Best Beginnings, established in 2003, has focused on promoting collaboration and awareness among parents, early childhood professionals, the public school and the community. Best Beginnings is guided by an early childhood education council consisting of representatives from participating community organizations and schools. The program has grown over the years, now serving as a model for neighboring towns.
- Provide a strong base for the development of every child, birth through age 5, in the town of Clinton, Connecticut. To improve readiness of children entering kindergarten.
- Provide parenting and professional education classes and support
- Provide information to families about events and activities
- Provide resource information about the community to families
- Advocate for young children and their families
Formally started in the fall of 2003, Best Beginnings, Clinton’s Early Childhood Initiative, resulted when community partners from Youth and Family Service Bureau, community parents, the Early Childhood Education Council, the Governor’s Prevention Partnership, Head Start, Henry Carter Hull Library, the Joel School, The Morgan School, and Middlesex Hospital Home Health Care came together with the mission of helping provide a strong base for the development of every preschooler in Clinton. The year prior to the United Way grant was funded by Drug-Free Communities Support Program and by in-kind contributions from the community partners. The first year was a period of providing community awareness, first for professionals, including pediatricians and early care and education directors, and then for parents.
Today 23 people representing these community partners continue on this Early Childhood Education Council. These representatives, mostly volunteers, attend eight meetings per year and guide the initiative in its work. The State Department of Education counts on communities having such a council to guide school districts in Connecticut in matters related to Early Education.
Best Beginnings is grateful for the support from the Clinton Board of Education and a Middlesex United Way grant. Originally, grant money was used to identify children with challenging behaviors before kindergarten entry and provide support for them and their parents. Now the grant is more encompassing for all children and their families. The focus of the grant funding is to increase children’s readiness to learn by school entry. The grant consultant and project manager is Linda N. Stuhlman; Coralie Williams serves as the community outreach worker, Kim Brown serves as the project’s psychologist, and Anna Recine as the Spanish interpreter. Most of the workshops for parents and professionals are conducted by Linda N. Stuhlman. Best Beginnings received the Middlesex United Way Community Impact Award in January, 2007 and the organizational structure has become a model for other Middlesex County communities who have received United Way grants.
Best Beginnings registers families with preschool children; currently registration is nearly 300 families representing over 500 children, ages 0 through 5 years. It is estimated that this represents nearly 70% of the preschool and kindergarten population. A registration fair has been held every Fall since 2005. At the 2008 fair, there were 48 table areas where parents received information about resources available and children were entertained by various fun activities, crafts and music. Attendance was about 400 people.
During the school year, parent workshops and support groups are held on subjects ranging from discipline to nutrition. Parent information sheets are widely distributed at workshops and through schools and the library. Professional development workshops are held for teachers from all the early education and care centers in Clinton. Pediatricians are provided materials and referral information.
- Clinton Board of Education
- Middlesex United Way
- Clinton Youth and Family Service Bureau
- Community Health Center
- Community Parents
- Early Childhood Education Council
- Early Education and Care Centers
- First Selectman’s Task Force on Substance Abuse
- Head Start
- Henry Carter Hull Library
- Lewin Joel School (K-3)
- Middlesex Hospital Home Health Care
- The Morgan School
- Local Pediatric Practices
- Community Agencies and Businesses