The Scale of the Problem
Across the United States and in Tulsa, the circumstances of a child’s birth can predict critical life outcomes. For young children living in poverty, these disparities widen over the course of their lifetimes, especially for children of color. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1 in 3 children under the age of six live in poverty, and more than half are children of color. Even before birth, Tulsa’s children face systemic challenges that threaten their cognitive and social-emotional development. As a result, many are at risk of becoming further entrenched in a cycle of intergenerational poverty.
A Promising Solution
The Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST) builds on decades of efforts across Tulsa and Oklahoma to improve early childhood outcomes. Working with families, caregivers, public, and non-profit organizations, BEST strengthens a comprehensive continuum of care to provide Tulsa’s young children access to programs and services that nurture brain development and put them on a path toward life-long success. Because of BEST and its partners, trained advocates help families with young children navigate and get connected to a full range of services, including evidence-based early childhood programs. This family navigation program is one example of BEST’s vision to increase access to services supporting young children.
Blue Meridian’s Investment
Our investment supports the second phase of a multi-year plan to significantly increase the supply of, and access to, programs and services for children under age nine who are growing up in poverty in Tulsa. This plan aims to increase the percentage of children born healthy, on a positive developmental trajectory by age three, ready for kindergarten, and achieving success by third grade. The second phase works to expand reach and improve system-level outcomes across the community.
$117M invested over 6 years
Reach 70% of target population by 2025
Advance a comprehensive continuum of care required for coordinating, measuring, and sustaining impact for young children living in poverty
Expanding Access to What Works
By bringing together a diverse provider network, BEST connects Tulsa residents to a continuum of innovative and evidence-based programs that include some of the nation’s highest-quality early learning opportunities for children. In addition, BEST works with its partner network to develop referral systems to streamline and strengthen interactions between providers and families. Deeply informed by conversations with families and caregivers, BEST aims to address systemic barriers to program participation in order to ensure equitable outcomes 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 other communities to adopt or adapt.
Deep Commitment to Early Childhood in the Tulsa Community
George Kaiser Family Foundation’s (GKFF) track record, expertise, and unique position as a deeply embedded and trusted community partner provides a strong foundation for BEST. GKFF works in active partnership with its grantees and other partners, and over the past decade the foundation has led Tulsa in building the nation’s largest high-quality early learning pipeline for children in poverty. GKFF has experienced both trials and triumphs along the way, and it is ready to apply that learning and expertise toward BEST’s bolder vision.
About The Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa
The Birth through Eight Strategy for Tulsa (BEST) aims to disrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty with programs and other services for families and children in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, that are deeply informed by community input and 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 is born healthy, meets developmental milestones and succeeds in school by third grade.
About the George Kaiser Family Foundation
George Kaiser Family Foundation (GKFF) plays a critical role in the coordination, alignment, oversight and evaluation of BEST in partnership 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 four focus areas – parent engagement and early education, health and family well-being, vibrant and inclusive Tulsa, and the BEST initiative – 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.