The Scale of the Problem
In Tulsa, OK, approximately 40,000 children younger than nine years of age live in or near poverty. Even before birth, these children face challenges that threaten their cognitive and social-emotional development. As a result, many are poorly prepared to start school and risk falling behind, becoming further entrenched in a cycle of inter-generational poverty.
A Promising Solution
The Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST) builds a “continuum of care” to increase the supply of, and access to, evidence-based programs and other services that provide support for families and children from preconception through age eight. Trained family advocates help parents and caregivers navigate a full range of services, and an cross-sector system will deliver real-time information to best serve families. This approach has the potential to serve as a model for other communities across America to break the cycle of inter-generational poverty.
A growing body of research indicates that poverty has a profoundly negative impact on a child’s future. In Tulsa, the majority of children enter school ill-prepared and continue to fall behind, jeopardizing their chances for a healthy, productive future and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Research demonstrates that high-quality early-childhood interventions can produce positive long-term outcomes. By utilizing a comprehensive network of evidence-based programs and services for children under the age of nine, BEST fills gaps in care for those in poverty in Tulsa and expands access to what works, giving children a healthy start in life and creating a cycle of opportunity.
Blue Meridian’s Investment
Our investment supports the first phase of a 10-year plan to significantly increase the supply of, and access to, programs and services for low-income children under age nine. This plan aims to increase the percentage of children born healthy, on a positive developmental trajectory at age three, ready for kindergarten, and achieving success by third grade. The first phase will establish a firm foundation for later expansion and strengthen the initiative so it can serve as an adaptable model for other communities.
$31 million invested over 2 years
Reach 17,000 children annually, or 43% of target population
Develop an integrated data system to aggregate and report information from program providers as part of the “continuum of care”
Why We Are Excited about BEST
Every organization in our investment portfolio displays a multitude of strengths. Here are some highlights of the tremendous potential we saw in BEST that motivated us to invest:
Expanding Access to What Works
By creating a comprehensive provider network and streamlining communication, BEST connects Tulsa residents to a continuum of evidence-based programs that include some of the nation’s highest- quality early learning opportunities for children.
A Replicable Model
BEST offers an approach to providing care to young children and their families that can be adapted in other cities and regions across America. By utilizing data and examining the impact of the various interventions across the continuum, BEST can also identify which elements of their collaborative initiative are most critical and compelling for replication elsewhere.
Deep Commitment to Early Childhood in the Tulsa Community
GKFF’s track record, expertise and unique position as a deeply embedded and trusted community partner provides a strong foundation for its spearheading BEST. GKFF works in active partnership with its grantees, and over the past decade, it has led Tulsa in building the nation’s largest high-quality early learning pipeline for children in poverty. GKFF has weathered both trials and triumphs along the way, and it is ready to apply that experience and expertise toward BEST’s bolder vision.
About The Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa
The Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST) will increase the supply of, and access to, evidence-based programs and other services for families and children in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, from preconception through age nine. The strategy is deeply informed by decades of brain science research on the most effective way to combat poverty: act early when most brain development occurs. By providing a continuum of care and support systems to navigate a range of services, BEST aims to ensure that every child meets developmental milestones, lives in a supportive family and succeeds in school by third grade.
About the George Kaiser Family Foundation
George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) is spearheading the BEST initiative, playing an important role in coordination, alignment, oversight and evaluation, in collaboration with a network of public and non-profit partners. GKFF’s mission to provide every child with an equal opportunity is deeply reflected in its work and impact in the Tulsa community. GKFF's three focus areas – early childhood education and parent engagement, health and family well-being, and civic enhancement – are woven with a common goal of making a meaningful difference in the lives of young children in Tulsa. GKFF was a founding partner of Blue Meridian.