We are committed to accelerated investments in four key areas that can make a huge difference in the future of Oklahoma children, both short-term and long-term.
Our immediate emphasis will be in the following areas:
The Potts Family Foundation believes that ensuring affordable access to brain/mental health and physical health care for all children is vital to a productive and prosperous society.
Health in the initial years of a child’s development, beginning with the health of the mother even before she becomes pregnant, sets the stage for a lifetime of health and well-being. When the developing biological systems are strengthened by positive early experiences, healthy children are more likely to grow into healthy adults. Health is more than the absence of disease, it’s a human resource that helps children and adults adapt to the challenges of everyday life, resist infection, cope with adversity, feel a sense of personal well-being and interact with their environment in way that promotes successful growth and development. Children who are healthier and who have greater educational opportunity are more likely to be economically secure and contribute to their communities (through volunteering and other forms of civic engagement, for example) as adults.
Adverse events or experiences that occur early in childhood can have livelong consequences on both physical and mental well-being. Developmental and biological disruptions during the prenatal period and earliest years of the child’s life may result in weakened immune system, vulnerabilities to later health impairments and altered brain architecture. Every system that touches the lives of children – as well as mothers before and during pregnancy – provides the opportunity to apply this scientific knowledge of the origins of health, learning and behavior across multiple sectors. The science suggests that a more effective approach to health promotion would be to invest more resources in the reduction of significant adversity during the prenatal and early childhood periods over the disproportionate campaigns to encourage more exercise and better eating habits in adults.
Effective health promotion and disease prevention throughout a child’s life depends on access to high-quality, affordable medical care. Evidence shows that, particularly for low-income children, having health insurance is associated with a broad array of positive outcomes. And, more than 1/3 of all children in the U.S. under the age of 19 are covered by Medicaid.
The Potts Family Foundation believes that providing public-private financial support for working families seeking but unable to find affordable-high quality child care services is a critical component of early childhood well-being.
Far too many families—from the poorest to middle-income earners—struggle to meet the high costs of child care. And far too many children are left without access to quality settings. Low-income working parents who are fortunate to receive child care assistance from the limited resources available are more likely to remain employed, move up in their jobs, and increase their earnings—strengthening family finances and our national economy. Children do better in school and in life when their parents work and have more income. Unfortunately the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the source of federal child care assistance, today helps fewer children today than it did in 1998. Access to subsidies allows working poor families to use their limited income to meet other basic needs such as food, rent, and household utilities. And it helps children have access to higher-quality child care. Additionally, a lack of affordable, quality child care affects our future workforce. Brain research has shown that, from the first moments of life through the early years, a child’s brain is laying the foundation for all future learning and resiliency through consistent, responsive interaction with a warm caregiver.
Supporters of early learning seem to be everywhere from executive board rooms to the political arena. Support for early learning is important, but dollars are crucial. A major investment in child care and early education would put children on a path to academic success and parents on a path to increased economic opportunity. The link between household income and child well-being is well established. As federal and state governments consider the importance of their investments, increasing the economic security of low-income families and expanding access to quality child care is a good place to start. American businesses provide just 1% of the skyrocketing cost of childcare.
High-quality child care is a priority and must be available and more affordable for every middle-class and low-income family with young children. Failing to support quality child care exacts a heavy cost on businesses, families and the economy.
The Potts Family Foundation believes it is critical to focus greater efforts on vocabulary expansion, literacy, and mathematics, emotional and social skills in the pre-kindergarten years.
The end of third grade is a critical milestone for most students because it makes the point at which they must have mastered foundational language and literacy skills necessary to succeed in other subject areas. Beginning in fourth grade, students are expected to read accurately and fluently, increasing their capacity to understand written text to learn and evaluate new information and, in turn, to generate and communicate ideas. Decades of research offer clear guidance on what policymakers and practitioners need to support children from early childhood through third grade in developing language and literacy skills.
Language and literacy development begins at birth, and gaps in achievement appear well before kindergarten
entry. High quality-early learning experiences can help close the gap. Reading proficiency is taught and developed over time and depends on the early development of language and communication skills. Parents, primary caregivers, and teachers have the most influence on a child’s language and literacy development.
Early numeracy is defined by numerical competencies that are foundational to building competence in mathematics. Research shows that number sense is a skill present at birth (in a very primitive form), and improves with age. Informal math skills are those mathematics skills children learn before entering school, through their environment and play situations, that do not involve written numerals, mathematical symbols, or formal math procedures.
The development of informal numeracy or number sense provides a sound foundation for learning mathematics at school. If these basic skills are lacking, a child’s math development at school may be affected. There is much that can be done in the prekindergarten years to encourage the development of numeracy at home and in early childhood centers.
The Potts Family Foundation believes that a two-generation approach to family support is the best way to empower both children and their parents to lead productive and successful lives.
Family is the single most important influence in a child’s life. From their first moments of life, children depend on parents and family to protect them and provide for their needs. A child’s parents and family form his or her first relationships. They are a child’s first teachers and act as role models in how to act and how to experience the world around them. By nurturing and teaching children during their early years, families play an important role in making sure children are ready to learn when they enter school. Children thrive when parents are able to actively promote their positive growth and development.
For many families every day is a juggling act involving work, child care, school and conflicting schedules. But for low income families, the challenges and consequences can be even more significant. Research shows us that a child raised in poverty is more likely to become an adult living in poverty – less likely to remain in high school or remain consistently employed.
Recognizing this connection between child and family well-being and future success, we believe in a two-generation approach to address the needs of families as a whole. By simultaneously equipping parents and kids with the tools they need to thrive while removing the obstacles in their way, we can create the best avenues for success.
For this reason, we believe that a child’s healthy development can be facilitated by providing parents and families with: