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United Way of West TN releases "Bright Start" plan to address early childhood development


The Bright Start initiative hopes to get West Tennessee students back on track in reading and math.

The program will focus on children from birth to 8 years old. The people at Bright Start of West Tennessee revealed their plans today.

Sot 15:41

(olivia abernathy) director of early education initiatives, united way of west tn

“Today was the culmination of a year and a half worth of strategic planning and work…the action plan covers everything from health and development, health and mental health services, child care and access to early education and support for families and caregivers," said Director of Early Education Initiatives with the United Way of West Tennessee Olivia Abernathy.

There are 14 strategies to the three-year plan:

  • Early Care and Education Workforce Pipeline

  • Shared Services Alliance

  • Micro-Center Network

  • Family Care Provider Network

  • Employer-Led Initiatives

  • LENA Early Talk Technology

  • Community Schools

  • Evidence-Based Home Visiting

  • Handle With Care

  • Benefit Kitchen

  • Community-Based Literacy Initiatives

  • Tennessee Resiliency Project: Pathways Family+

  • School-Based Clinics and Health Services

  • Mobile Health and Dental Services

“The issues that we face are really complex, and so we're not dealing with easy solution. And they also involve so many different sectors from government to business to, you know, early education professionals themselves. But nonprofits and funders," said Abernathy.

One of the biggest priorities, according to Olivia Abernathy, is early childhood care, “We cannot wait to invest in our children until they get to kindergarten when 90% of their brain is formed by the time they get there. And so this is the most important time in a child's life, but it's also the time when parents are left to fend for themselves. And right now, parents do not have access to child care, especially if they work nontraditional hours.”

Bright Start is already set to offer childcare at one school in the area and hopes to expand, “The micro center network that mcnairy county is starting in their selmer elementary, which is just say, one classroom childcare facility. It's a really cost-efficient way to provide child care onsite at a business or at a hospital or at a place of employment," Abernathy said.

The city of Jackson is joining in the Bright Start program by linking people with child care in the city starting next month.

Abernathy said, “That will be first a website that is a one-stop navigator tool for parents to go and search for child care throughout west t. And so they'll be able to compare programs, look for different things that they want in a child care facility, and also check real-time availability in those programs.”

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