaboration, a subgroup of the OKFutures Family, Community and Workforce team. This group of hard working, dedicated advocates spent many hours sharing their experiences and crafting thoughtful recommendations.
The members of the ECCE Access Collaboration include: Denise Anderson, Audra Beasley, Lana Beasley, Lori Beasley, Misty Boyd, Paula Brown, Peggy Byerly, Susan Case, Angie Clayton, Amy Chlouber, Carolyn Codopony, Jennifer Cole-Robinson, Georgeann Duty, Amy Duncan, Kristina Ellis, Amy Emerson, Kay Floyd, Ashely Gaddy Melissa Griffin, Audra Haney, Lauren Jenks-Jones, Jennifer Jesse, Susan Kimmel, Paula Koos, Christi Laddis, Alesha Lilly, Bernice Loreto, Gina McPherson, Tiffany Neill, Shelly Patterson, Mary Reynolds, Megan Scott, Ryan Sierra, Kristi Simpson, Robin Swaim, Sabdra Turner, Nancy vonBargen and Keitha Wilson.
In addition, OPSR worked with consultants with and members of the Nemours Children’s Health System for their guidance on how to best ensure equity throughout this work. These individuals include: Eva Carter, Trevor Lee, Bilal Taylor and Georgia Thompson.